The Potential for iOS Gaming

When considering getting an android or iOS device, the availability and selection of apps is always a huge factor, and more often than not is cited as the reason to stay on iOS. As graphics capabilities on mobile devices, specifically iPhones and iPads, increases twofold each year, and with the recent release of the iPhone 5s which promises console quality graphics, we take a look at what the future may hold for iOS gaming. Read on to find out more…

Each year, Apple promises up to two times as good graphics as the previous iteration of an iOS device. Apple promises console quality graphics on the 5s, and even if that is not true, it inevitably will be true, next year, when the A8 processor comes out. It will only be a few years now till, graphics-wise, the graphics on an iOS device rivals that of an Xbox or PlayStation.

A common issue with gaming on an iOS device, however, is the lack of any physical buttons to game with, preventing iOS from becoming a serious gaming platform. While there have been many titles trying to emulate a console game, such as the Modern Combat series by Gameloft (the 4th installment is amazing by the way, check it out) or the full port of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the gaming experience is simply far from perfect, especially with the touchscreen.

Enter MFi Game Controllers, which are likely to be released in the next year or so, which may eventually solve this problem, get past the stumbling block that is the touchscreen, and pose a serious threat not only to portable gaming devices such as the Nvidia Shield and PS Vita, but possibly even to the XBox and PlayStation.

When iOS 7 Beta was unveiled to the world during WWDC 2013, there were many new features demonstrated, and even more not touched on, such as the Made For iPhone/iPad Controller Support, as shown in this picture.

MFi Game Controller Support
MFi Game Controller Support

Here is a picture of a supposedly leaked MFi Controller diagram.

The left seems to be an attachment for the iPhone, the right seems to be an individual controller...
The left seems to be an attachment for the iPhone, the right seems to be an individual controller…

The diagram on the left is what appears to be an attachment for the iPhone, so that gaming on the go can be more satisfying, and the diagram on the right is what I presume to be a (wireless?) controller for games on a big screen, like the iPad, or… even a television (more on that later).

Imagine using an iPhone, which has access to what is possibly the largest online game library on Earth, to play a proper console quality game that is not dumbed down or compromised in any way to make it easier to play on a touchscreen. With Apple’s cheapest gaming device, the 16GB iPod Touch, costing only SGD$298 (the PS Vita costs SGD$299, originally a hundred more, and the Nvidia Shield costs roughly SGD$379), and the best “hardcore” games costing about SGD$5 to SGD$9 each as compared to about SGD$30 for a PS Vita game (the Shield runs on Android so its games have similar prices to the iPhone’s), in the long term, the iPod as a gaming and entertainment device can beat the competition in terms of price, portability, and functionality. It is the lightest and easiest to carry around of the three, and is a nicer device to use to play music or watch movies due to its lack of bulk and overall sleekness, while the other two are gaming devices first, and media centers second.

And with proper controllers for gaming, what’s to say Apple won’t dominate the portable gaming market in the future? After all, iOS’s app selection is more robust than Android’s, beating out the Shield, (for example, Deus Ex: The Fall was released for iOS first, and still hasn’t been ported to Android) and iOS devices have greater market share than the PS Vita, which can attract more developers to build games for the platform first as there is a wider audience for these games.

This is what a MFi Game Controller for the iPhone/iPod Touch (the one on the left of the picture earlier) can achieve in the future: console quality games, with a console quality experience.

What about the MFi Game Controller on the right then? It is certainly not designed for portable gaming. And attaching a portable MFi Controller to the iPad is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

What I think it is for, is to pair up with an iPad/iPhone/iPod and an Apple TV, and allow you to game with the TV as the screen, using your iOS device as your “console” serving up the game to your TV, very much like the PlayStation and XBox. Already, Real Racing 2 allows for up to four iOS devices to connect to an Apple TV, to play split screen multiplayer.This is a prime example of what could be the future for gaming, and for Apple, thought to be making its foray into the living room by serving more channels on its Apple TV.

Split Screen Multiplayer... Beautiful isn't it?
Split Screen Multiplayer in Real Racing 2… Beautiful isn’t it?

Since Real Racing 2 is a racing game, tilting the device will cause the car to veer left or right, and there are few enough on-screen buttons that you can play without looking at the phone to gauge where the virtual buttons are. However, when it comes to more complicated games like FPS, you need to either have tactile feedback from your controller, or be able to see the buttons. Which is where the other MFi controller would come into play, quite literally. And this is where Microsoft and Sony should get worried. Should Apple decide to do this, it will be unstoppable if the execution is right. The answer to XBox Live and PlayStation Network? Game Center. Right now, Game Center is a bit of a joke, but the infrastructure to take on one of the biggest selling points of buying a console over a powerful PC is already there: online gaming.

The Xbox One will cost around SGD$633 (judging from the USD$499 price tag), and the PS4, SGD$506 (USD$399). Meanwhile, the iPod Touch would cost about half of that, and an Apple TV would cost a hundred more. Add a controller or two, and the whole set up would still be cheaper than a console. Even if games on iOS, made compatible with the controller, were bumped up to the PS Vita’s 30 dollars or more, it would still be cheaper than a console game, which costs anywhere from 50 dollars onwards at launch, sometimes going up to about 80 dollars (Singapore prices).

Granted, it will take time to develop such games, or port existing ones to iOS, and we would not see this happening for a few years, but if this is what Apple is planning for the future (and it seems only logical in the long term), and if the market proves lucrative (as it already is for the current games on iOS), then more and more developers will start porting proper console games to iOS. And when that happens, Microsoft and Sony had better watch their backs. Because when the full potential of the Apple TV, and iOS devices, is unleashed, it will put a gaming console in the hands of a tremendously large number of people worldwide, and open up a market for games so large that it would overshadow the XBox (78 million XBox 360 units sold thus far) and PlayStation (75 million PS3 units sold thus far). In comparison, there have been 57 million iPhone 5 units sold so far, and 84 million iPads sold so far, not to mention the millions of iPod Touches sold (Apple hardly gives stats on specific iPod sales, and we are only looking at the iPod Touch, not the Classic, Nano, or Shuffle). And when that day comes that Apple finally takes over your living room, it will be glorious.

That’s it. This is my, and hopefully Apple’s, vision of the future. Please do like our Facebook page, follow our Twitter, and share this story with your friends and family. Is this your vision of the future too? Or do you feel that iOS will never have a place as a proper gaming console, and why? Don’t forget to comment and air your views down below if you have anything to say.

UPDATE: There are apps now being released with “iOS 7 Game Controller Support”. We have covered it here, do check it out.

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