Plenty of young gamers, who didn't grow up with a controller in their hands, and casual players enjoy Apple's touch iOS controls without reservation; however, there's no doubt that hard-core gamers still struggle with the lack of tactile feedback (not to mention sweaty thumbs) that come with gaming on the iPad and iPhone. Similarly, the lack of a dedicated physical controller for the iOS platform (specifically the Apple TV) has, for many industry insiders, been a counter-point to continuous reports that Apple is preparing to enter the the hardcore game market.
However, if new rumors are to be believed, the fan-favorite company is hard at work on a physical peripheral to be used in conjunction with iPad, iPhone, and very likely, Apple TV gaming.
There's no doubt that gaming on Apple's iOS devices represents a big chunk of the App Store business but, with most games pricing in the $.99 - $2.99 range, the company still has a long way to go in order to attract the kind of profits that titles like Modern Warfare 3 are capable of bringing in. Even in the case of Angry Birds Space, which recently crossed the ten million download mark in just three days, the game only represents a fraction of the business that Activision enjoys with Call of Duty. No doubt the physics based titles that dominate the iOS market are better with touch controls but players who want a hardcore experience on the go (such as those who recently purchased a PS Vita) demand the precision and reliability of a physical controller option.
According to a report from Anand Tech (in their new iPad review), Apple intends to enter the physical controller market to better position their devices for larger and more versatile gameplay - in the same way that Google has implemented physical controller support for the Android OS.
Here's the quote from Anand Tech writer, Vivek Gowri:
"I know of an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market, but whether or not it will ever see the light of day remains to be seen."
Of course, we hear statements like this all the time from industry writers - so its certainly worth taking the comment with a grain of salt (especially since Anand Tech outright asserts the controller may never be released).
That said, its long been a no-brainer that Apple would try and make a play for the hardcore game market - especially since they could easily allow existing tech to take advantage of the new hardware with little more than a software update. Not to mention, analysts have long-suspected that the company could release an Apple TV update that essentially turned the device into an app-ready game console (the next step following their "Tablet to TV Gaming" feature and recent addition of 1080p support). Obviously the logistics are still entirely speculation but with OnLive successfully streaming gameplay across the world, it's easy to imagine that Apple could achieve a similar all-digital result.
Considering the enormous install base Apple has at their disposal, it makes complete sense that they'll continue to grow the games aspect of their business - especially if they can essentially introduce a physical controller and then leave most of the actual software development to the creative teams that are thriving on the App Store.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates.
We will continue to keep you posted on the story as more develops.