Why Apple Will Never Make A Game Console

by Tanner Godarzi Apr 13, 2007

The prospect of Apple making a game console has been discussed before, but if Apple were to do such a thing it would entirely kill what the company is aiming for and thus become a failure.

When Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001 it was a new contender in the video game market. Many were accustomed to the already big names such as Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. Entering and dominating the console market was no easy task, but Microsoft pulled it off and was able to create a console worth playing while focusing on media capabilities.

This trend is continuing today with consoles focusing not just on game play but networking, media playback, and becoming what computers already are.

As time goes on consoles will become multi-core consumer supercomputers with the potential to pose a threat to the PC market not only because of the power, but also because games are made specifically for that hardware configuration and operating system so the need to upgrade won’t be for another couple years at the very least.

Now let’s say Apple does decide to enter the console market. How would it compete with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo? Nintendo is in the lead and their strategy varies greatly from its competitors. Instead of focusing on HD graphics, next generation drives, and extended media capabilities, the Wii focuses on a cheap, family-oriented console, forgoing the use of high-end hardware to create a 300 dollar gaming device. The inclusion of a next-generation gaming controller has also led to its dominance in the market, encouraging users to just enjoy the game.

This is something Apple cannot do, the cheap end of the console market. The sweet spot is focusing on casual players and forgoing hardware that would force Nintendo to sell the console at a loss just to get close to a price point the consumer would like. The PlayStation 3 is sold at a loss in order to promote Blu-Ray, and the same goes for the 360 but Microsoft is relying on making a profit later as the cost of hardware goes down.

How would Apple penetrate this? No doubt their pricing would be close to a thousand dollars and the hardware would be close to the specs of a current Mac and include a Blu-Ray drive with media capabilities meant to stream from iTunes.

Hmm, media capabilities…sounds a lot like the Apple TV, doesn’t it? Apple already has that in place to promote its iTunes/iPod/iPhone campaign so let’s subtract media capabilities. That will leave us with high-end hardware (for a console) that is close to the specs of a Mac if they decide to go with Intel for the CPU, which would be likely due to Apple’s great partnership with the company.

If this console is so reminiscent of a Mac, why even create it? Apple needs to focus its efforts on gaming on the Mac, which compared to what Microsoft can offer with Windows is very weak. Instead of creating a console with specs that won’t change for about 3-5 years (with the exception of faster disc drives and increased storage), focus on enhancing gaming on the Mac. This can be done by piggybacking off of Windows in some way to play the many games available for the competing operating system until game producers become drawn to OS X and what it can offer with gaming.

Another crucial aspect is hardware upgradability. Despite what Apple and Mac users may think about big box towers, you have to admit they are very accessible and upgrading a component can be done in under a few minutes; this is something Apple either lacks or excels at which is only exclusive to the Mac Pro and the Hard Drive/Ram in the MacBook.

Going with a console would kill any chance Apple would have at offering the Mac as an all-in-one machine, placing it further from the reach of consumers. Apple already has started on its plans of incorporating iTunes content into every aspect of your home and lifestyle, so creating a console with media capabilities would be redundant because the iPod/Apple TV can do the same thing.

Even with handhelds, Nintendo dominates with the DS and DS lite. The reason for this is the same as for the Wii. Focus not on high-end hardware but on what can be done to enhance gameplay. This is something Sony did not learn with its PSP. Even with its capabilities and enhanced graphics and upgradability it could be considered a luxury, and if Apple implemented similar functions then it would compete with the iPod as the iPhone will. This creates too many devices consumers will have to decide on, which is why you shouldn’t expect Apple to enter the gaming market any time soon.


  • I would be more inclined to agree with you, RI, if the Apple TV didn’t have a highly underclocked CPU…Ben

    Agree. But the real purpose of the first AppleTV incarnation is not be the best gaming machine on the planet. At the present, the PS3, X360, and Wii take those honors. The current AppleTV gaming efforts are but honorable mention, as we speak.

    But the real premise of the AppleTV is very hard to fathom for many. Even Sony & MS are playing a “wait and see” attitude and when they finally wake up from their delusions, it may well be too late. Take the iPod revolution, for example.

    The AppleTV is not merely a movie streaming device, although it does that admirably. Yes sir, it does!

    The AppleTV is the dawn of this prophesized new age of entertainment distribution. Even the movie studios are wafting laisser-faire attitude towards the iTunes movie catering’s huge potential.

    The studios are sticking to their tried-and-true business model of selling physical media for entertainment consumption. Sadly, those golden days of huge revenues from CDs and DVDs are already on the slide.

    Where is the demand going? Like you and me, we are increasingly buying our entertainment from the internet and iTunes is a huge beneficiary of my virtual outlays than before.

    As for future prospect of gaming on the AppleTV, like I said, it won’t be the main selling point but one of the more important capabilities. It will be capable but won’t be sold as a gaming machine. Far from it. It will be sold as a box that unifies your entertainment center (if not whole-home) with your Mac/PC.

    Robomac had this to say on Apr 14, 2007 Posts: 846
  • It will need a better input device to be sure :D

    Benji had this to say on Apr 15, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Well I’m just going to say that the console I’ve been playing the most lately has been the DS, which happens to be a very underpowered system with about the same level of graphical abilities as the Nintendo 64 (with games being no more than twice the size of the largest N64 cartridges). 

    In other words, ten year old tech.

    The success of the DS is in part because developers want to program for it, whereas the PSP is in the same sort of boat as the Gamecube where most third party support come in the form of ports from the PS2.

    Apple has never been one to cultivate third party support when it comes to gaming.  EA outsources the job of porting over the most popular PC games from their library to other companies, much like most other game publishers.  With the iPod games, third party developers were shut out of the process while Apple invited a select group of developers to port over a handful of games to their new platform.

    My point is that Apple would easily be able to make the Apple TV into a viable gaming platform if they were

    A: successful at building a decent marketshare

    B: opened up iTunes to allow for third party developers to make a game on the cheap and sell it to recoup those costs.

    It’s kind of funny to think that the best game on the Xbox 360 last year was Geometry Wars and the best game on the PSP was Lumines.

    Chicken2nite had this to say on Apr 15, 2007 Posts: 79
  • Actually Robotech Infidel seems to have the best insight I’ve read here.

    AppleTV is a content delivery device. Not a movie player, DVR or gaming machine—just a device to move content from one place to another. Right now that content is television and movies, but what does the future hold?

    Today, to create realistic games (high poly count, tons of shaders and textures) requires some pretty serious hardware. This is why items like the PS3 and Xbox 360 cost in the range of $300 - $600. In the not so distant future, these items will be much more easy to render on commodity hardware as prices come down and CPU/GPUs become inexpensive to embed in thin devices like AppleTV or other set-top boxes.

    Now think of the time in the not too distant future when all your games will start to come from the internet and not necessarily from DVDs at Best Buy.

    Hard-core gamers will always have some super-high end hardware (Xbox 1024, PS X) to render ultra-hidef game content, but casual gaming is growing (in terms of profitable marketshare) at a rate that will equal and perhaps surpass high end gaming. The Wii is showing that casual gaming is a fantastic way to make tons of money.

    Apple may be positioning itself to capture part of that casual market—not as a maker of a game console, but as a maker of a set top box that delivers content to the TV be it music, movies, on-demand TV, games, and what not.

    The technology in AppleTV is powerful enough to play many “last gen” games (ie - anything with PS1 to early Xbox 1 style graphics). Casual gamers don’t require the photo-realistic video rendering the latest and greatest consoles offer when they’re mostly playing “classic” revamps (ie- Pac Man, Donkey Kong or other arcade classics), puzzle games or low-poly platformers. The next generation of AppleTVs will likely have a GPU more capable than the current Minis—perhaps something even as good as ATI X1600 Mobility.

    It’s not too hard to imagine that a couple years down the road the 2nd gen AppleTV could be as technically capable (or more) as the Wii. It won’t be positioned as a game console, but could have games as one its features to help attract the casual gamer.

    Apple will never create a “game console” per se… but it’s not inconceiveable that they will create a content device that is also capable of playing games.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 16, 2007 Posts: 243
  • The next generation of AppleTVs will likely have a GPU more capable than the current Minis—perhaps something even as good as ATI X1600 Mobility.

    The current generation of Apple TVs has two GPUs - one of which *is* the one in the current Minis, and the other is more powerful.

    In fact, I would guess that in horsepower, the G1 Apple TV is of very similar quality to the Wii.

    Benji had this to say on Apr 16, 2007 Posts: 927
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