Earlier today, Apple unveiled the new Apple TV at its big September event. With faster internals, a new operating system, and the availability of third-party apps, this is a big step forward for Apple in the living room. There’s a ton of potential for consumers and developers alike. But it’s never going to be the game console you really want.
Built with a custom Apple A8 system-on-a-chip, 802.11b/g/n/ac WiFi support, Bluetooth 4.0, 1080p video output, and Dolby Digital 7.1 audio output, this $ 149 device is significantly more versatile than the previous Apple TV model. And now that it finally supports native third-party applications via a dedicated app store, this set-top box is going to deliver a lot more than just streaming video.
The primary way in which you’ll be interacting with the new Apple TV is the “Siri Remote.” With a built-in touchpad and microphone, this tiny new controller is a lot more capable than the old D-pad style remote. Swipe through menus, ask Siri for recommendations, and start watching whatever tickles your fancy. Even though we’ve seen similar functionality in other devices, this seems like an incredibly slick solution that will resonate with the average consumer.
Personally, I’m excited to see what this does for the set-top box market. I use numerous devices to stream video (including the existing Apple TV), and a large influx of custom apps could make my television-watching experience even better. However, I know for sure that this will never offer the gaming experience I’m looking for.
First and foremost, the hardware in this 3.9-inch device simply doesn’t pack the same horsepower as a real gaming console. Considering that the $ 400 consoles on the market already have a hard time reaching 1080p60, imagine how poorly a major modern console game like The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V would run on this tiny little box. And since the premium $ 199 model only has 64GB of storage, there’s no hope for large-scale games on this platform. There’s nothing keeping game streaming solutions like PlayStation Now from coming to the Apple TV, but that’s a completely different conversation.
Second, it doesn’t ship with a real controller. Sure, you can use the Siri Remote or your iPhone to control casual games like Crossy Road, but traditional “core games” need thumb sticks and numerous buttons. Games like Fibbage or Tiny Wings work perfectly using a phone as a controller, but you’ll have a terrible experience with the likes of a first person shooter. Even though third-party Bluetooth controllers are an inevitability, only a tiny fraction of Apple TV owners will have those niche gamepads.
Third and finally, Apple just doesn’t care enough about gaming to take on the existing players. Sure, they’ll continue to pay lip service to game developers, but we’ll end up with more Candy Crush or Clash of Clans — not something the enthusiest crowd will care about. In the end, the Apple TV simply isn’t competing directly against the PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a console that can play some games — not a gaming console.
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