What if Apple re-enters the console gaming market through the iPhone?

apple\'s pippinI’m going out on a limb here because I’m more of a casual gamer than hardcore. But lately I’ve been wondering, with the coming iPhone 2.0, third-party applications, and expected mobile games, might Apple return to the game-console market?

I know: That’s crazy talk. Apple’s last foray into console gaming was 1996’s Pippin, named as the 22nd worst tech product of all time in a 2006 story in PC World magazine. Since then, we’ve seen the advent of Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox, a slew of Nintendo consoles, and no new attempt by Apple to introduce a game console.

But Terrence Russell of The Industry Standard wonders, like I have, that maybe Apple might be following a different path into gaming — through the mobile market.

“Consumers are already ga-ga over Apple’s mobile devices to begin with,” Russell writes, referring to the success of the iPhone and iPod line of products, “so whether they should be re-imagined as gaming gadgets is more of a marketing issue.

“But with the developer community in a tizzy to create the next great Apple-friendly game, it’s only a matter of time before Cupertino announces that it’s ready to connect the dots.”


Gaming for me is an odd duck. Casual and hard core gaming makes boatloads of money (see the recent release of Grand Theft Auto IV), and many believe the battle for the living room as the center of a family’s entertainment experience will be centered around gaming consoles.

Apple’s entry into the living room is through the AppleTV 2.0, which allows viewers to download for purchase (or rent) TV shows and movies from iTunes. They cannot, however, play games like they can on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

But the Xbox and PlayStation have not taken over the living room. Nothing has. Only digital video recorders (DVRs) like TiVo have made any headway, but until recently these have not been imagined as a home’s entertainment hub.

iphone gamesSo rather than attack the gaming market directly, what if Apple sneaks around and captures mobile gaming on the iPhone and iPod touch first, then follows with an integrated game console for the living room — either a new product or the next iteration of the AppleTV?

Yes, I know, the iPhone-as-a-gaming device would have stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo DS products, but let’s face it: the PSP is big, sort of clunky, and it isn’t a phone. Neither is the DS. The iPhone has cool-factor momentum on its side, and it doesn’t hurt to have a Wii-like accelerometer built in, opening up all sorts of possibilities for game development.

And let’s not forget: Apple filed a trademark extension last February in regards to gaming. “Toys, games and playthings, namely, hand-held units for playing electronic games; stand alone video game machines; electronic games other than those adapted for use with television receivers only; LCD game machines; electronic educational game machines; toys, namely battery-powered computer games.”

It would be like Apple, which transformed culture and the music industry with the iPod and is about to do it again with the iPhone, to integrate mobile gaming with console gaming in ways we are not even thinking about yet.

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

4 Responses to “What if Apple re-enters the console gaming market through the iPhone?”

  1. Steve O'Hear, editor says:

    I’m pretty convinced the patent, and Apple’s gaming strategy, is really just about the iPhone/iPod Touch and future handhelds. As for the AppleTV, if Steve Jobs won’t even open it up to third-party plugins, widgets and codecs etc., then I don’t think gaming is even on the radar.

    What is certain is that the iPhone SDK will lead to tons of games, and the device has a powerful graphics engine. Therefore expect the iPhone/iPod touch to evolve into: Mobile Web, Video and Audio, and Games.

  2. Tedious says:

    1. Apple did not make the Pippin. That was a product of Licensed Clone Maker. The product died (as all clones did) when Steve Jobs returned to Apple.

    2. Your “AppleTV + iPhone = Game Console” theory has merit. Apple products are supposed to “just work”, and if you buy multiple Apple products, they are supposed to work even better.

    3. If Apple does this, expect the typical gamer to deride it for not being the be-all-end-all-gaming-device-to-rule-them-all, and to hate it for being insanely popular with REAL casual gamers, not just those who like to THINK they are. (Those who do buy it will be called sheep and accused of only buying it because Apple is a cult)

  3. Michael says:

    I’m sure that Apple is planning some sort of strategy for gaming on the iPhone, in my opinion I think the iPhone is going to be the absolute best gaming device once firmware 2.0 comes out. As for the Apple TV, I don’t think that Apple will really focus too much on gaming on that device, possibly more casual games like are available for the iPod but nothing like what will be available on the iPhone.

  4. james braselton says:


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