5 Reasons Apple Should Not Get Into Gaming

By  |  Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 2:33 pm

800px-pippinfront2When rumors of an Apple takeover of Electronic Arts arose, I steered clear of reporting on it, but it’s hard to ignore Apple’s recent hiring of an Xbox executive and its previous investment in a UK-based chip maker. I can’t help but ponder what the computer and gadget trendsetter might gain from gaming in the first place.

Today, there’s an article from ChannelWeb’s Brian Kraemer on why Apple should get into gaming, arguing that Apple should develop its own game console. After reading Kraemer’s bullet points, I’m not convinced this is a good idea, and here are five reasons why:

1. The Best Ideas Are Already Taken: The notion that Apple can do to video games what it did to music only works if there’s a void in gaming that needs to be filled. While MP3 players were certainly lacking until the iPod came along, most gamers can find what they’re looking for these days. Before the Wii, it might have been a different story.

2. A Console Wouldn’t Play to Apple’s Strengths: Apple is known for creating easy-to-use technology, and while some people need books like Wii for Dummies, the average consumer can figure out how to put a disc in a tray. Beyond that, Apple is renowned for its products’ sleekness and quality materials, but those features don’t have the same cachet in gaming. Fancy-looking set-top boxes won’t impress the ladies.

3. It’s Expensive: Microsoft’s Xbox division endured an entire console cycle, and then some, of financial losses before turning a profit, and I need more than two hands to count the number of companies that have failed at making consoles entirely. With Apple already profiting on the strength of the iPhone, why make such a risky investment?

4. The Field is Too Crowded: When Sega’s hardware division bit the dust and discontinued the Dreamcast in 2001, Microsoft’s Xbox filled the gap, but is a four console market necessary? I don’t think so. If anything, gaming needs fewer consoles so developers won’t have as many headaches trying to port between them all.

5. The iPhone and iPod Touch: This is the biggest reason of all. Apple already has two capable game consoles that are also multimedia and communications devices. Even the most gaming-averse users can try an App or two, and that crossover appeal is exactly why games are already so successful on these gadgets. If Apple indeed plans to advance in gaming, it will be through existing devices that do other things.

 
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15 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom B Says:

    Yea, and they’d be nuts to get into smartphones, too.

  2. drew Says:

    You mentioned the cost to Microsoft, but remember that Microsoft lost over a billion of that money due to the red ring of death (sending out a product that was not ready for prime-time)

    You also mentioned MP3 players as lacking. Cell phones before the IPhone were far from lacking, and there were some great cell phones out there. Even so, Apple came out with a product that changed the cell phone market. That the technology already exists does not strike me as a reason not to do something. That it is not Apple’s strength, as you state, is to me by far the best argument.

  3. tom B Says:

    “You mentioned the cost to Microsoft, but remember that Microsoft lost over a billion of that money due to the red ring of death (sending out a product that was not ready for prime-time)”

    MSFT will need to put out new hardware in the next couple of years to keep up, and that will cost them. Moreover, the fact they’ve had a few quarters in the black in the XBox divisision does NOT mean they’ll stay there.

    In contrast, Apple makes multipurpose devices (like the iPhone) and they have long experience with hardware. The XBox is basically ONLY useful for games. It’s not good for movies and you can’t make phone calls on it.

  4. Jared Newman Says:

    Regarding smartphones, I think that’s just another example of how Apple exploited a weakness in the market. Sure, there were some great smartphones out there, but the combination of a full-blown media player, streaming video and a fun, easy-to-use touch screen interface was pretty revolutionary. The technology already existed, but Apple found a way to overhaul some of its weaknesses. I don’t see the same void in video games right now.

    Tom, you and I are in agreement on the idea of multipurpose devices. As I mentioned in point #5, Apple already has a games machine in the iPhone/iPod Touch, and it’s working wonders. There’s no need to branch off into dedicated consoles. Even if the company decided to make some sort of home multimedia device, the Xbox 360 and PS3 already offer those features.

    Drew, as for your comments about the RROD, that pertains only to the Xbox 360. The Xbox division was in the red for the entire lifespan of the original Xbox console.

  5. Cynnergies Says:

    Hi Jared – what a great post, w/concise analysis.

    Agree especially with pts 2 and 5. Am subscribing to you as of now. Look forward to more of these!

  6. drew Says:

    Yes, but if they did not have to eat the reported $1.2 billion in costs related with the RROD, would they have made a profit? My point was that just becuase it can be very expensive to get into a market should not be game stopper. I am sure the IPhone was an expensive venture, but because Apple did it so well, they made money at it.

    You are right re: the smart phone. There is not that “what could be” gap that an Apple console could fill.

    Also, don’t get me wrong, I think it was a great piece. Like Cynnergies, I too will subscribe to your postings.

  7. Jacob Saaby Nielsen Says:

    I think you’re missing one thought.

    I’m not sure they’re necessarily interested in making a gaming console.

    How about just making the major Windows titles available on the Mac platform ?

    Everyone knows it’s a major barrier that needs to be crossed, if more people are to be susceptible to OS X as a gaming platform.

    It’s also one of the things keeping Linux from spreading very far (is my firm opinion).

    If you don’t have games, you only cater to a certain limited crowd.

    If you have games, and don’t underestimate why a lot of people have a computer, you have a way broader market.

    Now, if you combine great games, with beautiful hardware, and possibly iMac or Mac Pro “ish” models aimed at gaming, but without the way fancy stuff (think normal gaming pc cost) – what do you have then ?

    Then you have a real alternative for a LOT of people, to just playing games in Windows.

    And Apple thereby has the opportunity to expand like crazy, into an already established market. So they might not gain hugely from it right after they buy e.g. EA.

    But when those gaming machines are up for being changed, when people need new machines…

    Why would you not go for the more beautiful hardware, with the prettier looking OS, and the same games ?

    I’m just theorizing here… But a move like this would make total sense in the long run.

  8. Tycho Eggen Says:

    Actually, one thing that Apple really does know how to do right is User Interfaces, not only from the GUI point of view, but also on the hardware side. Imagine being able to use your iPhone or iTouch as the actual controller for games, combined with something that visually looks really nice next to your TV, with an awesome GUI and to add more bonus an online delivery system and online shop.

    Why stick to a dedicated controller when you can use BlueTooth or an iAccessoiry to your iDevice to control a game and therefor opening the gaming market to Apple fans all over the world.

    They already have a lot of the components and I think they could actually pull something off like that. (Especially with the tons of Apple fans around and the technologies present in their iSeries.)

    That being said, I’ve quickly scrolled throughthe article referred to and I’m not a big fan of Apple stuff, but they do have a nose for niche markets.

  9. dreamhunk Says:

    apple is not after console gamers or consoles. Apple has already lost money on consoles. Apple is after pc gamers here is why

    http://software.intel.com/en-us/blogs/2009/04/20/how-pc-gaming-helps-shape-the-future-of-computing/

  10. Backlin Says:

    @Tycho:

    I definitely would not like the iPod Touch or iPhone as a controller. To help me memorize where buttons are, there needs to be some form of physical buttons.

  11. Jared Newman Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Cynnergies.

    For those talking about computer gaming, I must admit I’m not too familiar with the reasons why Macs are traditionally game-averse. I suspect its a product of Macs typically being used by graphic designers, artists, musicians and so on, and porting the game over from Windows hasn’t been worth the trouble because the market isn’t there. Maybe that will change now that Macs are becoming more mainstream.

  12. drew Says:

    Way back in the day, I was a big gamer (Doom and such) and my wife, a graphic designer, wanted a Mac, so we got a Performa 6200. I then discovered Marathon, which seemed light years more advanced (both in terms of graphics and quality of storyline) than anything on the PC. I can’t count the hours I wasted….uh spent, playing that and Marathon II.

    I too remember the frustration of having to wait for Mac versions to appear, often a long time after the games came out on PC. Ironically, now, with a PC and a Mac, I have to wait for them to be ported from XBox and the like. The big killer XBox game, Halo, came from Bungie, the people who first did Marathon.

  13. Tycho Eggen Says:

    @Backlin
    yeah, definitely agree on the button issue…

    however, combine the motion detection and the interface characteristics, definitely got some nice options there…
    any games being playable on the iDevice could even be played on the iConsole

    and when you compare it to something like the Wii, unless you’re playing Super Mario Kart, you don’t really need a lot of buttons, 4 quadrants would suffice (more or less)

    @Jared

    One of the biggest issues in the past was the incompatibility with the x86 platform that made it a more or less an Apple only game to start off with.

    Now that even Apple has embraced the x86 platform, one can even run MS products natively on their hardware and added to that, as you mentioned, Apple’s products have become more mainstream, the demand has certainly risen as well.

    One of the best, or at least better, examples could be Blizzard having a native client for their gaming environment.

  14. Tom B Says:

    Drew makes a good point. Just about the only genuine advantage Windows has had over the years over the Mac is the greater number of game titles, and that was due to Windows’ market share. By introducing the XBox, MSFT neutralized the one very key strategic asset they had. I think they did that 1) because console things looked like they might replace computers for a while. They may , yet, in a way, with the Netbook fad/tren (?). 2) in a failed attempt to push DirectX over OpenGL.

  15. guttermessiah Says:

    You shot yourself in the foot with number #1. You probably didn’t think there was a void in the gaming field until the Wii showed up which tells me you can’t see into the future. So how do you know there isn’t another gaming void that Apple could fill? You don’t. You don’t run a billion dollar company, your opinions are invalid. Please stop writing.

    Apple needs a gaming division for its computers, and if they jump into the console arena, too, then good. You can never have too many options. I personally am giving up on Macs and heading back to the PC market so I can play video games again. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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