With iOS 5, Apple is extending Airplay to any third-party app, allowing iPhones and iPads to serve as wireless game controllers for the Apple TV.
Although we’ve known about this since the summer, Real Racing 2 developer Firemint is showing off something new: split-screen gaming on the television, with up to four players racing at the same time.
In a way, this resembles Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console, but in reverse. Instead of sending a wireless signal from the set-top box to the controller, as the Wii U will do, Airplay sends a signal from the phone or tablet to the Apple TV. What’s interesting here is that the TV can show a composite image from multiple iPhones and iPads. The game changes because you’re seeing something different on the larger display from what’s on your individual screen. I’m sure we’ll see more apps designed to take advantage of this iOS 5 feature.
Is Airplay gaming reason enough to buy an Apple TV and four iPod Touches? Of course not. But if you’ve got an Apple TV, chances are you’ve already got at least one other iOS device. Or if you own a bunch of iOS devices, the Apple TV’s $99 price isn’t bad for a simple multiplayer game console.
This is another example of TVs and set-top boxes doing what previously required a dedicated game system. Although Real Racing 2 isn’t as dense as, say, Gran Turismo 5, it’s cheaper and simpler, and may therefore appeal to a wider audience. You’d better believe that what happened to the established games industry in mobile will eventually happen in the living room.