Forget Xbox One and PS4 – Apple's iOS 7 gamepad API could be the real game changer

iCade-8-Bitty-pad.jpgThis year is set to be one of the most disruptive 12 months ever for the games industry. Straight from the most fiery E3 conference for some time, we’re now just a few short months away from the next generation of gaming consoles.

But, rather than being all sewn up by Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Nintendo’s Wii U, it’s Apple who’ve just made the real game-changing gaming announcement.

iOS 7 for iPhone and iPad is set to introduce an official controller API.

Apple will now allow gamepads into the MFi program, which green-lights the sort of officially certified accessories you see lining the shelves of brick-and-mortar Apple Stores.

Two controller forms will be accepted: a “standard” model that offers a D-Pad, shoulder buttons and four face buttons, and an “extended” controller that adds an extra pair of trigger buttons and a pair of thumb sticks. Each can be a standalone controller that connects over AirPlay, or can act as a frame to house the iOS device, popping the controls either side of the screen.

On the surface it doesn’t sound like a major deal – we’ve already had iOS gamepads from the likes of iCade and Ion. However, without any standardised API blueprint to work against, games developers had to put the effort in to optimising their titles for each manufacturer’s unique hardware control system. For many games devs, it just wasn’t worth the extra hassle to add support for a controller that only a few thousand people (at best) may own, especially when the iPhone and iPad’s touch controls worked out fine. But with the introduction of a standardised API, whatever Apple-certified gamepad you buy going forward from the release of iOS 7 will adhere to a unified design, a single system that any game dev can easily add support for.
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Hardcore iGaming

For years now we’ve been told that the console business will die out as more and more “casual” gamers turn to the devices in their pockets for their gaming thrills instead. But this has left the “hardcore” gamer, those that prefer their adventures delivered with buttons and thumbsticks instead of swipes and taps, out in the cold.

With the introduction of a standardised controller, the iPad can now be considered a genuine portable hardcore gaming console, among its many other techy roles.

And the hardcore gaming experiences for iOS devices are now coming in thick and fast. The recently released Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic port went down a storm, while the likes of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the Modern Combat series are as far removed from the likes of Angry Birds as is possible.

Again, console stalwarts will point to the fact that some of the “hardcore” titles I’ve highlighted here are ports of older console titles. But with the knowledge that a traditional controller is now available to work with, more console-like games will certainly make their way to Apple’s devices, perhaps even day-and-date iPad editions of games that would once have been the reserve of Sony and Microsoft’s consoles.

And, unlike the uncharted waters of the next generation of consoles, there’s already an installed iOS userbase of well over 500 million. 500 million! Of course, iOS 7 adoption is needed to support the gamepads, and older iOS devices won’t be able to run iOS 7. But if even just under half of that number update to the new version of Apple’s mobile operating system, that would eclipse even the mighty PlayStation 2’s 155 million owners. And in penny-pinching times, you’re not asking gamers to invest hundreds of pounds on new hardware, just in an inexpensive add-on for their already-capable device.

In terms of software, games like SW:KOTOR are proving gamers are willing to pay a premium for hardcore games on iOS devices, pushing app margins higher for developers. It’s a market struggling games developers can’t ignore.
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Taking on the big three

Of course, this isn’t quite a fair fight when you look at the hardware; the Xbox One and PS4 will be able to deliver incredibly detailed worlds, verging on the photo-real, with experiences exclusive to their platforms.

But mobile graphics are catching up rapidly. Apple’s full-fat iPads already offer high resolution graphics through their Retina displays, and according to some mobile GPU vendors, the gap between mobile graphics chips and home gaming ones are shrinking.

Gamers are already turning against the Xbox One for what many feel are draconian anti-piracy measures. By encouraging digital downloads and licensed “ownership”, Microsoft are effectively chasing the model set by Apple’s revolutionary App Store. The difference of course is that people have accepted the App Store model, even if they can’t trade the items they purchase through it. In the App Store, Apple delivered a disruptive platform through disruptive devices – the iPad and iPhone. The Xbox One is looking to introduce disruptive ownership systems in a traditional console market, and the two just don’t gel together well in consumer’s minds. Apple’s App Store has succeeded, and with the 50 billionth app download confirmed on Monday, the Cupertino company are reaping the rewards. As are developers, who’ve pocketed $10 billion in the process.

But what of Nintendo’s Wii U, selling so poorly that games publishing powerhouse EA look to be ceasing development for it altogether, and that many developers feel is hamstrung by its relatively low specs? The API announcement is arguably the final nail in the Wii U’s coffin – with an integrated high resolution touchscreen and the addition of physical controls, what’s the iPad but a more powerful Wii U gamepad, minus a certain moustachioed plumber? If the console fails and Nintendo are forced begrudgingly to license their properties out to mobile platforms, Apple will be first in line to pick up the pieces, possibly signing up their own valuable exclusives, and Nintendo will finally have a D-Pad to guide Mario around with.

The big sell

The stickler of course will be pricing and marketing. A £50 iPad controller isn’t going to sell. A line of £10-£15 controllers though from multiple manufacturers, with Apple’s in-store marketing magic behind it? Bundled in with an iPad or iPhone (however unlikely that particular scenario seems)? Now you’re cooking with fire.

And then of course there’s the Apple TV – with this announcement you’re just a step away from pairing a controller with that and calling it the iGame.

Though a quiet announcement, Apple are now taking gaming seriously. And gamers should be taking Apple seriously now too.






About the Author

Gerald Lynch

Gerald LynchForget Xbox One and PS4 – Apple's iOS 7 gamepad API could be the real game changer
  • Ghostphace

    Give it a rest. Can an iPad run Skyrim, let alone the upcoming PS4 games? Negative.

  • Ghostphace

    Give it a rest. Can an iPad run Skyrim, let alone the upcoming PS4 games? Negative.

    • Arnold Stallone

      Talking to apple fans, is like you trying to make a hole on your concrete walls with your head: it’s useless.you can’t :)

  • Abdulistan

    This is beyond stupid.

  • FaggitShit

    infinity blade 1 and 2 look better than any game ever released on ps3/360!!in two years tablets will crap all over the cheap as$ ps4/xboxone…..lol…..sony and ms actually put a tablet cpu and a laptop gpu in a “next gen” console……seriously, the tech in them is already outdated…..a gaming pc from 3 years ago SH!TS all over ps4 and nextboxits only going to get worseso don't be expecting 1080p and 60 frames on consoles next gen, it ain't happening!

    • mike

      So far 90% of the games showed at e3, for the ps4 and Xbox one, were running at 1080p and 60 fps.Why you need to lie, just to justify the 800$ you paid apple, for a device that comes out of foxcon for less than 150$, that must be replaced every single year, to be able to correctly run the new apps and games?

      A 399$ ps4 will play games until 2023, and every 2 years, developers manage to extract even more power from it, with ultra optimized code, and games get better and better. Look at uncharted 1 on the ps3, from 2007, and look at uncharted 3 or The last of us,that i bought 2 hours ago. Huge difference.

      The game you will buy in 2014 won't even play on the current iPad, or it will run with low graphics and textures. Do you want us to applaud right now or tomorrow?

      OK, I'm going back to my real game now, I will let you guys return to your strip poker or virtual Asian girl games, running on the best gaming device ever ;)

    • MikeGseven

      What a jerk! Dude take your lovely touchscreen phone and jump with it from the top floor of the highest building in your town ;-) There no place for more stupid ppl on this planet.

      God of War Ascension looks 100% better and plays better as well than this game, and it's not so repetitive and boring! You can walk, jump ,and fight using tumbstick and that's the important difference. In this game you just stand in one place like a fu*** pillar doing only some dodge to the left/right WHAT a borin piece of game.

      And you know what, you should name yourself faggot instead faggit it fits you better :)

      Sorry for my gramma but english it is not my native language…

  • Weisse

    Wow, so apple makes a game controller, you know those things that have been around since gaming started … and it is being treated as the second coming! Delusions everywhere!

    No doubt it's more practical in terms of gaming, but I don't think I will hear any gamer say “hey, I going to play some Halo or Uncharted, wanna join me”, “no, I think I will play some cut the rope or angry birds instead”.

    Plus the apps and android market is so floods with mostly shovelware over what XBL, PSN and Steam offer, it's not a serious gamer's choice for quality gaming.

    • VirtualAlex

      the iOS market is not flooded with Shovelware

      • Weisse

        umm yes it is. You're either blind, stupid or just a massive fanboy! For every good iOS game there is about 10 that are rubbish shovelware. Just look at the amount of titles that get daily releases just to make a quick buck. That my friend is shovelware, learn it!

  • Abdulistan

    This is beyond stupid.

  • FaggitShit

    infinity blade 1 and 2 look better than any game ever released on ps3/360!!
    in two years tablets will crap all over the cheap as$ ps4/xboxone…..lol…..sony and ms actually put a tablet cpu and a laptop gpu in a “next gen” console……seriously, the tech in them is already outdated…..
    a gaming pc from 3 years ago SH!TS all over ps4 and nextbox
    its only going to get worse
    so don’t be expecting 1080p and 60 frames on consoles next gen, it ain’t happening!

    • Arnold Stallone

      So far 90% of the games showed at e3, for the ps4 and Xbox one, were running at 1080p and 60 fps.
      Why you need to lie, just to justify the 800$ you paid apple, for a device that comes out of foxcon for less than 150$, that must be replaced every single year, to be able to correctly run the new apps and games?

      A 399$ ps4 will play games until 2023, and every 2 years, developers manage to extract even more power from it, with ultra optimized code, and games get better and better. Look at uncharted 1 on the ps3, from 2007, and look at uncharted 3 or The last of us,that i bought 2 hours ago. Huge difference.

      The game you will buy in 2014 won’t even play on the current iPad, or it will run with low graphics and textures. Do you want us to applaud right now or tomorrow?

      OK, I’m going back to my real game now, I will let you guys return to your strip poker or virtual Asian girl games, running on the best gaming device ever ;)

      • VirtualAlex

        Not that I agree with “Faggitshit” or anything, but no one is spending $800 on a mobile device. Saying something like that is misleading. I paid $299 for my iPhone for example.

      • FaggitShit

        all those games at e3 were running on high end pc’s you tard, they will be jaggie covered turds when they actually come out on those trashy, low spec “next gen” consoles
        bet on it
        and you are NOT going to be seeing 1920x1080p native on ps4 and xboxone games, maybe on some trash indie games
        BF4 is already confirmed to be 720p on ps4……enjoy your 5 year old tech

        • Weisse

          Wrong, quote from EA directly “Rajat Taneja, EA CTO, seemed very enthusiastic about Battlefield 4 saying that it is indeed “stunning”; he then follows up with an implication that PS4′s power is aiding the creative development of the title. The title runs in 1080p and 60FPS. “The imagination of the developers along with that power”; Rajat Taneja also sees the next generation of gaming consoles being 8-10x more powerful than this one we’re currently in.”

    • MikeGseven

      What a jerk! Dude take your lovely touchscreen phone and jump with it from the top floor of the highest building in your town ;-) There no place for more stupid ppl on this planet.

      God of War Ascension looks 100% better and plays better as well than this game, and it’s not so repetitive and boring! You can walk, jump ,and fight using tumbstick and that’s the important difference. In this game you just stand in one place like a fu*** pillar doing only some dodge to the left/right WHAT a borin piece of game.

      And you know what, you should name yourself faggot instead faggit it fits you better :)

      Sorry for my gramma but english it is not my native language…

    • Weisse

      Lol, Infinity blade better than games on the ps3/360. You troll so badly. There are even better Wii games than on tablets, even Wind Waker on the Gamecube looks better than any iOS game. If you think gamers are gonna flock to tablets for the primary gaming needs you are seriously deluded. Infinity is running on the Unreal Engine, you know the same gaming engine on pc and consoles. It’s an engine that scales to hardware. So Infinity Blade is not so special, fun toilet game!

      Please back up that fake fact you made up. Sony and MS are not using mobile/tablet cpu/gpus you muppet, it’s APU architecture. It’s beneficial for lower power consumptions whilst delivering great performance. The Xbox One has a custom-made, eight x86 low-power/low-cost Jaguar core that is combined with a Radeon HD graphics card with 768 stream processors.

      PS4 on the other hand uses the Single-chip x86 AMD “Jaguar” processor with eight cores with a Radeon HD graphics card boasting 1152 stream processors. The gpu is the equivalent of an Radeon 7870. Which is killer!

      Well, duh, in terms of spec PCs will always have higher specs. Consoles are cost effect gaming, If consoles all had a $1000 Titan card then it will become a niche market dumb ass.

      Oh, and regardless on how much better PC specs are, consoles sell vastly more software over PC titles, it’s where the money is. So hate all you want, consoles will be relevant for a very very very long time. First party console developers are great, You should be happy console architecture is now in line with PCs, at least you won’t get sloppy game ports anymore.

      Long live console gaming. Drive Club 60fps@60fps, EA stated Battlefield 4 on PS4@60fps. 60fps is not limted by the hardware which an uneducated fool like you wants to think. It’s up to the developers to develop the games in whatever fps they want to. Blame the developers not the hardware.

  • Weisse

    Wow, so apple makes a game controller, you know those things that have been around since gaming started … and it is being treated as the second coming! Delusions everywhere!

    No doubt it’s more practical in terms of gaming, but I don’t think I will hear any gamer say “hey, I going to play some Halo or Uncharted, wanna join me”, “no, I think I will play some cut the rope or angry birds instead”.

    Plus the apps and android market is so floods with mostly shovelware over what XBL, PSN and Steam offer, it’s not a serious gamer’s choice for quality gaming.

    • VirtualAlex

      the iOS market is not flooded with Shovelware

      • Weisse

        umm yes it is. You’re either blind, stupid or just a massive fanboy! For every good iOS game there is about 10 that are rubbish shovelware. Just look at the amount of titles that get daily releases just to make a quick buck. That my friend is shovelware, learn it!

        • VirtualAlex

          Compared to the Android market? Are you kidding me? On the google app store you literally anyone can publish anything. On the Apple store every goes through the Apple approval process. Do they still approve bad and crappy games? Sure they do, it isn’t like “bad” is a violation, however it is still much less than android.

          Regardless that point is stupid. Flooded with shovelware isn’t even an issue no. You can simply sort by rating, or sort by #downloads or google “Best mobile games” and it’s pretty darn easy to avoid the bad ones and only spend money on the cream of the crop.

        • Weisse

          “Regardless that point is stupid. Flooded with shovelware isn’t even an issue no. You can simply sort by rating”

          Yet you denied iOS is not flooded, so what is it? You’re contradicting yourself.

          I never compared Android Market to the App store(trying to point the finger elsewhere). Both have tons of shovelware, be it good or bad apps, difference is since late 2012 Apple managed to bury those apps showcasing featured apps instead, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, search for them and they shall be found.

          In 2009 Apple had to tighten it’s policies because there was so much copyright infringement for the amount of daily shovelware apps.

          So please stop thinking that it doesn’t exist. The App Store is not the holy grail of gaming and applications that people make it out to be.

  • VirtualAlex

    It is not important that iPad can run Skyrim or 60fps 1080p games. Tons of great games and indie titles don't need top-notch graphics. Games like: Super Meat Boy, Trine, Torchlight, Castle Crashers, Marvel Alliance, Limbo, Braid, Bastion do I need to go on? Some of the most successful games on XBLA don't even have big graphics requirements. A gamepade would make all of the above games playable on iPad exactly the same as XBL and PSN.

  • Tom

    Really interesting article. I have to admit I see how this could steal substantial market share away from conventional console players, however there's a problem with this statement: “the Apple TV – with this announcement you're just a step away from pairing a controller with that and calling it the iGame.”

    - Apple's forte is dominating a market of yearly release cycles. Games on an Apple TV couldn't keep up with the yearly power upgrades the mobile handsets see. People will not want to keep buying a new ATV every year…

  • VirtualAlex

    It is not important that iPad can run Skyrim or 60fps 1080p games. Tons of great games and indie titles don’t need top-notch graphics. Games like: Super Meat Boy, Trine, Torchlight, Castle Crashers, Marvel Alliance, Limbo, Braid, Bastion do I need to go on? Some of the most successful games on XBLA don’t even have big graphics requirements. A gamepade would make all of the above games playable on iPad exactly the same as XBL and PSN.

  • Tom

    Really interesting article. I have to admit I see how this could steal substantial market share away from conventional console players, however there’s a problem with this statement: “the Apple TV – with this announcement you’re just a step away from pairing a controller with that and calling it the iGame.”

    – Apple’s forte is dominating a market of yearly release cycles. Games on an Apple TV couldn’t keep up with the yearly power upgrades the mobile handsets see. People will not want to keep buying a new ATV every year…