Samuel Axon of Ars Technica published an article over the weekend about the state of gaming on Apple TV, inspired by the recent demise of Minecraft on the platform. In it he shares quotes from notable iOS and tvOS game developers about Apple's problems with the Apple TV as a gaming platform.
On the subject of Minecraft, Team Alto developer Ryan Cash said:
"If I were in charge of the game...I think I'd really try to stay there. While the platform certainly isn't the biggest, it continues to grow, and it's a great way for certain types of audiences to experience gaming, often for their first time."
Strange Flavour's CEO Aaron Fothergill expressed similar sentiments, highlighting how easy it is to port a game from iOS to tvOS. He did, however, share one common request for the platform:
"I...like the idea of game controllers (ideally Apple ones) being bundled with the Apple TV as an actual Apple option. So there's an Apple TV being sold specifically for games."
Finally, developer Patrick Hogan shared three things he believes Apple should do:
- Include an Apple-branded, full-featured controller with every Apple TV.
- Market the Apple TV as a gaming platform.
- "Spend a lot of money on funding platform exclusives, ports, and presence at every major gaming expo and conference to break the chicken-egg problem of getting customers to make it viable to devs."
Gaming is clearly an area where Apple could have more success if it wanted to. Producing a controller to bundle with the Apple TV, even if it were just included with certain SKUs of the device, wouldn't be that difficult for the company. Clearly it's just something that the execs in Cupertino don't want to pursue at this time.
It could be challenging bridging the gap between the touch-first games of iOS and potential controller-first titles on the Apple TV, but if Nintendo can walk that line successfully with the Switch, I don't doubt that Apple could do the same. Until such a strategy shift takes place though, Apple TV gaming is likely to remain stuck in mediocrity.
According to a report in the New York Times, producers and executives who have met with Apple recently said the company is targeting sometime between March 2019 and summer 2019 to launch a video service. With about a dozen shows signed in the past several months, the Times says Apple is on track to spend significantly more than the $1 billion or so that it told TV executives last year it had budgeted to spend on programming. The report says the turning point came last summer:
The week after “Planet of the Apps” made its debut, Mr. Cue greatly improved the company’s standing in the entertainment industry by hiring the veteran television executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht away from Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind “Breaking Bad” and “The Crown.”
The two executives moved quickly to build Apple Worldwide Video from the ground up, expanding its staff to roughly 40 people and opening divisions for adult dramas, children’s shows and Latin American and European programming. In putting together its slate of 12 projects (and counting), Mr. Van Amburg and Mr. Erlicht made deals with big names including Reese Witherspoon (for three shows), Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, M. Night Shyamalan, Jennifer Aniston, Octavia Spencer and Kristen Wiig.
As reports have trickled in about new shows that Apple has signed, it’s become clear that the company has plans to launch a full slate of original programming. Although it remains unclear how Apple intends to roll the shows out to consumers, the New York Times' report provides an interesting peek at where the project stands today and when it might launch.
Apple has added a dedicated News section to its TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices. The feature, which was announced at the company’s September 2017 event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, allows users to jump straight into several different news programs.
In the US, the choices include CBS News, CNN, Fox News, Cheddar, CNBC, and Bloomberg, some of which require paid subscriptions. When you select a news source, your Apple TV or iOS device will prompt you to install its app if it isn’t already on your device. On iOS, and at least with CNN on the Apple TV, the app is installed without a trip to the App Store, after which you are taken directly to the app to begin watching the news. The new feature also works with Siri using commands like ‘Watch CNBC.’
News joins the TV app’s dedicated Sports section, which was announced at the same time as News but was introduced last December. Unlike Sports, which occupies a dedicated tab in the TV app’s interface, News is limited to a single row of icons that appears beneath Up Next, What to Watch, Sports, and a row of featured content.
YouTube has released a major update to its Apple TV app, bringing the first major redesign since the app launched in late 2015.
I was trying to update my two Apple TVs (a 4K model and a 4th generation one) to the latest tvOS 11.2.5 beta earlier today to test AirPlay 2 (more on this soon) and, because I remembered there was a way to install tvOS betas without a USB-C cable, I was attempting to download Apple's tvOS beta configuration profile using Safari on iOS. However, as soon as I tapped the Download button on Apple's developer website, I got this message instead of a new tab showing the downloaded configuration file:
I don't know when Apple changed this behavior, but I recalled that Safari wouldn't try to install tvOS configuration profiles on an iOS device. Without a way to manually fetch the .mobileconfig file and save it to my Dropbox, I was going to unplug my TVs and connect them to my MacBook Pro (which usually sits in the closet until it's recording day for AppStories or Relay) to finish the process.
All the way back in June, at Apple's WWDC keynote, the Apple TV-related news was limited to a single note: Tim Cook announced that Amazon Prime Video would arrive on Apple's streaming box "later this year." Ending a long six-month wait, that promise was finally fulfilled today: Amazon Prime Video is now available on the Apple TV.
Apple has released tvOS 11.2, which adds a new settings option to 4K AppleTVs that can automatically match the frame rate and dynamic range the content being played. The option, called ‘Match Content,’ is found under the Video and Audio section of the AppleTV’s Settings app. Under Match Content, users can choose to ‘Match Dynamic Range’ or ‘Match Frame Rate,’ which can automatically detect and set the original frame rate of content.
The fourth generation and 4K Apple TVs also gained a Sports tab in the TV app. The new section features live sports broadcasts and lets users pick their favorite teams to follow, get alerts when the score of an ongoing game is close, and view scores and schedules.
Today's Apple TV is its own full-fledged platform. While it is more expensive and less popular than other some other media streamers, the Apple TV has come into its own. The current device can stream 4K HDR content, play games and even be used as a calculator.
The original Apple TV didn't enjoy such a wide feature set, and it wasn't treated as a full-blown product by the company, which repeatedly talked about it as a "hobby."
To understand that attitude, I think it's important to go back to when Steve Jobs first previewed the device in September 2006.
WWDC was big this year, introducing new iPad and Mac hardware, Apple’s arrival into the smart speaker market with HomePod, and a variety of exciting software releases across iOS, macOS, and watchOS. But one of Apple’s main platforms was almost entirely overlooked: tvOS. During the WWDC keynote we received word that Amazon Prime Video would be coming to the Apple TV, but nothing else. Sessions held later in the conference revealed that a new version of tvOS did exist, and that it would be coming this year, but the details prove that it’s the smallest release in the OS’s young life. You could say that the focus of tvOS 11 is incremental improvements; the updates here are nice, but they hardly merit a major numbered release.