With the reveal of the new Apple TV, Apple's miniature media box is evolving into something beyond what its name suggests. You can now ask it to tell you the weather, use it to shop, and, perhaps most interestingly, play some games on it that you'd normally expect to find on home consoles.
The new Apple TV isn't the gaming revolution that rumors have suggested, and if you already own a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, there's little reason for you to switch over. However, with a few console-grade titles and an inviting $149 price tag, Apple's set-top box is becoming an increasingly attractive option for families or casual gamers who don't want to shell out a fortune for some fun.
The Right Developers
Any gaming platform needs good developer support to thrive, and the new Apple TV is already off to a strong start. The set-top box is confirmed to be getting Disney Infinity 3.0, Skylanders SuperChargers and Guitar Hero Live, all of which are major holiday titles that have either come or will come to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For the more core gamer, Activision is bringing retro-style shooter Geometry Wars 3 to the platform as well.
Even more encouraging is the fact that big developers are making games exclusively for Apple TV. At the device's reveal event, Rock Band creator Harmonix showed off Beat Sports: a unique, rhythm-based sports game that lets you use motion controls on the new Siri Remote to physically knock baseballs towards colorful monsters. It's easy to imagine Nintendo getting a little jealous.
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The new Apple TV also presents an opportunity for meatier takes on iOS favorites. For example, the big-screen version of mobile hit Crossy Road adds in multiplayer, allowing you to deviously bump your best friend's chicken into oncoming traffic. It's a small touch, but if Apple can continue to get popular creators aboard, the Apple TV can only get better as a games machine.
A True Gaming Ecosystem
Perhaps the strongest gaming feature of the new Apple TV is how deeply it's tied to the entire iOS ecosystem. If you buy a game on iOS, you'll automatically own it on Apple TV, and will be able keep your progress across devices. This way, if you don't want to stop marathoning Transistor when it's time to head to work, you simply stop the game on your TV and keep playing on your iPhone.
An Attractive Price
If you currently have no means of playing games in your living room, the Apple TV's $149 starting price is awfully enticing. The Xbox One and PS4 start at $350 and $400, respectively, and while Nvidia's Shield set-top box boasts a decent lineup of triple-A games, you'll have to pay at least $200 for it.
Of course, good price doesn't always mean good value. The new Apple TV's success as a gaming machine will depend on both the price and breadth of its game library, as well as its support for third-party peripherals. Playing games with the Siri Remote or your iPhone could be fine, but more serious gamers will want a dedicated controller. Also worth keeping in mind are last generation's PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, which, while a bit dated, have massive game catalogs and plenty of media apps, and can be found for around $200.
So, will the Apple TV replace a serious games console? Certainly not. But it has some serious potential, and for its price, it might end up being one of the best options for casual players — especially those already heavily invested in iOS' excellent library of games.