Just a thought: Apple could join the console wars in 2013
I was recently thinking about how Apple is putting more powerful and more powerful GPUs in their iOS devices almost every
year quarter. Apple started this push with the second generation iPad in early 2011. They made an iPad that was 9x as powerful as the previous generation iPad and scored better than any GPU at that time. Earlier this year, when Apple introduced the A5X chip, they gave the iPad twice the performance when compared to the A5 chip and just last month they gave the iPad again twice the GPU performance with the A5X chip. And they've been doing similar things with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. In fact, if Apple's marketing is to be believed the fourth generation iPad is 36 times as powerful as the first generation iPad, which was only introduced 2.5 years ago.
So I was thinking and I am starting to believe that Apple would actually make a very good shot if they launched a gaming console - but not an 'ordinary gaming console' like Sony's PlayStation 3 or Microsoft's Xbox 360. Before I start talking about how I imagine this, let's first talk about the approach.
I believe the current approach of console makers is the wrong approach. So what is the current approach? Mainly making the system more powerful for an even better gaming experience - and than there is some side functionality like playing music and watching videos. I believe a gaming console shouldn't be, oddly enough, all about gaming. It should be about the complete package - and both Microsoft and Sony have realised this already because slowly they are moving to a more family-centered 'package'. It does music. It does gaming. It does video. And that's what it should be about, and that's how a company like Apple would do it: you don't buy a gaming console, but you buy a media center that happens to have gaming functionality.
Now let's get back to how Apple could launch a cheap, all-around gaming console. In my mind it is very simple: they should combine the current Apple TV and a docking station and simply call it something like the Apple Play or iPlay or whatever. I'm not good at names. Let's call it iPlay for now.
This iPlay is basically an Apple TV, with a docking station (where you can plug-in your iPad/iPod touch/iPhone) and it has something called a Game Store. And this iPlay has the similar hardware as the Apple TV:
- A dual-core A5 chip or A5X chip with 1 GB of RAM
- 8 GB SSD for streaming movies
- Wi-Fi up to 150 Mbps (just like iPad 4 and iPad mini)
- A docking station (for your iPhone and iPad (and iPod touch))
- A HDD or SDD (at least 50 GB)
(- And in the box you'll also find an iPlay controller)
Over-all, it is very similar to the Apple TV except for a slightly more powerful chip, the docking station and an extra hard drive.
So, how does it work?
It is easy. They key ingredients are your iOS device, the iPlay controller and the Gaming Store.
The iPlay controller is, obviously, the controller. It's a real controller - for the real (console) gaming 'feel'. It allows you to play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto or My Little Pony without any concessions. It will probably exist out of breakable glass and a new one will cost you, at least, $49.
The Gaming Store has all the real games. I'm talking here about big games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Grand Theft Auto V, FIFA Soccer 13, etc., etc. - and since it is all digital, it will sell for only $39 or maybe even $29. They've got the deals with Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft - and if they don't, they will be coming: knowing every quarter there are tens of millions of iPads/iPod touches/iPhones sold, and every single one of those customers might get a cheap iPlay console.
Your iOS device (I'll talk about "iPad" from now on) has all the power, together with the build-in A5X chip. You just put your iPad in the docking station and all of its power will be transferred to the iPlay console. This gives you a quad-core CPU and a powerful-enough GPU (in case of the iPad 4, for example, you'll have the GPU that's 36 times as powerful as the first-gen iPad, and the built-in iPlay console chip that's still 18 times as powerful as the original iPad).
Don't expect miracles. You won't get the greatest graphics, but it is all enough for a great gaming experience and good enough to run games like Call of Duty or FIFA Soccer 13.
The best part is that Apple can sell such a console relatively cheap. I don't expect the current Apple TV to cost much and I think they make a healthy profit on it. An iPlay console has only a slightly more expensive chip, adds a docking station and a controller. They could easily sell this device for $199 or even $149. Something a new PlayStation 4 or Xbox 720 won't be able to match.
Extra feature: AirPlay
They could even go as far as introducing AirPlay for gaming: the game will directly be streamed from your iPlay console to your iPhone/iPod/iPod touch if the TV is occupied (just like Nintendo advertises this as a feature with the Wii U).
I firmly believe Apple could enter the gaming console market and beat Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. With tens of millions of iOS devices being sold every quarter, there is a huge market for such an iPlay console. Introduce the iPlay console at $199 or $149, and there's a good chance some of those people will buy this console.
Not only can they sell even more hardware (namely a profitable console at an unbeatable price), but they can also lock even more people into their ecosystem. It is a great combination: a console that plays the most recent games, but that is also a media center/entertainment center - because you can also play music with it, and watch videos on Hulu - or Netflix.
Entire families will love it, and it is hard to not buy such a product if you know it 'only' costs $149/$199.