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Tomorrow Apple is widely expected to announce a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, one that finally lets users play App Store games on their television. It'll even likely support Bluetooth controllers, turning into a tiny, inexpensive game console. And while that concept hasn't worked much in the past — Ouya says hello — Apple could have a secret weapon: Minecraft. That's right, Microsoft paid $2.5 billion for what could be the Apple TV's killer app for gaming.
A rare game that works well on a huge range of platforms
While most people think of Minecraft as a PC game, the mobile "pocket edition" has been incredibly successful. As of January the game had been purchased on mobile more than 30 million times, making it one of the rare smartphone games that doesn't feature magical gems or gambling that people actually want to pay money for. It's also the ideal game for the kind of cross-platform play that the Apple TV could be really great at. You could play the game on your phone for quick bouts of building, and then settle in on your couch to really dig in on the Apple TV. Minecraft is a game that works well on a huge range of platforms; in fact, Microsoft just announced similar support for Windows 10, offering cross-platform play between mobile and PC. (Minecraft developer Mojang has already said that controller support is in the works for the mobile version.)
It's hard to imagine playing the vast majority of popular mobile games on your television; Candy Crush and Boom Beach are more diversions than anything else, the kind of games you play when you need to kill a few minutes. But Minecraft, on the other hand, could be the ideal game to sell people on Apple's attempt at a game console. It's a premium game, one that works in both short bursts and prolonged sessions, and it already has an existing audience of tens of millions. And the promise of being able to share your progress across multiple devices makes the Apple TV version even more appealing.
There are few games that have that same sort of system selling quality — though if Hearthstone gets Apple TV support, I will be forced to buy one.