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Apple TV Could Be The Game Console For The Rest of Us

14/09/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Rohan Naravane

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I've always wanted to own a gaming console. After my desktop PC's motherboard crashed the third time in 2007, something died inside of me. Eventually, I bought a laptop and didn't bother about any gaming -- PC or otherwise. For years, I would keenly look at the experiences people had with their PlayStations and Xboxes. But there was one deterring factor that made me not buy one to date -- pricing. I'm not referring to the pricing of the console, these high-end 'computing devices' would cost comparatively less than a similarly-performing PC. It was the pricing of games that kept me at bay.

These game discs generally cost a couple of thousand Indian Rupees, and for the new & popular titles, many more thousands of rupees. I'm not ranting about why these games aren't any cheaper; game production budgets can run into tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, so I can imagine there's a lot that goes into making one. And there are enough number of 'gamers' out there who find value in buying these. But for me, buying a console felt like buying a reasonably-priced inkjet printer & then spending a bomb on cartridges.

Which is why for all these years I've been looking for cheaper alternatives that pander to a casual gamer like me. I've had a look at Ouya, PlayStation Vita TV, the Google Nexus Player made by ASUS, or even Amazon's Fire TV. But most of them didn't have particularly glowing reviews about their 'game console' abilities, and to date aren't even available for sale in India. The last time I took a peek at Apple TV, it was late 2013 and since then I wished for how it could really be the game console for me. After two years of waiting, it's here!

The new Apple TV is powered by the A8 chip from last year's top-of-the-line iPad Air 2, or this year's iPad mini 4. Meaning it's got enough muscle to push high-intensity content on your 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD TV (remember, the same A8 chip has to work comparatively more to drive the higher 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution of those iPads). There's an ample 32GB of storage in the base $149 model, and 64GB in the $199 one. The term 'ample' is used relatively when you look at the 8GB or less internal storage of others. Besides, it's also surprising for Apple to offer an 'ample' 32GB of storage on an entry-level variant of any of their devices.

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But also as important as the specs, is the new operating system called 'tvOS'. Just like 'watchOS' on the Apple Watch, this is a derivative of iOS that tries to bring in all the software familiarities that developers are used to by now. There's an expectation that app developers will find it relatively easier to make their existing iPhone & iPad apps work with the new Apple TV soon. Obviously you won't get the 1.5 million iPhone apps on Apple TV on day one, but the recent watchOS app numbers are confidence instilling. Despite being late to the smartwatch party, Apple is leading the race with getting developers to make 10,000 apps...for a watch. So, it's safe to say that developers will see the value in making their apps work with tvOS too. Also, people willing to pay more for content on Apple's platform than others is another reassurance in investing the time and energy to make apps for the TV.

At the event, Apple demoed some arcade-y, fun games that can be played with swinging the bundled motion-sensing remote, somewhat like Nintendo's Wii Remote. For people like me who're yearning for typical game console experiences, there's also support for third party controllers. So I could buy that typical controller with the colourful X, Y, A, B action buttons and dual sticks for games that require more complex input.

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Finally we arrive at the app pricing -- Apple is asking developers to enable universal pricing for their apps, so that a single purchase on either iOS or tvOS platform would mean it would run on all devices you own. And if you scan through the pricing of games on the iOS app store today, many of them are free (mostly with an in-app purchase); one could also look at these as 'free-to-try'. There are also games that are can be bought entirely with a one-time payment. In either case, the cost attached to a game is largely observed to be in the hundreds of rupees.

And this is what makes the Apple TV a prime candidate to become *the* Game Console for non-gamers like me.

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