We are at the absolute end of the road for gaming consoles. There is no reason that you are going to need a dedicated gaming machine in the next year or two. You probably don’t even need one now.
What makes this more troubling for Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 is that these big, heavy, bulky, hot and loud devices have to last for an extremely long time to be profi table. We have been on a sevento eight-year life cycle for game consoles for the past couple decades, and that model isn’t going to be sustainable.
This is where Apple comes in.
Why buy a $400-$500 box that is going to be obsolete within a couple of years when we have desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones all over the place? All we need is a gateway between our smart devices and our televisions, and Apple has already dropped enough hints as to how it will pull this off.
One major announcement that has been largely overlooked from Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference event is that the company is allowing third-party manufacturers to make game controllers for its iOS devices.
Apple has started to put pressure on Sony and Microsoft by introducing a game controller standard — incredibly helpful, since it invites developers to build games that recognize a set of button controls and inputs that will work across every game in the App Store.
Soon, you are going to be able to play a console-quality game on your iPhone or iPad with a game controller, and you’re going to be able to see it on your bigscreen television without any effort. This is literally a game-changer.
Then there’s Apple’s introduction of a Wi-Fi protocol called 802.11ac. This new Wi-Fi standard claims to support data transfer speeds of up to 1.3Gbps, which allows high-resolution video to stream between devices (it can throw around 4K vid with ease). This is the huge missing piece of Apple’s TV puzzle.
Another brilliant feature is Air-Play, which lets Apple users instantly beam whatever is on your iOS device or computer right to your Apple TV. But for as many times as it has worked, there have been other times where the refresh rate was too slow, due to limited Wi-Fi bandwidth or some other technical error. The new Wi-Fi standard can solve that, and if Apple allows its devices to connect to the Apple TV via Wi-Fi Direct — a connection between two devices that removes the need for a wireless access point — then it completes the circle even better.
If you can stream an incredibly high-resolution feed from your phone or iPad to your Apple TV without issue, what are you going to stream? Videos and games.
Apple sells its Apple TV for $99, and that price point is working tremendously well. Without any advertising and selling practically entirely by word of mouth, Apple has sold more than 13 million of these devices.
The gateway already exists. You just sit on your living room sofa, use your iPhone or iPad to control it, play content from your devices seamlessly, or stream content directly to the Apple TV.
What are consumers more likely to buy every year or two? A new Xbox or PlayStation, or a new smartphone or tablet?
The future of the living room isn’t a $500 black box straight out of “Transformers.” The future of the living room is an inexpensive Trojan Horse that can serve as a bridge from that computer in your pocket to your television.
(Jonathan Geller is founder and editor-in-chief of BGR, a website dedicated to mobile news.)