The new Apple TV was officially announced at Apple’s September Event, and it’s getting some substantial changes. Arguably the biggest news is that the Apple TV will have an App Store and support video games.
It might not be a console killer, but so far the Apple TV has a pretty interesting library. Previous Apple TVs could play games with AirPlay, but with the new TV OS users can access their purchased apps on the Apple TV as well as their iPhones, and even continue games from phone to TV.
The Apple Design Award-winning endless runner is coming to the Apple TV with a new co-op mode. A second player can join in on their mobile device, and players can keep going up until both are defeated by traffic. If a single player dies they can be revived at checkpoints. Another addition to the game is the ability to block your companion, or smack them right into traffic. Yep, no passing through friendly parties here.
Disney Infinity 3.0
This isn’t a huge surprise, since Disney Infinity is already available on tons of devices. However, that doesn’t lessen the importance of its presence on Apple TV. Families who don’t want to invest in consoles might be persuaded by the Apple TV—especially if they’re looking to cut the cord with their cable company. Disney Infinity is coming to Apple TV with a special Starter Pack that includes a Bluetooth controller, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tahno figures, and a Bluetooth Infinity Base.
Not to be outdone by Disney, of course, Activision is bringing Skylanders: SuperChargers to the Apple TV (as well as to every other device known to humankind). SuperChargers isn’t just coming to the Apple TV, but also to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad. The Apple TV version will have the same Starter Pack as the other Apple devices. It includes the Bluetooth-enabled Portal of Power and a Bluetooth controller. Skylanders will allow you to play the same game across Apple devices with the Game Center’s cloud saves.
Some more good news: if you already have the Bluetooth Portal and controller from Skylanders: Trap Team, you can reuse them for this game.
Guitar Hero Live
The same deal applies with Guitar Hero Live, which also will also be available for iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, and iPod Touch devices. For this one you’ll need the Bluetooth guitar controller—come on, you wouldn’t want to play Guitar Hero with the Siri Remote, right? That plastic guitar makes you legit.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
Geometry Wars 3 is already out on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices, but it’s coming out for the Apple TV and the iPad Pro once they launch. This is an arcade shooter game (think flashing lights and lots of fractals) that has single-player and online co-op modes. It will be playable with the Siri Remote on Apple TV, as well as the Pencil on the iPad Pro.
Fantastic Plastic Squad
A silly name, but an interesting offering from former Medal of Honor producer Greg Goodrich. This game is about plastic action figures that are warring for their territory—a house. This game will be playable with the Siri Remote and was designed for touch devices, like the iPhone and iPad. Polygon says that the Apple TV version “will be built from the ground up for the device,” though it will also support third-party controllers.
The mobile version of the game lets players turn on AI control, which is useful in strategy games where you’re not anchored to a couch. The Apple TV version has the same capabilities, but you turn on AI control by holding the remote vertically, and off by bringing it horizontal again. The touchpad is used to aim, jump, and throw grenades, while the play button makes the character move forward or backward. It’s an interesting configuration that probably needs to be experienced to be truly understood.
Harmonix strikes a musical chord again. The makers of Dance Central and Rock Band are bringing a totally new motion-based rhythm game to the Apple TV. In Beat Sports, you swing the Siri Remote to hit pitches on the beat. So it’s baseball in space with robot and alien enemies trying to strike you out. If you hit enough balls back at your foes, they’ll be vanquished. This game supports up to four players, with the additional players using their iPhones or iPods as controllers.
“We immediately saw the potential for new ways to play that the Apple TV opens up, and couldn’t wait to start designing an all-new experience for this exciting new technology,” said Matt Boch, product manager at Harmonix. They’re also implementing an interesting control scheme, with the player swiping on the touch surface to move, and swinging the remote to hit balls.
Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising
Manticore Rising has been heavily featured in Apple’s promotional material. Not much has been revealed about it yet, but the other Galaxy on Fire games are popular space shooters for iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac and PC. I’m betting we’ll see this one played with the Siri Remote turned sideways and motion controls.
Transistor is one of our favorite games, an action-RPG with gorgeous visuals. Transistor for the Apple TV will include controller support, but will be playable with the remote. It’s also available for iOS, so it’s not a huge surprise to see it here.
Shadowmantic, another Apple Design Award winner, has the player rotating abstract objects to reveal a recognizable shadow on the wall. It’s already playable on most iOS devices, and has more than 80 levels. This is one that I can see working really well with the Apple TV’s remote. It’s designed for simple touch gestures, and will look great on the big screen.
The new remote control for the Apple TV looks pretty sweet. It has a glass touch surface and a simple button interface, as well as an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The touch surface is all you’ll need to play games on the Apple TV, and the remote can be turned sideways to serve as a controller for driving games like Asphalt Airborne 8.
But Apple is promoting a third-party gamepad controller for the Apple TV. The Nimbus SteelSeries controller looks just like a traditional console controller, with colorful buttons, a d-pad, and two joysticks. It also has a free companion app that keeps the controller updated and lists available games. The Nimbus isn’t out yet, but will be compatible not just with the Apple TV, but also with newer iPhone and iPad models, as well as the fifth generation iPod Touch and Mac computers. Apple touts the controller “for serious gamers,” and emphasizes that “the same remote you use to watch TV can also be used to conquer alien planets or drive in the Indy 500.”
The Nimbus will cost $49.95. It will charge by Lightning connector, and reportedly have up to 40 hours of battery life.
Other MFI (made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) devices will be compatible with Apple TV, but developers will have to build in support. And as with the multiplayer games mentioned above, it seems like iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches will also work as controllers.
None of these games will be a major factor in someone’s decision to purchase an Apple TV. As I said above, the most important games for this device will probably be Disney Infinity and Skylanders, which are popular with families. Making those games available for every device instead of just consoles is a move that benefits Disney and Activision—and it means more people might stumble into those franchises.
Multiplayer for the Apple TV is going to be important. Games like Crossy Road, Beat Sports, and Fantastic Plastic Squad are doing something right. As I said in Wednesday’s editorial, typical iOS gamers don’t need to take over a TV to have a good time, but bringing in multiplayer and co-op will give them more incentive to do so.
The Apple TV isn’t going to be a console killer, and it’s not trying to be. Right now it’s offering a solid menu of games, but nothing surprising. I expect that most people who game on the Apple TV will be continuing games that they’ve started on their iPhones, or playing with family and friends.
The Apple TV will cost $149 for the 32GB model, and $199 for the 64GB model. It comes out in October.