App to the future
Where Apple heads now remains to be seen, but aspects of its ecosystem need addressing. Southall shares many developers' concerns that the recent rise of free-to-play will result in a race-to-the-bottom where it 'won't be financially viable to make games'. He worries indies will be priced out of a market increasingly reliant on advertising to get noticed: 'Apple must continue to innovate to allow small developers to flourish, retaining that key strength in how content arrived on iOS'. (Thoa agrees with both points, saying they'd improve games, but wryly adds: 'It's not where I think Apple's priorities will be.)
Holowaty reckons the Xbox One reveal's emphasis on apps and media was tacit acknowledgement of the Apple living-room threat, but hopes Apple will eschew the safe route for 'something I didn't even know I wanted, like the original iPhone'. Gage concurs: 'Lots of people want the Apple TV to move into the game space, but it's hard to see how Apple could continue telling its story by doing so.' Turning the Apple TV into a more 'standard' console would mean iOS devices were 'no longer the centre of the ecosystem, and, worse, would have to share that ecosystem with devices that aren't touch-sensitive. That sounds like a mess'.
Beyond a tantalising reference to an API for third-party game controllers at WWDC 2013, there were no suggestions Apple would enter traditional gaming. Indeed, perhaps the reverse is likelier, with rivals learning from Apple. Pickford considers the App Store as having been great for games in allowing open access to an audience, but Apple 'could create a healthier ecosystem by spreading awareness around a bit, giving less prominence to already successful games'. That it won't is in part down to the company not really caring about games other than as revenue generators and content for selling hardware. He therefore hopes the existence of the App Store 'jogs Sony, Nintendo or Valve – I've given up on Microsoft – into modifying their business models to become more open and inclusive'. This, he believes, could finally result in that 'perfect environment' for developers and gamers, and he reckons games 'deserve a platform run by a company that cares about videogames as a medium – and that's never going to be Apple'. In this regard, then, Apple could stand to change, lest it lose its accidental crown and be dethroned through an entirely avoidable cause.