Why would anyone game on an Apple TV?

By

fnf
Which one would you choose?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The new Apple TV has been on sale for just over three months now, and the growing catalog of tvOS apps and games looks incredibly promising. It’s what Apple TV fans have been calling out for for years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Friday-Night-Fights-bug-2But does tvOS and a strong backing from iOS developers make Apple TV a good game console? Is it an ideal buy for casual gamers, and can it mount a real threat against the latest and greatest consoles from Sony and Microsoft? Do we even need another console?

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight between Cult of Android and Cult of Mac as we battle it out over those questions and more for your entertainment!

Killian-FNFKillian Bell (Writer, Cult of Android): Welcome to Friday Night Fights, Rob. It’s nice to take on someone not named Luke for a change. I’ll go easy on you as it’s your first time, but I have no intention of losing this one.

This week’s battle is over the new Apple TV’s gaming capabilities, and whether they’re really necessary. I was super excited about getting tvOS and a dedicated App Store, and I’m sure it will be successful. But I’m not sure we really need another console.

Sure, gaming on an iPhone or iPad is fun when you have ten minutes to kill, but if you want to game on a TV in your living room, I don’t see why you wouldn’t buy a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One for a far, far greater experience.

I know you’re an Apple TV fan — and a gamer. So what do you think?

rob_fnfRob LeFebvre (Writer, Cult of Mac): Thanks so much for inviting me here to show Luke how it’s done. To be frank, he’s a little soft on you.

So, here’s the thing, Killian. May I call you Killian? The Apple TV is the perfect gaming system for everyone. That’s right — everyone. Whether you’re a gamer, not a gamer, an iOS gamer, a portable gamer, or a big console or PC gamer, the Apple TV is the the ultimate little machine for all. Not only can you play big, time-wasting epic games on it, but it supports every game you’ve already got in your Apple ID ecosystem.

The best example I can think of this is my girlfriend, who has become somewhat of a mobile gamer in the last few years as she discovered how great it is to sit on the couch and play on her iPad. Recently, though, she started playing the incredible Lumino City on the Apple TV. She played through at least four hours on the big screen, marveling at the hand-made details and challenging puzzles in the game. The big screen brought that game to life in a way that playing on her iPad did not (initially).

How can you go wrong — the current Apple TV is a budget-friendly $150, is as small as a hockey puck, and comes with its own Siri Remote. Not to mention all the other great things this device does. If you’re at all interested in big screen gaming but don’t want to splurge for a massive console, the Apple TV is your best bet.

Do you really want to get your game on with Apple TV?
Do you really want to get your game on with Apple TV?
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Killian-FNFKillian: He’s soft on me because he knows I can get nasty.

I’m a big gamer myself. I prefer PC gaming, and that’s what I use to play most genres, but I have a PlayStation 4 for things like FIFA and Call of Duty, which I feel play better on a console where there’s a larger community of online players. I know these platforms are more expensive than Apple TV, but they’re well worth the upgrade cost.

I just don’t think supersized iOS games deliver the best experience. It’s great that your girlfriend can play Lumino City for four hours — I can’t get mine to play anything — but that four hours could have been better spent inside an even greater console game. Wouldn’t she enjoy driving through Los Santos in a stolen car carrying out action-packed and highly illegal missions to deliver drugs or “silence” rival gang bosses? I don’t think gaming gets more exciting than that.

I’m not saying there’s not an audience for Apple TV games, because it might be a good first console for some — especially young kids. And it’s certainly a terrific set-top box. But if you’re gaming on a big TV, I feel like you’re missing out if you choose to do it on what is essentially old mobile hardware. You’re basically getting a giant iPad game that you have to play with a tiny remote.

rob_fnfRob: It’s funny you mention that, since there’s more to the Lumino City story.

I have a PlayStation 4, my son has a Wii U, and we used to have an Xbox 360. We’re not hurting for gaming opportunities. And yet, my girlfriend would rather play Lumino City than Grand Theft Murder Simulator any day. Yes, there are experiences you cannot get in the Apple ecosystem – it doesn’t support massive games with huge budgets that companies traditionally sell us for $60 or so. Some companies are experimenting with that — Skylanders and Guitar Hero come to mine — but those aren’t the games we’re playing on the Apple TV.

We’re playing Alto’s Adventure, Asphalt 8, Steven Universe: Attack the Light, OceanHorn, Electroball, Manticore Rising, Crossy Road, Disney Infinity, Super Mega Worm, and Pac-Man 256. All at the drop of a hat – they’re all as fast and easy to get started as it is on your iPad or iPhone.

Have you timed how long it takes to get a game rolling on the PS4? You have to turn on the console, wait for it to boot up, launch your disc-based or downloaded game, wait for that to go through all its set up and splash screens, choose to continue your game (or start a new one), then wait another minute or five for it to load up. Only then are you ready to play.

And don’t get me started on PC gaming. How much time do you really need to spend messing about with graphics cards, special drivers, and just the right combination of hardware and software to play games at an eye-blistering high-resolution? Honestly, we’ve gone past that in the gaming scene – most every modern device has visuals that outpace games from just a few years ago—why are we constantly searching for just a few more pixels or photo-realism? It’s a waste of time.

But back to the Lumino City story. My girlfriend had to go away for a few days for work, staying in a hotel with only her iPad. Instead of pining for the Apple TV, she just pulled the game up on her iPad and began playing from the exact spot she ended on the TV. Game Center and iCloud knew exactly what her progress was and was able to let her continue playing her favorite game on the go. You can’t do that with any other platform, can you?

And, honestly, if you can’t handle playing with a “tiny remote,” get a big-ole controller for $50 – you’re still paying less than a Wii U console.

tvOS is great, but what about tvOS games?
tvOS is great, but what about tvOS games?
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Killian-FNFKillian: What is Grand Theft Murder Simulator and where can I buy it?

I’ll admit that Apple TV is definitely more cost effective; console games are painfully expensive, and so is a decent gaming PC. But I’d rather pay more for 60+ frames-per-second, 4K graphics, and what I believe are more immersive experiences. For me, gaming is all about getting lost in amazing worlds I can’t visit in real life, going on adventures I don’t have to leave the house for, and achieving wildly unrealistic things.

I know I’ll never score a hat-trick for Manchester United, fire rockets from a mothership, or race go-karts against a giant ape in real life — but I can in a game, and it’s much better when I’m doing it with ultra-realistic visuals. I don’t mind paying $60 for that, and waiting an extra minute for it to load up. I don’t think it is a waste of time.

I suppose it all depends on what you’re into. Gaming is definitely subjective, and it’s great there are so many mediums to play games on these days. I will also admit that features like iCloud syncing are terrific. You can sync progress between a small number of PlayStation 4 and PS Vita games, but it’s certainly not as seamless as it is with iOS and Apple TV games.

But just because I get your point, it doesn’t mean I’m accepting defeat here. I think it’s time we pass this over to the readers now. What do you prefer to play games on, and should Apple TV be considered a proper console?

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

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  • wicka

    I would like to see Rob explain more of the advantages of gaming on the Apple TV, rather than listing the same old tired anti-console and anti-PC rhetoric that we’ve all grown tired of. The simple fact is that the Apple TV is not meant for people who specifically want to play games. All other options are superior in every aspect but cost, and when you pay more for a PC or a console, you’re getting more in return.

    • YodaMac

      I think the “play anywhere” (that you have an iPhone, iPad, iWatch… future iCar, etc.) feature is the deal breaker! I can play ANYWHERE, ANYTIME! :-) That gets me excited about gaming! The simple fact is that the Apple TV IS meant for people who want to play games, watch movies, listen to tunes, etc. All of that! All the time! Anywhere! Anytime! I don’t want to spend $$$ on some one-trick black box anymore that ties me to one place and one screen (which often has to be shared!). Apple TV is gonna just get better as more games continue to come out! Too many die-hard gamers seem to be snobbish about what a “real game” is or isn’t, and that’s just not for them to decide. Sorry.

      • wicka

        Lol, no. Apple TV will continue to be a great set top box with gaming as an afterthought – always. It’s impossible for it to compete with PCs and consoles unless it costs too much to be feasible as a streaming box. It’s just a fact. Sorry.

    • herbaled

      You seem to be doing the same thing they did. If indeed “all other options are superior” then tell us WHY they’re superior, and WHY Apple TV is inferior.

      • wicka

        If you are not willing to admit to the obvious truth that purpose-built consoles and gaming PCs are superior gaming devices to a streaming box then you are not worth discussing this with.

      • herbaled

        OK .. I see. If I don’t agree with you then I’m “not worth discussing this with.” But meanwhile here you are discussing it.

      • wicka

        What I’m telling you is this: if all you care about is gaming, PCs and consoles are better. Your request that this needs to be explained means you are not worth talking to. I do not believe that you are so ignorant that you’re literally not aware that a device built purely for gaming is better at gaming than a TV streaming box that happens to also play games.

      • melci

        wicka, the AppleTV is hardly just a “TV Streaming box”. It is an iPad for your 60″ TV and considering Games makes up 60% of the Billions of dollars in revenue generated by the iOS platform, of course the AppleTV is a gaming platform as much as anything else.

        It is just as much a gaming platform as the Nintendo Wii is. GPU power is not the sole measure of these things and the AppleTV is hardly a sluggard in that department in any case.

      • herbaled

        It’s become obvious that you’re actually unable to give any specifics as to why consoles are superior to Apple TV. And if am “not worth talking to” then why are you still here talking?

        If you really do think Apple TV is only “a TV streaming box” then you appear to be the “ignorant” one here. If you don’t know that Apple TV does way way more that just stream TV then you obviously have never used it and know very little about it.

        So how can you possibly know Apple TV is inferior to gaming consoles when you’ve never actually used Apple TV for gaming?

  • Lucus Bendzsa

    I love my Xbox and I love my Apple TV. Just have Botha me get along you two! ;_)

    • herbaled

      What do you like/don’t like about the XBox, and the same question about Apple TV?

  • herbaled

    Both arguments are a bit anemic. The first two rounds actually said nothing but “mine is better”, but with no reasons why. But then you finally did actually give a few … very few … specific features/advantages that you prefer that’s not in the other guy’s choice of game players.

    There’s lots of dead weight in this article. Just to fill space, I guess.