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.
But 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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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?