How Apple Could Win AAA Gaming — M1 ATV + X1 VR

Apple doesn’t get gaming. That’s what every lazy pundit with a platform laments. But Apple absolutely gets gaming. To the tune of billions and billions of dollars in App Store revenue each quarter. They just get that… Candy Crush just crushes… and casual gaming currently offers the biggest return in the business.

But what if that was about to change? What if Apple is finally, finally getting ready to just rock with hard core gaming the way they did TV streaming back in ought 19? Well… then…

Ok, so, we’ve all heard the rumors about the next-generation Apple TV. That there’s been an A12X or A12Z — the current Pad Pro chip — version just sitting on the back burner for over a year already. An incremental update that’ll better composite HDR video and better support upcoming Apple Arcade games, and… not much else.

But also, that there just might be another, even more advanced next-generation Apple TV waiting in the wings. On whose heart beats with an A14X — something closer akin to brand new Mac M1 chip — or an even more powerful system-on-a-chip. One that comes packaged with an Apple-designed game controller. And one that may also just come with full-on triple-A game studio support. Maybe even some game studios acquired by Apple. Just gobbled up like the other consoles have been doing.

And I know, I know, fanfic. I feel that so much right now, but just freaking stay with me for a minute.

We’ve also all heard the rumors about Apple’s upcoming VR headset. Now, Apple — supposedly — already flirted with VR gaming a few years ago. Prepping a prototype under the auspices of Dan Riccio, then head of hardware. Even going so far as to get Valve and Steam involved — the company that famously powers the HTC Vive and their own Index VR systems. They were working on a headset that connected wirelessly to an external compute engine. A box. But Jony Ive, who was still chief design officer back then, said nope. Hard British nope. Not a box. Not on my watch. Just nope. So, the plan was scrapped and the whole Valve and Steam thing… fizzled out along with it.

But just this week came word that Dan Riccio was leaving the top hardware spot to focus on a new, special project at Apple. This just days after reports that Apple was focusing on a new, improved VR headset that was just a headset. No box. Not at all. Coming as soon as next year. High end, expensive, with an onboard chipset that might just be more powerful than the M-Series Apple’s just transplanted into the Mac lineup. And that it’ll be built around the content pillars of communication, entertainment, an — you better believe — gaming.

So, two sets of rumors. A hardcore Apple TV and a breakthrough VR headset. Two sets of plans. A hardcore Apple TV and a breakthrough VR headset. Am I getting to you yet?

What if these aren’t two entirely separate rumors or plans? What if they’re just parts of the same secret master plan. The plan, by Apple, to win hardcore gaming?

Or, you know, to just finally show up and start playing.

We get the first hints of it later this year with the new Apple TV. It’s the first device. The primer. The developer platform. Similar to how Apple has been using iPhones and iPads for AR. A new Apple TV meant to kickoff a new, higher-end Apple Arcade service. With a new focus on triple A gaming to go with it. To round out Arcade and make the Apple One bundle just that much more valuable.

Then, of course, it also comes to the iPhone, the iPad, and the Mac. Because we’ve got this new unified silicon architecture that can finally run the stuffing out of this.. stuff… across all of Apple’s platforms.

And then, sometime next year, we get the VR headset, just the most extra, ultimate, premium, first-in-class way to experience triple A-as-in-Apple Arcade. As well as TV+ and FaceTime theater, or whatever rounds-out the minimal delightful product spec.

And then that’s it, we’re second star on the right, straight ahead to the bolder, brighter, better future of Apple gaming for everyone.

But, yeah, like I said. I know. I know. There are… just so many problems. So many issues that’ll put all this expectational debt I’ve been accruing just straight into karma receivership.

First, Apple has shown not a Pippen of interest in hard core gaming thus far. Sure, there are hard core gamers at every level within Apple, including the highest levels, but none of that has manifested or materialized in terms of actual focus on the platform, especially, historically, hysterically, the Mac.

Second, even with something more powerful than the current M-series chipsets, Apple hasn’t done anything even close to approaching the kind of graphical power we’re seeing from AMD in the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X, much less from Big Navi and Nvidia’s Ampere on the PC. Now, M1 pulls… what, up to 15 watts, and those hellicarrier graphics cards, over 300 watts, so there’s just tons and tons of room for Apple to amp up the core count and voltage. But until we see it, there’s absolutely no reason to believe it.

Third, Apple had the opportunity last year to erase just a huge portion of the gaming gap on their platforms almost overnight… simply by embracing the streaming services from Microsoft, Google, Sony, Amazon, and others. You know, the way they padded out the value of both the Apple TV and the TV app with the streaming services from Netflix, Disney, Paramount, Amazon, and others.

Never once demanding those video streaming services list and rate all their titles separately in iTunes or forcing them go stream through Safari. Like…. For some unfathomable-to-me reason they’re currently forcing the game streaming services to do.

Apparently not realizing or simply not caring that a gaming device with only Apple Arcade and the App Store would be about as valuable to customers as an Apple TV with only TV+ iTunes.

But, if Apple shows that interest, and has hardware that’s, never mind Playstation or Xbox level but just powerful enough, at least with gen 1, and they get over whatever mind killer they currently have about game streaming, they can do what Apple typically does in these situations — position both the next Apple TV and VR headset as the absolute best, most elegant, most secure and privacy-centric way to enjoy all of these myriad game streaming experiences. From Apple. From everyone.

If Apple is thinking anywhere even nearly along these lines, if they’re serious at all about expanding devices and services into these general gaming directions, then this could be a way for them to do it. A secret master plan to do it To take on high end gaming.