Why Apple should release a game console

Don Reisinger thinks now is the perfect time for Apple to get in on the console gaming front. Does Steve Jobs agree?

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

The Industry Standard posted an interesting article recently discussing the possibility of Apple releasing a mobile gaming platform. According to the writer, the circumstantial evidence points to Apple trying its luck with gaming once again. And while I think the company may want to do just that, it should attempt to make its way into the console market.

Apple Pippin
Will Apple's console be this ugly? Nah. Wikipedia

I'm sure some are wondering what my justification for such a move would be considering Apple failed miserably in the console market back in the mid-1990s with the Pippin, but let's not forget that it wasn't really an Apple product. Apple's Pippin was licensed to Bandai, a company that was trying desperately to get into the gaming industry. In essence, Apple envisioned Pippin to be a product that it could market and go above and beyond just gaming. In essence, it wasn't really an Apple console.

Regardless, it failed. Miserably.

Fast-forward to today and the gaming landscape has changed. Today, the industry is booming like never before and it's rife with opportunity for any company that's willing to provide an experience that can eclipse that which we're enjoying right now. And as long as Apple plays by the rules it has played by for the past 10 years, there's no reason to suggest it can't be a success.

The Motive

Apple has shown time and again that it wants to be the leader in every industry that controls the way you live your life. Computers? Check. Cell Phones? Yep. Set-top boxes? You bet. MP3 players? Of course. Gaming? Not yet.

But why is it that Apple hasn't gotten into gaming yet? It has shown time and again that it's committed to being your middleman in almost every way and after it dropped 'Computer' from its name and started to broaden its horizons, showed us all that what it really wants is to dominate your home. And what better way than with a video game console?

Aside from that, the gaming industry is booming. Apple has always been keen on industries that are growing and in desperate need of something fresh, and the video game industry looks like the perfect target. And as more people trust and enjoy Apple products in the home, the company could easily capitalize on its success elsewhere and create a gaming console that could do the same.

Make no mistake: Apple wants to control the home.

Although I believe Apple may want to get in on the mobile gaming field, console gaming is where it should focus its efforts. Today, gamers are more likely to play online, download movies and TV shows with their consoles and do many of the things already found on Apple products. And with such a powerful piece of software in iTunes, there's no reason to suggest the console couldn't be tied to the platform and become yet another way to use iTunes to download music, movies, TV shows, and now, video game demos. Simply put, the infrastructure is in place and ready to go.

But perhaps most importantly, Apple can use its console as yet another tool of convergence. What if you could use an iPod Touch or iPhone as the controller? What if the company released a controller that would double as a portable media player? To me, the possibilities seem endless.

Of course, Apple would be met with a series of issues if it wants to make an impact in the gaming industry. First off, it would be forced to forego its insistence on a closed platform and allow third-parties to do what they wanted with the console. Along those lines, it would also need to play nice with third-party developers in order to bring more games to its console -- something Apple has not been too proficient at in the past. But if it can get past its distrust of third-parties, there's no reason to suggest it can't provide solid reasons to own an Apple console.

Once it endeavors to get in on the console gaming industry, Apple should acquire some third-party developers and use those to make first-party titles. Let's face it -- in the gaming industry, it's incumbent upon each hardware developer to create its own stable of games and considering Apple doesn't have the know-how in that field, it'll need to outsource it. And because it's a company with no debt and tons of cash, it shouldn't have too much trouble acquiring a major firm like Take-Two Interactive or any other developer of that caliber that has a solid stable of games in the works.

In terms of hardware, Apple would need to only provide something that appeals to gamer desire. There's no reason to suggest it should develop a Wii-killer that attempts to compete on innovation. Instead, it should create a console that can compete on the same level graphically with the Xbox 360 and PS3, but also provides that same level of convergence that makes people want Apple products.

Getting in on the console game now wouldn't be such a bad idea for Apple. And while some may wonder if it's really the best move for a company that's trying to command a variety of markets, I think it's the next logical move for the company that's trying to control all facets of the home.

Will it happen? Who knows. But if Steve Jobs really wants to create a full-featured lineup of products, a video game console is a must.