Xbox founder: If Apple so chooses, they will simply kill Xbox, Playstation, and Wii-U

“I was a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft and gave it its name,” Nat Brown blogs for iLike.code. “Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over), a product that consumers would want and love and demand, I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come, how many installed units it has, how it is crushing its original console competitors, how the brand has grown and endured, and especially how great the games have become.”

“But the past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch. Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect. Touting strategic and market success when you’re just experiencing your competitor’s stumbling failure (yes, Sony, Nintendo – you are, I’m afraid, stumbling failures),” Brown writes. “A complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room. It culminated for me in recent coverage1 of interviews with Yusef Mehdi and Nancy Tellem and reports of the goals of a new LA xBox studio to create interactive content.”

Brown writes, “My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken… Apple is already a games competitor broadly, even if Apple-TV [sic] isn’t yet a game platform or a console. Mobile generally and iPad specifically have grown the total hours of game play and grown the overall game market. Only in the last 18-24mo has that overall growth turned from a segment-expanding rising tide to a tsunami swamping the console game vendor profit boats hitched to the docks. It is accelerating. Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox by introducing an open 30%-cut app/game ecosystem for Apple-TV. I already make a lot of money on iOS – I will be the first to write apps for Apple-TV when I can, and I know I’ll make money.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “Kewo62,” and “MikeinParis” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Analyst: Apple ‘iTV’ special event next month, 4.8-inch iPhone slated for June 2014 – February 13, 2013

30 Comments

  1. The thing is, Apple doesn’t really have to invest a lot to accomplish what this guy is talking about. The AppleTV is an iPod touch with an HDMI port instead of a screen which already leverages a big chunk of the iOS/Mac ecosystem with almost no extra effort from Apple.

    I’m actually quite surprised Apple hasn’t already opened up the AppleTV to certain third party apps, especially TV-Video-Photography-News-Sports oriented apps. I’m also surprised we don’t see more Airplay enabled apps in the app store.

    But contrast Apple’s investment that to the investment necessary for MS to bring the next-gen X-Box to market.

  2. This is, in my opinion, Apple’s best bet for accelerating the growth of TV and for gaining the install-base necessary to really leverage the networks to give Apple content as an alternative to cable.

    Apple could release a game controller for the TV and that would be pretty effective, but considering that we haven’t seen even the smallest whiff in the supply chain of such an event, it’s far more likely that the next revision to iOS and the SDK will contain an official, supported API for Bluetooth controllers that 3rd-parties will develop.

    A D-pad, two sticks, 4-6 face buttons, and 2-4 shoulder buttons can be specced out and hardware developers can make their own controller, so long as A is always mapped to A and X is always mapped to X. iOS developers would be able to simply plugin the appropriate API calls to implement the controller and tie it to the same actions as specific touchscreen elements.

    If a user were to AirPlay the game to their TV, they’d be ready to take on the Wii U in terms of gameplay possibilities. Plus, with the TV already supporting Bluetooth keyboards, it’s likely the controller could pair directly with the TV and games could be downloaded and run locally or even streamed into memory from iTunes to work around the storage limitations of the current TV.

    I’m excited to see if Apple enters this space and what they do. All the pieces are already there, they just need to be assembled.

    1. Cable and DSL monopolies will be a big roadblock for Apple. They’ve been busily shoring up their defenses against Apple and MS (to a lesser degree) by buying up content providers like NBC-Universal.

      1. You’re not wrong, but a key here would be for Apple to point to a) the number of users already using TV, b) the number of TVs being sold a month, c) ways for both Apple and the content providers/cable companies to make money off the content, d) the regular cable-cutting customers are already doing, which will erode profits by these companies anyway.

        Eventually, a tipping point will be reached. Apple could simply accelerate it. Also, as Netflix and Hulu continue to create their own content, customers will have less need for expensive cable bills and will be content to wait for a series to be finished and released on DVD/iTunes/Netflix to watch it.

      2. It isn’t really the cable companies that Apple has to wrestle with. Cable companies are constantly wrestling with content providers and the owners of shows and the studios who produce them. They are much like the music industry was when Apple was rolling out iTunes. They are plainly too dumb to figure out the simple economics and insist on their pricing models and restrictive contracts.

      3. On the entertainment front, content rules. But, even if streaming media sites can break the cable/satellite stranglehold, there won’t be one provider to rule them all. And we’re already seeing the various camps carving out territories for themselves. For example, because of escalating content costs, Netflix will lose a large number of its new release and library titles when their current contracts expire. CBS/Viacom/Paramount content will move over to Amazon, and Sony content will go over to Starz (who can resell the streaming rights, like they had before when they sold Sony and Disney titles to Netflix until the two sides terminated their relationship).

        As a hedge against the increasing content costs from the studios, Netflix now produces its own original programming. If this all sounds familiar, it mirrors how premium cable channels operate, with each channel exclusively carrying titles from specific studios (i.e., HBO with Warner and Fox; Showtime with Paramount and Universal; Starz with Sony and Disney) and producing their own original programs.

        Apple carries content with all of the major media companies, but only because they operate on a purchase-per-title basis. If they ever get into the subscription TV streaming business, it will be interesting to see just how much coverage they can get, given how existing subscription TV streaming sites such as are either owned by the studios (Hulu Plus) or are negotiating exclusive streaming rights with specific studios (Netflix and Amazon).

      4. It’s not the owners of the pipes. It’s the owners of the content. The big 5. Unfortunately, media consolidation means these are the exact same five companies who feel they got burned when Apple struck the original deals for the iTunes store. I honestly think Comcast, Time-Warner, Viacom, News Corp and, yes, even Disney would rather suffer than let Apple dictate the terms on yet another form of media.

        1. Exactly, plus all the smaller cable channels. The reason is the revenue model is not subscription-based, it’s ad based. And people don’t want to pay for content that has ads. Consumers feel that if they’re buying a TV show, it shouldn’t have ads.

          The problem here is that advertisers pay much more than consumers buying individual episodes at $2 apiece. So until Apple can convince content providers that they can make as much or more money in a different way (whether subscription, ad-subscription hybrid, or ad-based), there will be little movement.

          The irony is that it seems like half the ads on the networks and cable channels are just ads promoting the network’s other shows, so they’re not even paying for anything.

    2. I kind of doubt apple will make a controller. I think your phone or ipad will be the controller. But I doubt they’ll make it hard for 3rd parties to create their own if they so choose. I’d love to get rid of my xbox and just have a nice simple apple tv with apps, nice simple apple store. I hate the ms points crap.

      1. The problem with this is that it raises the barrier for entry by a fair margin. If an TV is $99 and an iPad mini is $329, you’re already looking at a $450 investment. You may was well buy a game console at that point. But, if you buy an TV for $99 and a game controller for $50, then you’ve already undercut all of the competition AND you’re profitable, thanks to the tech in the TV simply being old iPhone/iPad tech that was developed for a higher profit margin device.

        The iPhone and iPad could still certainly function as a game controller, if you already have one, but this is already possible thanks to AirPlay Mirroring. Unfortunately, due to the lack of tactile feedback, players often have to look at the device in their hands too often or else controls have to be dumbed down to prevent accidental mistaps. A physical controller eliminates that uncertainty and allows developers to add support for the controller to all versions of their game: iOS, TV, Mac, etc.

    3. The D-pad is a horrible interface for gaming and although there are many users out there, Apple can easily create a much superior method. Most of the actions in real life are analogue and the D-pad is far to binary, without an accelerometer while interfacing mostly with fingers or thumbs. Real human interfaces require linking to the muscles and bones we use for the tasks of moving ourselves. Apple can produce a great interface even though many people can’t imagine what it is.

      1. I disagree. For traditional, 2D gaming, there is no better interface than a D-pad. In 3D, an analog stick has its pros and cons, as does touchscreen. For a truly forward-thinking gaming interface, there is something else we haven’t developed, but I don’t believe it’s possible to translate that future ‘whatever’ to existing games. It will be great for new content, but the games industry is still partially fueled by nostalgia. It’s one of the three major stool legs of the industry.

        I wouldn’t put it past Apple to do something new and exciting, but one of the things that has made iOS gaming successful is the ability for classic content to be translated to touchscreen moderately well. Apple would need a control method that would allow for that content to be playable in a satisfying way to drive sales of the TV.

      2. Do you even game ? Xbox controllers have a Dpad and two analog sticks. Far better than crappy iOS touch/ or motion controlls. I’ve played plenty of games on my iPad and can’t stand it most of the time, I’ll take my Xbox any day hands down.

        1. I guess that you are having a hard time imagining something other than a touch pad or a D-pad. When we use creativity, we can imagine and build many things that many can’t easily imagine. When we use an open mind and think clearly, there are other possibilities for a human interface. Don’t limit yourself in imagining something completely new.

          1. No I was reacting to your point about the D-pad being binary. The combination of analog sticks give an amazing level of control and precision to gaming, its not something to dismiss as just a dpad. Its not binary and it doesn’t need to be hard wired to us in order to achieve great control. Personally I don’t care for Wii / Kinect style motion interfaces either so call me cynical about anything that gets me off my ass 🙂

  3. Wow, read the whole post, he really nails ms. I have every frustration he does with the thing. I really hope they don’t succeed, ms fucks up everything they touch. I want my apple tv sdk now 🙂

  4. You know, it’s about time someone talked about this. I have an Xbox and I keep saying to myself, this thing could be a lot better. I still think that it is a great device with advanced technology, but it seems that Microsoft has fallen to supporting only blood and gore games with tons of “realistic cursing.” Their TV supported ventures are cumbersome without a true remote. Using a game pad to control channels etc., is cumbersome at best.

    As for using Kinect, it’s still in its infancy and very inaccurate. They tout people watching professional sports, but if you jump up or slap a High Five, the Kinect responds with a command of some type. The last time I jumped because Arsenal scored, my DVD try opened and I found myself on Bing.

    Not to mention the “They’re spying on me, I know they are…” feeling of having Kinect follow you around the room. There should be a better way to turn it off when you don’t want to use it.

    There is so much potential for Kinect and even though I love Apple, I would love to see Microsoft succeed with this device. It’s their one true device that I can truly say they did well conceiving.

    1. I totally agree that the XBox is the best thing that Microsoft offers (if the only good thing) but there are so many ways it could be better. Aside from the XBox Live Indie Arcade barriers to entry which he mentions in the article, there’s also the fact that you have to have a XBox Live Gold Subscription to use services like Hulu Plus or Netflix which you can use on the Wii or Apple TV for no extra charge. I mean, if you’re going to compete with those, then offering access to that for free should be a non-starter. I still own an XBox, and I still love to play Final Fantasy XIII on it, but requiring a Gold Subscription to access my Hulu Plus isn’t going to make me buy a Gold Subscription – it’s just going to make me turn off the XBox and turn on the Wii whenever I want to watch Hulu. 😉

  5. Unfortunately Apple will probably not allow games on Apple TV1 and probably 2 also. They will insist that it wasn’t until ATV3 with new A7 chip that we felt that the experience justified making it a gaming platform also. I am guessing you will need newest version of iPod or iPhone or iPad to work with ATV3. This will start a whole new round of upgraders. Apple can milk the hobby for all its worth. This year we finally got iPod touches in colors. Next year iPhone 6 will probably come in colors also. Apple is still in their inventive infancy. In years to come there will be icars and ifridges. Companies like NEST will also fuel growth in iPods and iPads. The possibilities are truelly endless. With competition from SAMSUNK and the ilk, Apple labs will be bringing us amazing things for years to come. Apple did after all, drop computer from their name for a reason. They can do other things if and when they choose. They are evolving slowly but with great direction.

  6. I’ve had more fun with my kids playing Nintendo land on the WiiU than I’ve had in ages.

    speculate until the cows come home but Nintendo “gets it” as far as I am concerned.

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