Thursday, February 14, 2008

What would an Apple game console be like?

Recently, Apple, creator of the omnipresent iPod (as well as many other devices, namely, computers) updated their trademark to cover various types of video game devices as well. Before I proceed, I would just like to say that I have nothing against Apple (I am listening to my iPod as I write this, in fact), I have no problems with them releasing very similar products and marketing them as something totally different. Making a profit is the core goal of every firm, and if this is what Apple's market wants then it's all good. Though I never got into Macs because I've used PCs all my life and I'm more comfortable with them.

Please note also that I will not be using statistics, sales figures, and such in this post, so take everything here with a grain of salt.

Apple entering the video games market is nothing new. Back in the mid-1990s there was the Apple Pippin, which was designed to be a game console and a computer in one (much like today's consoles, except less powerful.) At launch, the thing was priced at $599 (the similarities just don't end!). Suffice to say, the console was a failure, as the market already belonged to the Saturn and the original Playstation. Those who watched Lucky Star might remember that Mr. Izumi promised to give his daughter a Pippin if she has low grades.

But that was before the iPod. Not too many people really cared about Apple back then. But ever since they launched the mp3 player whose name became a household term similar to Thermos and Nintendo, Apple, once known by most only as "that other computer brand", has become a truly unstoppable force, complete with new hordes of faithful followers in addition to the old ones already present. So threatening in fact that even Microsoft is attempting to gain some of the market back by launching their own high-capacity mp3 player.

However, it is also solely to this iPod that we can attribute the sudden increase in Apple's power. I (empirical evidence yeah!) can easily find 10 people who use iPods but I might have to spend a little more time finding the same number of people who use Macs. Maybe I should spend more time asking people other than my classmates, but wait. I can just as easily find 10 people who own a PS2. Where am I going with this? I guess what I really want to say is even though Apple has that many fans, they still don't amount to the number of Sony, Xbox, or Nintendo fanboys, let alone console gaming fans overall. Heck, even the PS3 is having trouble outdoing its own predecesor. (Also PS3sux.)

Although, there were already many companies who make mp3 players before the iPod came along, and it was still able to dominate. Apple did release the first mp3 player with large storage capacity. And made it trendy. I guess they just need a really cool gimmick and some catchy marketing for their future game devices to catch on.

Let's look at the iPod once more (I am looking at it right now). What are the features that make it different from other mp3 players? Firstly, although mine is black, the first iPod was colored white. Solid, clean, plain white. Secondly, it has the storage. At the time the iPod was released, most mp3 players didn't even have one gigabyte of storage. Apple's first had four gigabytes. Then, it has the clicky scroll wheel thing. The cool thing about it is there are neither wheels nor visible buttons, but you can press the top, the bottom, the left, and the right of the clickwheel for different functions. Also, depending on the screen you were at, the touch-sensitive wheel can be used to scroll through lists, increase or decrease the volume, and aim that cannon in that minigame that came with mine. Finally, it is small enough to fit into most pockets.

If that's all that makes the iPod special (in plain view anyway), then Apple is out of gimmicks for their video game device. All three current-gen consoles are colored white or have white versions. They also have large storage (except the Wii, which doesn't have any, but has expandable memory). The clickwheel gimmick is the only one left, but the Wii has waggle, and hell if anything can beat waggle. Even the PS3 controller has a motion sensor.

I'm not saying that the Apple console has to be just like the iPod. I'm sure there's some pretty intense R&D going on. But look at the Pippin again. It had a lot of features (4 CD drives!), and you could even say it was ahead of its time, being a network computer and game console in one. But no one was really interested. Now, if they iPod-ify the thing it will have a better chance of selling (see: iPhone). But let's say they do make a really unique console. Would they be able to penetrate the market anyway? Microsoft is having a hard enough time competing against Nintendo, and Microsoft has been in the game (no pun intended) for quite a while. There's also Sony. Even if every Apple fan buys this new Apple console, it still wouldn't be enough.

But then again, who knows. I hear a lot of people saying the current generation of video gaming, well, sucks, and they even fear that the video game industry might be at its last breath. Maybe Apple can revive it.

(P.S. I wonder if that made any sense at all. :<) (P.P.S. obligatory "PS3SUX")

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