Xbox Founding Engineer Says Apple TV With Third-Party Apps Could “Kill” Gaming Consoles


Apple has been calling the Apple TV a “hobby” ever since it was first introduced, but what if the device had much more potential beyond accessing content (TV shows, movies, music) from the iTunes Store. Its AirPlay capabilities have already shown us that beaming games off your iOS device to your TV’s large screen is a bit like console gaming, but not many games take advantage of that.

Xbox founding engineer Nat Brown says that Apple could easily build upon its existing ecosystem to destroy gaming consoles like the PlayStation, Wii and Xbox.

He highlights how indie developers find it very difficult to develop games for Xbox, and points out that Apple will kill gaming consoles like Xbox, Playstation and Wii-U if it allows third-party apps on the Apple TV platform. He notes that Microsoft is missing out on a huge opportunity by not opening up the Xbox platform to smaller developers.

Why can’t I write a game for xBox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home xBox or at my friends’ houses? Why can’t I then distribute it digitally in a decent online store, give up a 30% cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad?


Apple is already a games competitor broadly, even if Apple-TV 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. I would for xBox if I could and I knew I would make money.  Maybe a “console-capable” Apple-TV isn’t $99, maybe it’s $199, and add another $79 for a controller. The current numbers already say a lot, even with Apple-TV not already an open console: 5.3M sold units in 2012, 90% year-over-year growth — vs. xBox 360 — about 9M units in 2012, 60% YoY decline.

He adds that the user experience on the Xbox isn’t good either:

xBox’s secondary critical problem is that the device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow, and full-of-shit. From built-in update and storage features to what they have allowed through negligence to appear in games

Apple has been long rumored to open up the Apple TV platform for developers, but as of now, nothing like that has happened. Android is making an entry into the console gaming market as well through Ouya, a $99 gaming console.

Do you think iPad and iPhone games are in parity with games on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3?

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  • Alin

    This is going to be very interesting to see, as it develops.

    I have a PS3 and and iPad Mini and in iPod. Had an iPhone at one time (now I have a nexus). I’m not trying to brag here, just giving the background for what I say next.

    Console gaming is, for me at least, something totally different to iOS gaming. I can’t just sit down and play for hours on end with an iOS device. First of, because of the battery, but most importantly because of the nature of the games I find on iOS compared to consoles.

    Sure, things will change, storage might grow, as processing power and game depth.

    But to really achieve a universe equal to Mass Effect or Skyrim, you’re still gonna need a big team and lots of work and testing. Much more than what is currently being done for an iOS game.

    I’m not saying it can’t be done or anything. You read what Nat Brown.
    All I’m saying is that this is going to take some time and patience. We might have to wait several years before an Apple TV can catchup to a PS3. And let’s not forget the upcoming Generation of new Consoles.

  • laurnzo

    Honestly, though i love my apple products. They are beginning to lose their cool with my and don’t think apple Tv with third party apps will kill game consoles for me. My iPad can never replace my Macbook pro, same way and apple TV with games will not replace my Xbox and PS3. I’m just saying…..

    • Rounak Jain

      nice parallel

  • Erik

    I totally disagree with what this guy is saying. There is definitely a market for indie developers, but to say that they have the power to fully destroy the console market is absolutely absurd. There is a reason people pay 60 for a game that took years to make, had more than 30 people working on it and cost well over a million, sometimes tens of millions to develop. You get a quality product that simply cannot be duplicated by a few guys working on a game on their free time. Films are a good comparison. Sure you can enjoy an indie film with a low budget and unknown actors, hell it could even be a downright amazing movie, but to say that it will replace big budget flicks is incredibly stupid. If that were the case why spend literally 100s of millions for developing and marketing movies if you can supposedly make something of much lower quality and duplicate the same result in sales. Why, because there will always be a market for high quality, always. Lets see an indie developer produce something like gta 5 or crysis 3. It will never happen. Quality over quantity people, this is why I play big budget games, and it clearly shows. Even infinity blade as awesome as it is for an iOS game cannot even compare to a console game, but then again what do you expect for .99 cents.

  • Erik

    Square enix is making a killing selling iOS games at 20 a pop. Old games at that. They are far from an indie developer, yet they are setting a trend on the iOS platform. A quality product at a much higher cost, and guess what, people are “shocker!” purchasing it up the wazoo. Why, because people are sick of these cheap games on their beautiful devices. If anything this is going to be the rising trend which I for one couldn’t be happier.

    • DEFMAD

      Totally agree with you mate. Square Enix and RockStar have proven that console quality titles can be released for iOS, albeit ports, as a new IP would probably not be worth it under the current pricing norms.

      I think Apple should have another category in the AppStore where more expensive hardcore games can be sold, that way they’re not lumped in with crappy .99c games and people can’t whinge about the price because they’ll know those games are higher quality and is reflected by the price.

  • Erik

    A ford fiesta will get you from point a to point b just as easily as a Ferrari will. Now which one would you prefer to ride in?

  • Pacomacman

    Looking at the specifications for the Xbox 720 makes me feel like games consoles are no longer cutting edge. Having to have a permanent Internet connection and a kinect always connected is not a great start. Also they are killing the second hand games market so I’m out.

    Apple may not be able to compete with the top end consoles, but then they don’t have to. So long as its more powerful than the current range of iPads and plays existing games then developers (like myself) will happily develop for the Apple TV. Can’t wait to get my hands on one.

  • Andrew

    I’ve been a die hard gamer for years now. I don’t think the idea of console gaming will ever be killed. Especially with newer technology I can’t wait to see what games will come out in the future. There is still so much potential for the console systems. Apple may compete fairly well if it goes this route but u will always have avid gamers like me that will always play console games. Not too mention there are certain games that are console specific so you will definitely have people staying with consoles to be able to play their favorite series of games.

    Another thing to mention is the online communities that ps3 and Xbox offer. People have friends on Xbox and ps3 that they have known for years. People won’t give all that up for an apple console. So while apple will most likely be a good competitor if it goes the gaming route it won’t stop people from playing the games they love with the people they enjoy playing them with.

  • Andrew

    Is this guy all good in the head to say that third party apps could kill gaming consoles? Well it sure doesn’t sound like it. No way could those “games” in the app star and even third party apps could go hand in hand with the games and the level of technology offered by REAL games consoles ala PS3 and Xbox. What a goober.

  • Marcos Marcotron

    Why would anyone in the their right mind prefer to play a rubbish game app on their tv as opposed to a game on a console or PC?

    For apple to sell games on an app store for their tv that are anywhere near as good as consoles/pcs, they would have to put a similar amount of effort into making it as developers do for proper gaming machines.

    Which means the cost would be higher.

    For an apple game app to cost half the price of console games, it will only have half the effort put into it. One gets what they pay for.

    Say Fifa or Call of Duty is released on a console, and also a version is made for apple tv, either the apple version will be vastly inferior, or if they could make it as good as a console, it would have to cost the price of a console game.

    And that’s even if the apple tv could deliver the same processing power in a game.

    If people want to play inferior cheap games on their tv, why not just buy a playstation 1 on ebay.

  • Tyler

    I think there indeed is a real potential for Apple to capitalize on the gaming market with an AppleTV SDK. As already mentioned big game companies are already taking advantage of Apple’s distribution genius that is the App Store. If they can reach more people with less spent on distribution costs it would make complete sense for them to make high quality games for iOS at a (slightly) reduced price. I for one would be glad to pay upwards of $40 from my couch rather than drive to a game store and pay $20 more or wait 5 days for the same title to come in the mail. If apple simply made small advances in their hardware they could offer console quality games at a lower cost and reach a much broader market.