Comment: Fortnite isn’t coming to Apple TV, but that’s just the latest tvOS gaming letdown

Earlier today, a spelunking developer discovered code within Fortnite that seemingly hinted the hit-game was soon making its way to Apple TV. Subsequently, Epic Games shot down those hopes, saying the code mention of tvOS is the result of “general Unreal Engine support.”

While Fortnite might not be coming to tvOS anytime soon, today’s excitement only underscores the potential of gaming on tvOS…

When Apple unveiled the tvOS-powered Apple TV in 2015, it touted gaming support as one of the key upgrades over previous Apple TV models. Since then, however, gaming has struggled to gain traction on tvOS and there have been no signs of improvement.

At the onset, Apple itself could be blamed for the lack of developer enthusiasm surrounding tvOS games. At the time, the company required that all games for the Apple TV be compatible with the included Siri Remote – a requirement that forced developers to overly simplify their game offerings for Apple TV.

One year later at WWDC 2016, Apple reversed its stance and said that Apple TV developers no longer had to support the Siri Remote, instead allowing them to “require the use of an MFi game controller.” This meant developers could build more advanced games by not having to cater to the simpler Siri Remote.

Despite Apple’s change in heart, gaming on the Apple TV still isn’t where one would expect it to be three years after the introduction of the tvOS App Store. Further, the lack of interest in tvOS gaming comes amid a revitalization of the gaming market – especially on the casual end of things.

With the launch of the Apple TV and tvOS, Apple had the opportunity to fill the void left by Nintendo in the gaming industry. Nintendo, the arguable king of casual gaming, had left a gaping hole in the market as it struggled to compete with the popularity of iOS gaming, seemingly paving the way for Apple TV to take over.

Instead, here we are in 2018 with iOS gaming still popular, tvOS gaming still nearly nonexistent, and Nintendo back at the forefront of casual gaming thanks to the Nintendo Switch.

What comes next?

Last month, my colleague Bradley Chambers questioned whether Apple does enough to justify the Apple TV’s price point. Like others, he pointed out that the $179 price point would be far easier to stomach if the Apple TV offered more expansive gaming support. So what can Apple do to breathe new life into tvOS gaming?

First off, Apple needs to work with developers to revitalize interest in tvOS gaming. We’ve seen Apple work directly with iOS developers in the past, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t do the same with tvOS.

If Apple is able to secure a handful of big name titles for tvOS – such as Fortnite or PUGB – it could further increase interest in Apple TV gaming by bundling an MFi controller with the device. Currently, you can get an Apple TV 4K paired with a SteelSeries Nimbus controller for $199 through Best Buy.

Whether Apple offers the same bundle, or works with a different accessory maker, including a controller with the Apple TV would go a long way in attracting developers and gamers alike.

Wrap up

In many ways, today’s excitement (and subsequent disappointment) surrounding Fortnite coming to Apple TV only further sheds light on how Apple has dropped the ball with Apple TV gaming.

It’s hard not to blame Apple for the lack of developer interest, either. The initial requirement of Siri Remote support for all games likely pushed developers towards other platforms. And despite the reversal in policy, Apple hasn’t exactly done anything to convince developers it is serious about Apple TV gaming.

It’s easy to feel like Apple is neglecting the Apple TV. The past couple of tvOS updates have brought few new features to the device – and Dolby Atmos has been over a year in the making at this point. Pair that with the considerably lower price of competing set-top boxes, and the Apple TV 4K is growing increasingly hard to recommend to average consumers.

While improved gaming support won’t solve all of the device’s problems, it would be a major step in the right direction. What do you think of the Apple TV’s future?

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