Some of you when you first read this title are going to wonder what the heck I’m thinking, some of you will entertain the idea, some of you will agree with me. Just for fun in the rest of this article we’ll call the Xbox that Apple made the Apple Xbox. If you have ever used an Apple product (preferably a computer) you will know what the Apple Xbox would be like. I felt it necessary to cover this as many people have had problems with Microsoft’s Xbox 360, most notably the “Red Ring of Death” (RRoD), this article hopes to take a look at what Apple’s mainstream console would look like. So without further adieu lets begin.
Looking back at the 32 year history of Apple there’s not many instances in which gaming comes to the surface. As a young child I remember playing games like Oregon Trail or Number Crunchers on a mono-chromatic screen, not exactly top of the line gaming. You can take a visit to the Apple Store and take a look at the game selection. It’s divided into Action Games and Family Games. There’s about 120 games total to choose from, most of these are older and are not the new popular games. So it’s fair to say Apple’s Mac OS hasn’t got much potential for gaming, but the computers do as you can install Windows on them. Once again this is a topic for another day. It’s also fair to note that Apple tried to get on the console scene during the era of the N64, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn. This product was called the Pippin. It was $599 USD, marketed as a cheap computer and game system. It was manufactured by Bandai and was later discontinued in 1997. Being that there were already 3 known consoles and it was a tough time for Apple it’s not surprising that it didn’t succeed. Anyways time to look forward from Pippin and the lack of games available for OS X.
The idea of an Apple made Xbox is important because there are numerous things that Microsoft did wrong but will not fix with the current line of 360’s. I commend them for extending warranties and repairing dead Xbox’s from the RRoD problem without hesitation. There are numerous other things such as the limited Dashboard which is great if you want to play a game from disk or hard drive, watch a movie, use it as a media center device, tweak settings, or buy something from the marketplace. These days there’s so much more that can be accomplished from a place known as the Dashboard. The first Xbox also had a series of problems which were fortunately fixed. The series of problems is much more evident although they are easier to get fixed now by Microsoft. I know people who have had their first Xbox fail, get a second from Microsoft and the new one failed as well. It’s either from a bad selection of parts from the manufacturers or just bad quality control as Microsoft was able to pump out so many units in the first year. Microsoft also has a tendency in all of its products to continue with the status quo. The status quo is fine in some cases but with technology it’s best to see a line of evolutionary development. There are a few factors which contributed to the success of the Xbox 360 ranging from the name recognition of Xbox and Microsoft, to exclusive online titles, and being first with widespread online access. It should also be noted with the astronomical cost and delays of the PS3 contributed to the success. Nintendo’s Wii doesn’t really play a part here as it’s aimed at a different audience, though I must admit it is a nice console. We’re only a few years away from the next line of consoles, I’m not exactly sure what Microsoft will do to innovate and take gaming to the next level as Nintendo did with the Wii. The point at hand is that Apple is always innovating in all of its products ranging from the iPod and iPhone to the desktop computers, the Xbox would be in safer hands with Apple.
It’s a safe bet that Apple would create a better piece of Hardware, however, the current dashboard is fine for a multitude of reasons. You will have to forgive me as I do not currently have the ability to take decent screenshots of the Xbox dashboard or Apple’s Front Row type interface. Starting on the outside it’s safe to say the device would look like an Apple TV. This version would have to be bigger as it would need external cooling and a DVD drive. In doing this it would be smaller than the current Xbox and fit better into a media center setup. It would also be nice to allow users to use their own USB gaming headsets or external USB drives to expand storage. The problem of users modifying the Xbox save settings can be solved by encryption. One thing that would be attempted is to make sure that it does not sound like a jet engine taking off as the first batches of the 360’s did. The blades concept that Microsoft uses is good, more could be added in the long run if new services appear. I should also mention that the Xbox Dashboard can be skinned to have many different appearances.
Moving forward a new Xbox dashboard would have to be user expandable. Right now there is nothing that users can create to extend the dashboard. Something that could be done for example is an extension of the iPhone app store which would be certified by Apple and could be distributed for a small cost or freely. Extensions would have to be created using a unified standard method. The best way to do this would be by means of a well documented API or even better would be a SDK that was pushed out. One more thing that has driven me crazy is the lack of a web browser on the 360. It has a messaging client but no browser, to me that just does not compute. As things expand more and more services are moving online from email to word processing it’s important that every online device has the capability to browse the web. In a changing world online software expandability of the dashboard is a must, without it the console will be left behind at the day it was originally conceived.
Taking a step backwards from the fictional world with the Apple Xbox it’s time to take a look at the current gaming space. Right now we have 3 dominant consoles the Microsoft Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii. I’ve already been through the reasons for the 360’s success so lets look at some of the other things about it that put it into it’s spot. It’s the cheapest console that offers mainstream games and widespread online access. In order to access new content provided by popular services you get roped into buying Microsoft points and actually paying for these addons. The era that I came from before online gaming consoles involved people creating their own mods, maps, skins, etc.. and distributing them on their own. It doesn’t sit well with me that Microsoft takes a cut from player made content. The PlayStation 3 exists and isn’t really an alternative for most casual teen gamers due to the high cost of it. When it first came out it was touted as the cheapest Blu-Ray player that a person could buy. I honestly hope that something good comes to the PS3 because it has the world known cell processor which is one of the fastest processors in existence. Many people use their PS3’s extra CPU cycles to contribute to projects such as Folding@Home. The Nintendo Wii is the cheapest out of the three but as mentioned before it’s targeted at a different audience. The Wii is a great system primarily for keeping the original Nintendo style games coming and the great innovational work done with the Wii-mote. Then of course there’s PC gaming which is often classed as too expensive because you have to perform extensive upgrades every 2 years to play the new demanding games. PC gaming has been in decline which is really sad because it was one of the original ways to game. As you can see there’s plenty of room for a fifth contributor on the gaming scene, which of course as relating to this article is Apple.
The alternate gaming space would be on in which Apple makes the hardware. Apple is a hardware company, their emphasis is on their hardware over the software that runs on it. With this being said it’s logical to assume that Microsoft could still exist in this alternate space. Apple would most likely go out to Microsoft and ask for a licensee to play Xbox 360 titles on their gaming platform. This is entirely possible as the early test machines when the Xbox 360 was in development were Power Mac G5’s. Apple could also go to companies who have faded away such as Sega and get them to create titles for the new device. I’m sure Microsoft has patents to protect this sort of thing from happening, but this is how it’d be in an ideal world. Apple could also attempt to draw in PC game developers to come work for them to create their own brand of game, as said before PC gaming has been in decline so I’m sure there are many PC game makers that would be willing to take a look at this alternative. The Apple alternative would be attractive because consumers shall receive a proven media center devices as this piece of hardware is basically an Apple TV with a DVD drive in it. Apple could also innovate in the same way Nintendo did by providing some form of interactive multi-touch remote control. The market share of this console would take from both the Xbox 360 and PS3, the Wii’s market share would remain the same. I’d imagine the market share of this console would be in the range of 30-40%. This would definitely change the console market and drive Microsoft and Sony to deliver a better product to compete once again.
In closing I’d like to remind you that this is an ideal world and will probably not happen. Even if it did there’s no way Microsoft would agree to let 360 titles play on an Apple piece of hardware. I hope this has shown you that there is a problem with the current gaming space and that Microsoft really does need some decent competition to make things better. With that said if you have any questions or suggestions you can shoot me a pm on the forums.