Patents indicate Apple may be working on its own game controller
In context: For the most part, Apple hasn’t invested heavily in the gaming business. Besides its launch of the Apple Arcade in 2019, the tech titan has mostly left apps and gaming hardware to third-party developers. As its machines become more capable of gaming, it may look to put a little more effort into providing a better gaming experience for those on its platforms, including better input methods.
According to recently filed European patents, Apple has ideas for at least three new game controllers specifically designed for Apple products. The first style is similar to a standalone gamepad, as you’d find for a console. The second could be compared to Nintendo’s JoyCons for the Switch. The third has a more foldable Game Boy Advanced design.
Style #1, as Apple calls it in the patent, is relatively mundane in design. It looks like a contemporary Bluetooth gamepad and probably functions the same. Apple has made all of its devices compatible with PlayStation, Xbox, and third-party Bluetooth controllers for the past few years. This one would just be a first-party alternative to what a lot of people are already using. It would also be compatible with less portable devices like Apple TV and various Macs.
Style #2 would be two detachable controllers like those found on the Nintendo Switch. The main difference is that they would magnetically connect alongside an iPhone or iPad in landscape or portrait mode. The latest iPad Pros already have a magnetic connector on the right side to hold and sync its second-generation Apple Pencil. Presumably, newer devices, including iPhones, would have similar connectors, but with stronger magnets on all four sides to accommodate the controllers.
Style #3 would be a case or folio-style controller that folds up to cover the screen when not in use, like Apple’s new Magic Keyboard. Although in this case users would have a gamepad rather than a keyboard. However, this one is specifically designed for the iPhone. Concepts describe the folio either as a secondary screen with software-configurable buttons or as a partial screen with hardware controls. The secondary screen can be used to provide additional information or place customizable buttons.
Although Apple products have always been non-gaming platforms, the introduction of Intel-based Macs has begun to change that notion. The iPhone arrived and many developers started making simple games that could run on the device. As the iPhone and iPad became more powerful, the titles available became more complex and demanding, prompting the need for an external input mechanism for some. As Apple continues to improve its internal silicon, it may take gaming potential more seriously.
From a business perspective, it makes sense. The video game industry generated $155 billion in 2020, including hardware sales, and analysts expect it to hit $260 billion by 2025. There’s no reason so that Cupertino does not invest more in this sector, and apparently it does.
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