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Gaming on the Apple TV: Why a gamepad isn't as optional as it seems

Andrew Hayward | Nov. 6, 2015
Even some proven touch games ported from iOS aren't a comfortable fit for the Siri Remote.


As of last Friday, Apple finally has its own game console of sorts—we’re ignoring the Pippin, just like everyone else did—and there are some early victories with the new Apple TV. You’ll find several interesting games out already across a nice spectrum of price points and genres, including some games designed specifically for TV. And if you already play games on your iPhone or iPad, chances are you already own a few of them thanks to universal apps. 

But there are irritations, as well. Due to developer storage restrictions, some games make you wait for levels and content to download mid-game—Asphalt 8: Airborne has it the worst of the early crop. And pressingly, some games ported over from iOS just don’t play very well with the Siri Remote. 

It’s early days still, and some of these issues may be resolved soon with software updates or policy changes. Also, adding a gamepad handily solves that last problem, but not everyone wants to plunk down another $50 or more after buying the box. If you’re planning on grabbing the latest Apple TV, here’s what to expect from the gaming experience. 

appletv appstore
Unfortunately, the “Categories” section seen in this Apple image isn’t actually live on the Apple TV’s App Store—it’s needed, though.

Starting selection

On Friday, we published a list of the first 10 Apple TV games you should play—a starting point based on initial impressions that we’ll be updating and expanding soon. Since then, I’ve been digging deeper into the early roster of TV-enabled games, and I’m happy to find that there’s at least a couple dozen interesting games to consider at this early stage. 

Games like Crossy Road and Alto’s Adventure are just as endlessly replayable on your television as they are on your iPhone or iPad, while Transistor and Octodad: Dadliest Catch are more complex games worth digging into. And that’s just a few of the more notable options. 

Admittedly, the early selection is a bit slimmer than I expected—I figured a much larger collection of developers would be eager to have their games ready for day one, especially considering just how many amazing games are on the iOS App Store. Maybe some wanted a little extra time to nail the TV experience. Others might be waiting to see how much demand there is for Apple TV gaming. 

My initial impression about gaming demand? There is quite a bit. Games currently dominate the paid apps and top grossing charts, and games are one of the biggest feature additions to the Apple TV over the previous model. Actually finding games beyond what’s promoted has been difficult, however—I didn’t even know that great iOS games like The Last Rocket and Space Age had Apple TV versions until Slide to Play posted unofficial sales rankings over the weekend. 


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