Now that the dust has settled regarding the new MacBook Pro models and the M1 Pro/M1 Max processors (both well-received by reviewers and consumers alike) rumors about what Apple may be releasing next are all over the Web again. Now knowing what we do about the company’s processor roadmap, though, we have a much clearer picture of what the next Mac Mini, iMac, iPad Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Pro or iPhone may offer. We’d rather be intrigued by what’s new. Really new. So… how about the one persistent rumor that would shake things up if it turned out to be true?
No, not the one about those augmented reality glasses. They are coming but we won’t see them until Apple is perfectly happy with them. No. The other rumor. The one doing the rounds since the Apple Arcade launch in 2019: the one about a proper gaming system.
Some people would note, of course, that it’s only natural for websites to speculate on the existence of an Apple games console around the time the company launches a games subscription service. That does not make the rumor any more probable. Yes, that’s true. But a lot has happened since September 2019 and it seems that every necessary piece of the puzzle is now in place: all it would take to make it happen is Apple making a commitment to the gaming market and executing with authority.
Let’s take a look at a checklist of what an iPlay device would bring to the table. Processing power, check: the A14/A15 processors are very good for iPhone/iPad games and will probably be ideal for the next Apple TV media player, but we now have the M1 Pro/Max processors which are way, way more powerful and perfectly capable of operating at peak performance in a device much smaller than a PlayStation or Xbox. Such a device would be able to offer modern games in high resolutions and high detail, fit for playing on a big-screen TV. Depending on the configuration of such an “iPlay” device, it could exceed the raw capabilities of an Xbox Series S or almost match those of a PlayStation5 (the only limiting factor being its target retail price).
Moving on. Games library, check: the depth and breadth of the games category in the App Store are staggering, easily surpassing what’s on offer by the PlayStation Store or the Microsoft Store. Not only is there literally “something for everyone” to choose and play, but a number of modern classics are exclusive to the platform. Competent subscription service, check: we do not get hard numbers about Apple Arcade from the company, but the fact that it now offers more than 250 quality titles — no ads, no DLC, no microtransactions — for $5/€5 a month makes it just as good a deal as Xbox Game Pass (maybe better). Network and software infrastructure, check: Apple can easily offer iPlay owners interoperability with other iDevices and functions such as cross-save or cross-play from day one. It will all be handled via iCloud — which could also power an Apple cloud gaming service someday.
So yes, now all of the above can be brought together in a way that would result in nothing less than a new contender in the home gaming market. Some software work would have to be put in by Apple and others — such as full controller support, a scaler solution etc. — but some of that is already done to a degree through Apple TV-compatible games and it’s all perfectly doable in the context of creating a new gaming platform. There are rumors that refer to this system as a hybrid one — a la Nintendo Switch — but Apple would probably not be able to bring out such a device at the level of quality consumers expect and keep its notoriously high margins for each one sold. The Cupertino giant could just about do so with a $499/€499 iPlay device, though, when manufacturing of the M1 Pro/Max processor matures.
So… come on Apple! Even if you never intended things to play out the way they did during the last few years — especially regarding the popularity of games in the App Store — an opportunity now presents itself. Most of the steps are already taken. There’s additional revenue to be had from device sales, peripherals, accessories, game sales, Apple Arcade subscriptions. A hypothetical iPlay would not be a decidedly under-powered Apple TV that people primarily buy for media consumption. It would be game-focused, a true contender, a platform ambassador. The real deal. How about it?