Apple is quickly becoming a major player in the gaming industry

Many of us have iOS devices that we play games on. Several titles have shown that this is big business, most notably Rovio — the makers of Angry Birds — who just recently recieved a massive investment of $42 Million, big money for a console developer, let alone a ‘small’ outfit like Rovio.

Also, while iOS devices have a multitude of appealing features, a Google AdMob survey recently revealed that 84% of iPad owners primarily used the iPad for gaming. Apple also recently hired two top gaming PR executives from Nintendo. So the question is — is Apple on track to overtake major console manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft as the king of the gaming world? And is Apple turning that world on its head?

One of the first things that struck me about the iPad 2 was the A5 Dual-Core processor. Apple boasts that the A5 has the potential to pump out graphics 9X faster than that of the previous iPad. The jump in speed is astronomical to a gamer, and the A5 chip combined with the iPad 2′s ability to mirror via HDMI at 1080p means that it’s not too crazy to call the current iPad a gaming console.

Some common counter arguments from console fanboys is that iOS games lack the depth and visuals to outshine titles such as Call of Duty. I don’t think this will be the case forever. While such a statement may carry some weight now, iOS games are developing rapidly, and we saw in 2010 with the release of Infinity Blade that iOS devices are capable of running the Unreal Engine 3, which is also used to develop full console games — a progression that is groundbreaking on many levels, for consumers and developers alike.

Another argument — and one that I completely agree with — is the lack of a physical control pad. A control pad SDK of some kind, combined with an even faster, newer iPad with HDMI mirroring, could essentially see Apple indirectly create a gaming machine with enough portability and versatility in terms of input — playing by touch or with a pad — to rival the console as we know it.

Go even further into the depths of your imagination and think about Apple’s huge data centre. Ever heard of a product called OnLive? That, my friends, is cloud-based gaming, and it is rather good. Now ask yourself why your iPad 2, or even when it arrives, the iPhone 5, couldn’t be the medium for a similar task? Surely Apple has the know-how to make something like OnLive, should they want to. Think Apple TV for gaming? You can already picture Steve Jobs on stage doing his “We didn’t do it first, but we did it the best” quips, can’t you?

Gaming in general has moved further and further into the mainstream, and while Apple has continued that trend, the introduction of the Nintendo Wii in 2006 was the turning point for what we now call ‘casual gaming.’ Millions upon millions of people of all ages were picking up the Wii and playing games, and that exact same thing has happened with iOS devices. It’s creating an industry where the money is with the casual gamer because of the sheer volume of customers. We’re living in a time where an Angry Birds title can be downloaded 10 million times in as many days on mobile platforms — that is a market that nobody, no matter how large or small is going to shy away from.

Perhaps the gaming market is changing in general. People are becoming busier, and as time goes on, many struggle to find the time to play 10 hour console games. I know I struggle to find the time and generally get my gaming fix by playing a game on my iOS device while on the go. I still love my 10 hour console games, but my lifestyle doesn’t, and I’m playing that type of game a lot less than I was a year ago.

I’m going to stick my neck on the line and say that in the next 5 years, Apple is going to completely change the face of the gaming industry. Consoles, and gaming as we know it, will be a thing of the past as Apple will rule the roost. Whether that will be by creating a separate gaming console akin to OnLive or by creating an iPad that is powerful enough to rival a games console remains to be seen, but I have a gut feeling we are going to see some major developments on that front in the next 2 or 3 years.

Gaming is creeping into the core of Apple. We see the company selling more and more games in its various App Stores every day. There is a lot of money to be made in the gaming industry. It already makes more than Hollywood, and I’m sure Apple will want to take a huge slice of that pie, just as they have done in the music business in recent years.

What do you think about Apple’s current role in the gaming industry? Do you think Apple will go on to change the industry in the same way that it has changed other industries? Let us know in the comments.

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