WWDC 2016: Apple TV Games Can Require MFi Controllers

WWDC is upon us once again! Lots of new things to unpack – major new features for iOS, , tvOS, watchOS, and (don’t call it OS X!) macOS.

First up, and perhaps most important for this site’s audience: games for the Apple TV can now require MFi controllers! No longer are they limited to the inputs of the Siri Remote. Games that really only work with a full controller layout – console ports, hardcore platformers, shooters – can now require MFi controllers.

In the lead-up to the Apple TV launch, I said Apple was right to prevent tvOS games from requiring MFi controllers. At this point, it’s pretty clear I was wrong. I’ve been wondering why that is. Here’s what I think:

It’s safe to say that the Apple TV launch didn’t exactly go as planned for Apple or for developers. Everyone was hoping this platform would gain widespread adoption among causal users. This hasn’t happened. The Apple TV is still a niche product. It’s too expensive. It overlaps functionality built in to most smart TVs. It launched without a compelling exclusive video streaming platform.

If the Apple TV was a mainstream product, allowing developers to require expensive third-party controllers would be stupid. It would fragment a market during its initial launch – exactly the time a platform needs to be unified. However, the Apple TV is not a mainstream product. It’s a product for early adopters, and for people who are willing to pay a massive premium for a better experience. If the Apple TV is already a niche product, allowing MFi-controller-exclusives makes a lot of sense. You’re already dealing with an audience that is outside of the mainstream.

Importantly, apps for iOS and macOS can not require MFi controllers. Those are mainstream platforms – Apple can’t afford to splinter those markets.

Still, this optional controller requirement is good news for iOS gamers. It might lead to greater developer adoption of MFi controllers across-the-board. At the very least, it should allow games like Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto to be ported to the Apple TV with much less difficulty.