September 14, 2011
Rumours are rife about a potential hookup between iPhone maker Apple and games company Valve, which some industry observers expect could result in a whole new games console.
The latest bout of speculation has been fuelled by the fact that Apple chief executive Tim Cook recently paid a visit to the headquarters of Valve, a company which is best known for its part in the Half-Life series of games and for the creation of the digital download service Steam, currently available on PC and PS3.
Valve founder Gabe Newell mooted the idea of a Steam Box games console earlier in the year, although it was purely at the concept stage of the design process when he spoke in February.
However, if it could get together with Apple to develop the actual hardware and operating system for the device then it would be in an undeniably strong position.
Apple has shown that it can reinvent and rejuvenate markets, with the iPod, iPhone and iPad all proving to be global successes in their own right. However, the games industry is quite a different beast, with consoles from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony being the only three competitive devices and a huge network of software developers and hardware manufacturers interacting and producing products.
One way of looking at Tim Cook’s visit to Valve is that the two companies may not actually be attempting to build their very own console, but that in fact Apple is trying to strengthen its undeniably weak credentials when it comes to gaming.
While the iPhone and iPad have captured the casual crowd with games like Angry Birds, there is not a whole lot of content for hardcore gamers. Meanwhile people who want to game on a home computer rarely choose a Mac because you can get a Windows based PC which is cheaper and more powerful to do the same job.
Valve has used its Steam service to offer far better integration for Mac users, because many games remain incompatible with the OSX platform as developers do not see it as worthwhile to create ports of new titles.
Of course the idea of a games device which is built by Apple and supplied with content from Valve’s Steam service is going to excite many people.
For Valve it would be a good move since it will open up its service to a mainstream audience thanks to Apple’s widespread appeal. Meanwhile Apple will be able to improve its position in the gaming market which is currently somewhat out of its grasp outside of mobile platforms.
Whether or not Apple’s experience with touchscreen devices will come into play with any Valve partnership remains to be seen. If the way the Samsung Galaxy S3 deals with gaming is able to trump the iPhone 4S’ capabilities then Apple might have to refocus its attention on the mobile market while also going after home users.
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