The competitive landscape that underlies the entire gaming industry is shifting at a pretty dramatic pace. Remember how once upon a time, Mario and Sonic appearing side by side -- Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, specifically, a 2007 Wii title tying in with the following year's Beijing Olympics -- seemed like the exclamation point at the end of an era, a resoundingly final confirmation of the new industry status of two formerly implacable rivals?
Lately, those moments feel like they've been coming thick and fast. Sony is working with Microsoft on cloud gaming services. Cross-play between platforms is edging towards becoming standard. Microsoft bought Minecraft, and promptly doubled down on its support for other manufacturers' platforms. And there are fairly substantial rumours flying that the Xbox game streaming service will be available on Nintendo's Switch, perhaps even on Sony's hardware.
"There's an understanding that the real competition for gaming isn't from other platform holders"
This week brought another striking image which confirms that the platform wars as we've known them for over a decade are all but over. At the keynote presentation at Apple's WWDC developer event, the firm announced new controller support for its Apple TV and iOS devices, promptly illustrated with images of the Xbox One and PS4 controllers. Soon you'll be able to pair Sony and Microsoft's ubiquitous gamepads to an Apple TV, an iPad or an iPhone and play games directly on the device -- a move that, one imagines, must have come with the blessing of the respective platform holders.
The substantive impact of this change will be significant for many users, of course -- especially in terms of the large back catalogue of older console titles which have been ported to iOS and will be vastly more functional with the help of a decent controller. It might also be a decent shot in the arm for gaming on Apple TV more broadly, which had some promise at the outset. The devices are very popular and surprisingly capable as a gaming platform, but they have been seriously hampered by a number of issues, including somewhat unenthusiastic backing from Apple itself and the lack of a decent standard controller.
When games first appeared on the system, Apple spent a while insisting that every title had to be controllable with the Apple TV's remote. This rule was dropped relatively quickly but did a fair bit of damage to the gaming potential of the diminutive box nonetheless. The capacity to link up an Xbox or PS4 controller to the Apple TV doesn't fix all the problems, but it should at least draw some much-needed attention to a gaming ecosystem that's got a surprising array of decent quality titles.