One developer has found out that Apple TV games all must work with the remote, they can't require an MFi controller at all. This is according to Apple guidelines in the App Programming Guide for tvOS, which states that "Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of a controller." This makes sense for Apple to do from a user experience standpoint, where they might not want to have anything on the Apple TV's App Store that is inaccessible to people, but there are some issues to be had.

Apple TV Remote Gestures

See, there are some games that support controllers that likely won't work well with the new remote. The remote isn't exactly great as a 2D controller like some Roku models:

Roku Games Remote

But this could lead to problems. There will be games that will have control schemes that are too complicated for the remote, for sure. What if Apple rejects apps that feature terrible controls for the remote, designed only to achieve the bare minimum functionality? Or developers with complicated controls decide to skip making their app compatible with the Apple TV because it won't be worth it? Ideally, we don't want to get to a point where games aren't coming to the Apple TV, or being actively rejected, because they won't fit the remote. Rex Rocket [$1.99 (HD)] might be perfect for the Apple TV but how do you fit that game on the remote?

Rex Rocket iPad

What's odd is that Apple apparently has made a policy change from just last week, where they did allow developers to require a controller:

We'll see how things shake out, and it's quite possible that this winds up being a minor issue in the scheme of things, or that Apple changes their mind again. Developers will likely work around it, but we can certainly hope that their anger over Apple's bizarre whims could lead to a better set of circumstances for them – and this decision seems likely to create games with poor remote controls and games that skip the Apple TV altogether. How does this make the Apple TV better?

  • gmattergames

    Wait, doesn't the Apple quote in the tweet say: you can require extended remote, but not recommended due to user accessibility, etc, etc"?

    • Kev

      Uh huh, and Apple updated their documentation, as stated in the article.

  • jgeirge

    And how often does Apple fully enforce their policies? Like seriously guys; half assed controls will scrape by while real gamers with an MFi controller have the opportunity to play them!

    • nini

      Ah yes, the mythical "real" gamer, what defines a "real" gamer? By whichever metric allows the games you like and excludes those you don't, it's a special snowflake status.

      • dancj

        I wish the "like" button on the app worked

  • Unseen Studios

    It seems perfectly reasonable to say that developers have to support the default remote and then they have the option to support additional controls on top of that. You wouldn't expect them to approve iOS apps that don't support touch controls.

    • Der-Kleine

      I wouldn't expect apple to do that if that's what you mean, but I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea itself. If it works for say Nvidia with some of their Shield exclusive ports, why wouldn't it work for apple? Having a big notice saying "Hey, you need a controller for this game" on the store page really isn't that hard.

      In the end this only makes sure that certain games will never be released on the Apple TV, because the remote that comes with it doesn't look like it'd work very well with anything more complex than Crossy Road.

      • Eoin

        An alternative to the notice could be something like 'registering' your controller with your unit, allowing you to 'unlock' the ability to purchase games that require a third-party controller.
        eg. 'This game requires a controller you don't appear to have - if you DO have one, click here and we can go through the registration process. If you DON'T have one click on this other button and we'll take you to the Apple store and you can order one'.

  • Jason Becker

    Dumb decision and means this thing will be relegated to throwaway time waster games.

  • scratchohey

    I'm sure AAA devs will be lining up to port their games to a console with, what, five buttons?

  • Adams Immersive

    Nobody can make them work AS well... they just have to be functional on some minimal level. If an app gets bad reviews by the non-MFi majority, of course that's a factor, so devs will want to make do as best they can with the remote. But they can certainly design games to be better with a controller, if/when (eventually) the market is sufficiently large.

  • NaeemTHM

    I totally get Apple's stance here. They take pride in the fact that everything they make works right out of the box. Imagine getting an Apple TV and downloading a cool game, only to find out you have to buy a $40-$60 controller to play it. You'd probably be pretty pissed!

    On the other hand, this totally sucks from a gamer standpoint. Xbox One and PS4 cost hundreds of dollars more than the Apple TV. Indie dev's would be lining up to release games on such a cheaper alternative. But with these controller restrictions...I doubt we'll see deep games.

  • repapermunky

    You guys posted about how if Apple allowed games to require controllers, but didn't supply one, that would be an issue and maybe people wouldn't get into the gaming said of the new Apple TV... It seems like they noticed the many articles written saying something similar and took precautions to prevent that.

  • curtneedsaride

    Well, that makes the likelihood of seeing MHFU or a Square-Enix title pretty slim, which means I may pass yet again. Time will tell.

  • LethalX08

    I thought steelseries already has an MFi controller in the works for Apple TV. Going to be kinda pointless now if the rules basically prevents controllers...

  • Wizard_Mike

    Blah. This was the same policy that Nintendo had with the first Wii that prevented a lot of third party developers from even bothering with the system. They should have stuck with the "allowed, but not recommended" policy of requiring an MFI controller and made sure that users accepted those terms when purchasing a such a game. This will only hurt the Apple TV gaming experience, not improve it.

  • bearcav

    Further evidence that this thing is a set-top box that can begrudgingly play some games. The tech news people were pretty far off with their "Apple aims at home consoles!" articles.

    • Eli Hodapp

      The iPhone is just a cell phone that begrudgingly plays some games too. I think it's real premature to make strong sweeping statements about the success or failure of the Apple TV. I'm not sure why so many people are racing to give the final word on how the Apple TV is the worst failure in Apple history or some kind of legendary console killer that will change games as we know it.

      Anyone making those kind of extreme statements are either real dumb or real smart, knowing the kind of clicks those types of stories drive.

      • Dragontears969

        Yeah but you can begrudgingly play those games on the toilet with your phone. It's portable and convenient which lowers the standards needed for a game somewhat. Though, hopefully, we can quit playing the Apple TV, and pick up playing on our phones when nature calls, and then go right back to the TV (after washing our hands, of course).

      • skylerolson

        There are so many things that make me think Apple TV gaming will be doa, including this and the 200mb app limit, although there is a lot of promise.

      • Eli Hodapp

        The 200MB limit was largely imaginary, based on a few developers blowing things out of proportion on Twitter.

      • skylerolson

        Well is it true or not that there's that 200mb limit?

  • bob sabiston

    Ugh, I'm so disappointed. They are doing this because a lot of great games were probably going to bypass that thing that is so not a game controller.

    Apple doesn't want a store full of games unplayable by people who just have the remote. That is SO LAME, though, and why they should have just bit the bullet and provided a real controller in the box. Requiring the remote support isn't going to make playing a real game with it actually fun.

    • WP

      Totally agree !!

      I currently have an Apple TV but was prepared to buy this newer model on day one, but now I'm a bit concerned about the types/quality of games which will get released for it due to that remote controller requirement...

      • bob sabiston

        I expect it is just an initial requirement -- they will probably change the ruling once the device has launched and if it is a success. They want that initial appearance to be that the Apple TV is a complete, self-contained thing and it all 'just works'. It's still disappointing to people that are ready to play games.

  • dancj

    It never occurred to me that it would be any other way. Just like with iOS games. Apple made the right call here.

    • bob sabiston

      The right call for their business, but not for actually playing games. The former is more important of course.

    • Inaba-kun

      It's a demonstrably idiotic call. Many games require sticks and buttons. These can be horribly virtualised on a touch screen device, but on a tiny ATV remote? It's simply not possible. Many games which could have run on the ATV's antiquated and unpowered hardware (such as retro games) will now skip the ATV as they could never work on a tiny remote control. Fancy playing Gunstar Heroes or Street Fighter 2 on an ATV remote?

      Apple have never had time for gaming, and that certainly hasn't changed with the new ATV.

      • unlimitedfury

        Please, please read the associated links. It says that if the game would work better with an mfi controller, prompt the user that a controller would work better. Other things that pertain to information that this article doesn't acknowledge. I like Carter but I swear this is almost trolling the reader base. If a game requires more buttons than a Siri remote, then it will be made regardless. I can guarantee that.

      • dancj

        The last thing Apple want is an App Store for their new Apple TV filled with games that most people can't actually play.

      • Inaba-kun

        Then they'll end up with an App Store populated by brainless free to play gem matching games and little else.

        Real games need real controls, but then again, when have Apple ever given a damn about real games?

        It's just too bad that what could have been a nice dumping ground for retro ports will now receive none.

      • dancj

        There's that meaningless "real" word again. Games you don't like are no less real than the ones you do like and there are plenty of games that will play fine (or be adaptable to do so) on that remote.

        Badland, Infinity Blade, Impossible Road, Threes, Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, Epoch, Geometry Wars 3, etc. The list goes on and on

      • Inaba-kun

        How on earth would a twin stick shooter like Geometry Wars work on a remote control? It defies logic.

        The Wiimote was an abomination, but compared to the ATV remote it will seem like the ideal controller. I wouldn't be surprised if the ATV controller went down I history as the worst gaming controller ever, beating even Kinect.

        Not that I honestly care, I have a PS4, I just think it's a shame to see Apple continue to treat gaming as their ugliest child.

      • dancj

        It would work almost the same as it does on the touchscreen. Virtual joysticks on each side of the remote. Not being able to see them isn't an issue as the game uses a floating one (and a particularly good one at that) that is wherever you put your thumb. The only thing to handle then is how to use the super a which could be done by clicking. Simple. I can't see any reason to think it wouldn't work every bit as well as it does on a touchscreen - and it works very well on a touchscreen.

      • bob sabiston

        That remote is too small for multiple virtual joysticks.

      • Inaba-kun

        The remote only has one very small touchpad. The other side of the remote is just flat plastic with a few buttons.

        Geometry wars needs two sticks. If Lucid really are porting it to the ATV then it will have to use the touch pad for movement and switch to some sort of auto lock-on system for shooting.

        Which will fundamentally break the game.

        But hey, never let that get in the way of a few more sales eh?

      • dancj

        It should be fine. You only need a couple off inches.

      • dancj


      • Out5poken

        But see that's the impression I get around here a lot of the times, so called "real' gamers wanting to play old retro ports that require stick controllers.. I would bet in the grand scheme its a small minority compared to the majority of ios games who are quite happy with the touchscreen. A good game developer should be able to create games that are playable whatever the limitation - in this instance of the Apple TV, the controls. So I don't see why this situation is as big as it is.

  • unlimitedfury

    So, Apple changed their policy that ATV couldn't require game controllers. They are now requiring games to use a Siri remote. If it can't require game controllers, then what else would people use to play games? They obviously aren't going to make this the only option, they just endorsed a controller. I think it is a stumbling block, but not the most major deterrent ever.

  • Niclas Johansson

    How the hell is Guitar Hero gonna be played with the remote? And the Galaxy on Fire game?

    • bob sabiston

      Ha! Good question!

  • Dawn Stung atoms

    I think it's better for Apple to mandate that the games should at least support iPhone/iPad with virtual buttons as controllers, aside from the remote.

  • Eoin

    This seems to me to be PR as-in 'Make sure we don't make people think they have to buy all kinds of stuff for this to work' or turning people off my making it look too much like a gaming console.... at first. For them to not allow developers to require more complicated controllers would be a HUGE missed opportunity to make money on games that simply will never work with the remote (e.g.. GTA). My money is on Apple changing this policy shortly; at least shortly-ish...

  • Ben Vu

    Way back when we submitted our first iPad app, it was required that all apps work in landscape AND portrait mode! We're excited about making our games work with the new Siri Controller. Art loves constraints 🙂

    • CRASH_Override

      Except we've seen this constrained art form before on the Wii, which produced the largest assortment of shovel-ware on the planet. Hell, the term shovel-ware basically formed from the depths of endless crap Wii games no one bought.

  • Vcoleiro1

    "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."

  • Out5poken

    To be or not to be ...a "real" gamer!?!

    I enjoy playing games on my iPad and iPhone from the likes of Asphalt 8 to HitMan Sniper to more simpler Peggle Blast...the list is endless... I don't own an MFI controller and quite frankly I don't want one! I've quite happily adjusted to playing games with touchscreen controls for the last few years... So with that said I support Apple's decision to not allow devs to make games that solely require MFI controllers.

    If I fork out money to buy the new Apple TV I want to be able to enjoy all its capabilities right out of the box. I don't want to be forced into buying a blasted accessory.

    • Design by Adrian

      Of course, if the devices don't come with a controller, there shouldn't be a requirement!

      But also, the current MFI controllers are so over-priced that the cost surely puts people off, let alone the awful quality of most of them!

  • IStillHaveAVCR

    I have NEVER seen a controller used on a mobile device outside of the store IRL. EVER. I don't think this will be as "catastrophic" as folks are predicting(hoping for??). This will just make developers more creative and if necessary they will have OPTIONAL controller functionality. Seems pretty straightforward to me. No App Store game REQUIRES an additional accessory so I don't see the absurdity here. We are the world nerds, we mustn't forget that!

    • CRASH_Override

      The Apple TV isn't a mobile device.

  • CRASH_Override

    To be fair, that announcement was before this policy change. I can't imagine Apple would just tell Activision "nvm lol we changed our minds" so if this is the case, they likely are making exceptions for large publishers/IPs to only work with appropriate controls. (I mean, look at Guitar Hero.)

    • Eli Hodapp

      Would you say that if Apple messes with the best they'll die like the rest?

      • CRASH_Override

        You're the moron that's been invading my turf!? 🙂

  • macish79

    as long as apple themself do not release a proper gaming controller which would 100% show their dedication to gaming on any of their platforms, this will die down quickly. Any hopes of an actual console competitor would need a proper input device which the remote is not.
    Any hope regarding a more "console" like experience won't happen. It has not happened before and not this time around either.
    The ATV showcase during the keynote exactly showed what to expect.

  • Jasmine

    Great article Carter. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Apple TV by using UnoTelly or similar tools.