Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 5.01.23 PMWell, this is a bit of a bummer. We just got word from one of the developers who were lucky enough to win the Apple TV dev kit lottery (Who we're not naming because we don't want to cause more Apple TV NDA drama!) who raced out and bought a ton of MFi controllers with the hopes of making a 8 player party game. These hopes were quickly dashed as they realized that the new Apple TV will only connect to two external Bluetooth devices at once, along with the included remote. So, presuming the dev kits they're sending out to developers have final hardware, you're looking at only being able to play games with a maximum of three players at a time. When you try to connect an additional controller beyond this, one will disconnect.

Now, it's always possible that this is an oversight on Apple's part, or something they can correct with a future software update, but it really sucks if it was an intentional limitation. I was vaguely placing some mental bets on party games likely being pretty big on the Apple TV, but that's likely not going to be the case unless your idea of a party is inviting two other people over. In this developer's words, "Requiring support for the remote is already really terrible, but add on the fact that you can’t connect more than 2 controllers is really brutal."

It's hard to disagree.

Update: It's possible this is due to limitations with certain MFi controllers rather than the Apple TV itself, but either way- Whatever the cause, this is really stupid and needs to be changed.

Update 2: This may be a long-standing bug with MFi controllers and not being able to connect more than two of the same kind of controller to any iOS device, which tangentially would also potentially include the Apple TV. This type of thing rarely rears its head because just given the nature of iPhones and iPads, you aren't going to often have more than one person playing- Much less more than two people playing. If that's what's happening here, it's also really dumb, as the whole reason MFi controllers are so obscenely expensive is largely due to the cost of the MFi certification. If "Controller works when other controllers of the same kind are connected" isn't part of those tests, it really makes you wonder what is part of the certification process.

We're trying to track down developers who both have an Apple TV dev kit, and multiple MFi controllers that aren't the same kind. Either way, this is all unrealistic for the end user to be expected to do. When you go out and buy multiple controllers, you get the same kind, not one of every brand to make sure none of them conflict with each other. If you'd like to help shed light on this, please get in touch with us.

Update 3: Another developer chimed in saying that they're trying to connect all sorts of different types of MFi controllers and can only get two to stay connected at once. So much for the four LED's on every MFi controller indicating which player they are.

  • Anonomation

    Still cool though. I want some 1v1 Asphalt 8 asap with split screen.

  • spader623

    Lol. That's all I have to say.

  • vicsark

    Bummer, because if everyone with an iPhone can use it as a controller, Apple Tv could be huge for party games. But tbh, I don't see anyone buying 4 mfi controllers just for that.

    • Aaron Sullivan

      I don't think this has anything to do with the way an iPhone might interact with the Apple TV as a controller. I haven't looked into but I don't think it is controlled through the MFi interface. For instance, many games had iPad/iPhone interaction way before MFi controllers were even a thing. 😉

      So, really, what you are suggesting is that this bug with using more than one MFi is no big deal because very few people would want to buy 4 controllers if their iPhones work as an alternative. I think you'd be right to suggest that, but it still needs fixing.

      If I was developing a game I'd be all over iPhone gameplay with something on each person's screen and the TV as a place with shared information... and I suspect this where many of the early stand out games will begin.

  • subshell001

    FFS, the SS Nimbus controller clearly has 4 status lights to indicate which player you are. This is obviously a bug.

  • RossmanBrosGames

    Bummer indeed, I really want gaming on the Apple TV to be awesome. What it has will work great for games like Land Sliders, Pacman, and Cross Road, and I think that is really cool. However with the required remote and now this potential problem, many types of games are beings discouraged if not impossible. I'm gonna stay positive though, there is also going to be new innovations I'm sure. But at least putting a couple game buttons at the bottom of the remote so it could be held sideways would have been a huge step. Touchpad acting as the joystick, and a few buttons on the end for actions would have dramatically increased the kind of games that could be played.

    • Aaron Sullivan

      Many games will support all the little elements like tilting and tapping on the edges just to say it works and then port over the regular controller stuff from whatever dedicated system already has them. It will kind of suck if you don't get a joystick, but then people who really want it will get one. It's not ideal, but I think dividing up the app store into games that can't work if you don't buy more hardware is probably worse.

      • RossmanBrosGames

        Yeah I can see that happening, and I agree having controller only games would make the app store kind of frustrating, that is why I think making the remote slightly more friendly to mainstream game controls would have been a great idea. Two buttons at the bottom could have been huge, oh well.

      • Aaron Sullivan

        Yeah, I agree with you, though. Even if they were sort of hidden in some Apple clever way to keep it slick when not using it as a controller. Just give us a couple more buttons because our phones don't have them and you are requiring games to support the remote. :/

  • piraterob

    So the Fire TV "gaming edition" is cheaper, supports 4K output, lets you play media off USB (with VLC or the like), supports wireless & USB controllers as well as Bluetooth…

    • T-REZ5000

      Didn't know you could play video through sub with vlc. That's awesome. That alone is reason enough for me to get it over the new Apple TV. Thanks for the info!

      • T-REZ5000

        Sub=usb. Can't believe autocorrect doesn't recognize usb.

  • Gatada

    The pictured Steele controlled - developed together with Apple - has 4 LEDs to indicate connected players, an odd choice if the Apple TV is limited to 2 controllers.

  • Aaron Sullivan

    I'm betting this is indeed a bug that just hasn't received the attention because it didn't deserve it... until now.

  • NonnocAnad

    Oh no!!!! What will we do!!!! This is a travesty of epic proportions! I'll have to cancel all of my pre scheduled party game parties!

    • madmaxmedia

      You can still have them, just only invite 1 lucky friend!

  • Bliquid

    What amazes me is that i actually understood.

  • CookingPie

    Why can't people use their iPhones themselves as controllers ? Just connect them all to the same wifi network. I mean, the people who likely play casual party games in their living room are NOT the type to go buy several Mfi game pads anyway

    • Aaron Sullivan

      It's a funny state of affairs, but it's probably true that a bunch of people will bring $600-$900 controllers (phones) to your home rather than mess with a few $50 controllers.

      The cool part is that the phone has the benefit of an interactive screen for different types of games than a traditional console (something like the Wii U offers, but not quite) the downside is a lack of physical control pads and buttons and a reliance on decent wifi.

    • RAZRfreak

      Are there physical buttons on the iphones/ipads? No? Next question!

      • CookingPie

        We WERE talking about casual party games for the masses , weren't we? A touch screen would be suffice

      • jamesgecko

        Aren't we on the website that proclaims the death of non-mobile platforms every other week? If that claim is to be taken seriously, physical controller support needs to not be a joke.

        Besides, even casual games benefit from physical controllers. People who don't play games all the time have an easier time when they can feel the buttons under their fingers. We want people to be mostly looking at the TV, not the controller diagram on their phone screen, remember?

  • sobriquet

    It's starting to sound as though you would be better off using the regular Apple TV and just streaming games from you phone. Apple makes some weird decisions with there tech.

  • klink

    I would be surprised if more than 2% Apple TV owners would ever actually purchase > 2 controllers. Although 15% of 'potential' buyers will say they won't buy an Apple TV because of this limitation.

  • DemoEvolved

    You know what supports 4 controllers and has party games right now? My xbox

    • Jake7905

      Only 4?!? That's not a party, that's an orgy.

      • YaoYao

        I's not an orgy until it becomes awkward to to "x-some".

  • GSport

    Settle down! Always complaining about dumb shit! It's not a console! Enjoy it for what it is!

  • GSport

    Now if we could get the Steam app...

    • YaoYao

      To do what? Buy games for a far more powerful and capable machine?

      • Eli Hodapp

        Use as a streaming endpoint?

  • Sako Hamilton

    I personally think mainstream gaming is gonna b done on the iPhone & not controllers. Any info on the max iPhone controller support?

  • Horslips

    No 4k?

  • loox

    It's obviously an oversight. No reason to freak out or anything. It will be addressed
    I'm not worried yet

  • ZeitGeist

    Really??? There goes once again apple's claim to have really created something unique. It's unique alright. While on the other hand chrome cast will support multiple players playing the game on their on devices, using WiFi, and with no limitation of platform.
    Guess who wins?

    • Eli Hodapp

      No one?

  • oddyoh

    Hopefully an oversight. Or, Apple is still just as non-committed about gaming as ever.

  • Duste

    Have the controller run to your phone and then the Apple TV?

  • RodrigoCard

    It is certainly a bug. The API supports 4 controllers at the same time. And all controllers have 4 "player light slots"

  • T-REZ5000

    Deal breaker for me for me. I was hoping for some great local multiplayer titles.

  • J yo

    Well if you wanted to get THAT technical about it, you'd need to make your own MFi controller. Obviously not enough effort has been put into the hardware. you can't just buy a bunch of things from China and expect it to work according to your own ideas. You need to physically program the circuitry and solder the components yourself. This seems like a High School level effort was put towards this.

  • Shaw Wakefield

    Great article Eli. 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.