Forget E3: The true megaton will be the "Apple console"
Next Monday, however, it won't be Iwata or Don Mattrick or Kazuo Hirai who will be 'dropping da bomb': it'll be Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Industry pundits are predicting the launch of a next-generation Apple TV at their annual developer conference WWDC. Its killer feature? An App Store.
You may not have heard of the Apple TV: it's basically just a set-top box designed to stream iTunes content. Always described by Steve Jobs as "a hobby", it has never been aggressively marketed or, it has to be said, massively successful.
The introduction of an App Store, though, changes it entirely: from a simple video-streaming device to a machine with the potential to rival the current home consoles; an Apple console, if you will.
I hardly have to remind you of the impact that the iPhone and iPod touch have had on portable gaming. Since the launch of the DS and PSP, Apple have disrupted the portable gaming landscape to such an extent that the 3DS and PSVita have struggled (at least initially) for traction.
Imagine, then, a fairly powerful Apple device plugged into your TV with a similar breadth of content to the existing iOS App Store. Indie developers would finally be on par with big publishers, with no elitist quality control; the price of games would race to the bottom; and physical retail would be non-existent. After all, why would you buy a new game for £40 when you could buy 40 smaller ones for the same cost, without even leaving your sofa?
The implications for the industry, especially big AAA titles, are massive and somewhat terrifying. Yet I think there may always be a place for dedicated games consoles, even as a niche: after all, the Apple TV probably won't have a dedicated hardware controller (some speculating it will use existing iOS devices as a remote, Xbox Glass-style), making it unsuitable for traditionally-designed games.
It's all rumours, of course, and we may end up being disappointed. But I hope Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have got their seat belts fastened, because I have a feeling the console industry is about to violently swerve in a new and rather scary direction.
Oh yeah, and one more thing… the Apple TV currently only costs $99, making it cheaper than any current-gen consoles, and undoubtedly next-gen ones too. Now that's what I call a megaton.