Apple’s GameController Framework

30 May 2014
By Alexey Rybakov, Senior Developer

Apple announced iOS7 in the middle of 2013 and along with it, a new GameController Framework, which opened up new possibilities for game development.

After just a few months specialized GamePads appeared, and this brought a completely new look and new possibilities to iPhone games.

But to understand exactly what makes Apple one of the most successful gaming consoles, let’s have a closer look at all of it’s features.

The beginning

Early 80s: The development of handheld gaming platforms began. Some of the first were made by Nintendo – the Game&Watch platform. It was really simple and had just one game. The device had black & white screen with colored glass and a simple but incredibly addictive gameplay. According to some data, Nintendo developed about 51 such different mini consoles. The results were amazing – it became clear that people want to play everywhere, including public transport and bathrooms.

Various Nintendo Gameboys with hundreds of games inside a single device and Tetris variants were released.

As the market grew up it started to attract big players, namely, producers of mobile phones.

2003 – 2004: PSVita and Nintendo DS appeared.

The world of handheld entertainment was divided into specialized devices with great hardware and adapted controls and mobile phones.

There were more attempts to combine the two and give portable consoles some communication possibilities, but they were ultimately unsuccessful – on the one hand, the consoles either didn’t have enough power or the controller was uncomfortable and on the other, the size made it more difficult to communicate than by telephone.


Apple in the Gaming Industry

Let’s take a look at the iPhone 5S and the iPad Aero. 64-bit A7 chip gives them great performance, including performance for gaming.


Launch Infinity Blade III on the iPad Aero.

However, Apple has long been successfully selling Apple TVs, which can, among other things, stream content from mobile devices. Plus, an iOS API for programming external screens has been around for a long time and so have games that use Apple TV.

There’s just one problem: phones have horrible controls. Racing simulators aren’t too bad – you can just spin your device like you would a steering wheel, but FPSs and strategies are. There’s no cursor and you have to use the edges of your phone.

iOS for Gaming: GameController Framework

In iOS 7, Apple announced a lot of interesting features and frameworks and there was one among them created specifically for game controller programming.

The GameController Framework lets developers write code for controlling games and be sure that all compatible controllers will work with the game. Still, there are strict instructions for game controller developers on how to make their manipulators compatible with Apple iOS.

There were of course joysticks and gamepads that could connect to iPhone and iPad before iOS7, but every new device was like a game of Russian roulette for them: Would Apple allow the device on the market? Would developers support the device in their games? Too many questions.

As a result, everything that could be found on the game controller market was too small-scale, at the level of startups and system hacks — not a single top purveyor of game controllers. Until Apple released GamePad for iOS.

I am 100% sure that many users will accept the invitation – iOS users are very loyal to their brand and love buying new (albeit, sometimes useless) extra accessories for iPhone, iPad, and all other existing devices.

Let’s Sum Up:

Only 4 years have passed since controllers appeared on the market but the number of games that support them is already very, very high. And such games! The amazing Dungeon Hunter 4 and Asphalt by Gameloft! Moreover, even ordinary games, which were formerly controlled using accelerometers have become much more comfortable. The fingers don’t hide the screen and control due to the increased size is much more sensitive.

In short, playing iPhone games is now more comfortable than some gaming consoles and you can always detach the controller and have just a stylish phone.

So here are the components of a great home game console:

  • A7 64 bit performance
  • iOS 7 Game Controller framework
  • Joystick
  • AppleTV

This combination reaches the level of PS Vita together with PS3 or NVIDA Shield, but with similar functionality and quality.

So do Sony and Nintendo need to worry? I think that that’s a definite Yes.

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