During Apple’s brief review of Apple TV gaming at its media event yesterday, the company didn’t even bother to mention hardware support for the kind of traditional MFi controllers packed with analog sticks and buttons that already work on iOS. That information is instead tucked away on a promotional page from Apple, which touts third-party Apple TV controllers such as the recently announced Steelseries Nimbus.
While Steelseries markets the Nimbus as “the first gamepad controller for Apple TV,” there are dozens of MFi-compatible controllers that share the same general Xbox 360-esque button layout and functionality, including Steelseries’ existing Stratus XL. While all of these controllers will be compatible with Apple TV, what sets the Nimbus apart somewhat is the charging Lightning connector (a first for a controller that can’t physically connect to a phone, we think), pressure-sensitive shoulder buttons, and an obvious marketing feature . partnership that lists it on apple.com.
The Nimbus and other MFi controllers work with nearly 800 existing iOS games, all of which are relatively easy to port to the Apple TV as universal apps with full controller support. That list also includes some well-known names of Angry birds go and Asphalt 8 until Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Lego Star Wars. If even a small fraction of these titles get Apple TV support, it will represent a very decent lineup of legacy titles for another console launch.
Of course, to play those games in the intended way, Apple TV owners will have to invest in an out-of-the-box MFi controller. The Nimbus hasn’t been priced yet, but comparable controllers generally run somewhere between $50 and $80 (Update: The Nimbus costs $50, according to Steelseries). That definitely dampens the price advantage the $150 Apple TV has over gaming competition from high-end Sony and Microsoft consoles. With uncertain adoption for MFi controllers, Apple TV game developers are more likely to focus on the included Siri remote, which they know their customers have on hand to play games.
Elsewhere on the Apple TV gaming page, the company revealed that it sells an optional Remote Loop for tethering the included motion-sensitive remote to your wrist when playing games that leave you fluttering. We couldn’t find an official price for this accessory yet, but given that Nintendo gave away such loops for free with every Wii Remote (and even upgraded them for free when they broke), we can’t imagine Apple will charge more than $ 50 before.