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Apple reverses stance, says that all Apple TV games must be compatible with Siri Remote


One of the standout features of the new Apple TV is its support for gaming, but now Apple has reversed its stance and placed a new limitation on that capability. Apple has said from the beginning that third-party controllers will be supported on the new Apple TV. The SDK for the device carries Game Controller support and the company mentioned it on stage at its unveil event. Apple also mentioned that games that worked only with third-party controllers were okay, meaning the games wouldn’t necessarily have to be compatible with the company’s bundled Siri Remote. Now, however, Apple says that games can not require the use of third-party controllers.

This change of heart can be found in the App Programming Guide for tvOS. In the guide, Apple notes that while users can connect game controllers to their Apple TV, all games must also support the included Siri Remote. Below are the official requirements Apple is listing for games that support third-party game controllers:

Requirements for Games That Support Game Controllers

Apple has created specific requirements you must follow for any game that supports game controllers. These requirements are designed to make sure that games are always playable.

  • Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of a controller.
  • tvOS games that support controllers must support the extended control layout. All controllers for tvOS are nonformfitting extended controllers.
  • Games must be playable using standalone controllers. If you support an extended controller, the game must be playable solely with that controller.
  • You must support the pause button. All controllers include a pause button. When gameplay is active, pressing the pause button should pause gameplay. When the game is not being played, such as when you are at a menu screen, the pause button moves to a previous screen of content.

This new restriction will obviously limit the complexity of games that are available on the Apple TV, which is definitely not a good thing. While the Siri Remote is far improved over the previous Apple TV remote, it is by no means as well designed for gaming as a dedicated gaming controller.

While Apple could still reverse this policy before the Apple TV launches next month, it will already have had an impact on the development of games for the device. You can read more on developing for tvOS with third-party controllers on Apple’s site.

Also of note, developers today have started receiving their developmental Apple TV units. We already saw the first unboxing for the device here, but now that developers have their hands on the device, apps should start to roll in.


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  1. iSRS - 8 years ago

    May not limit. The apple remote app will get updated for an on screen control pad remote I bet

    • o0smoothies0o - 8 years ago

      That’s completely and entirely idiotic…. You do realize how bad touch controls are for gaming right? Especially controls that make it impossible since you have to look at the touchscreen in order to control actions on the TV screen across the room.

    • The iPhone/iOS remote app doesn’t matter. All games must support the SIRI remote. Period. Full Stop. This is going to cripple a lot of developers and prevent others from doing anything with some of their existing titles.

  2. vecter304 - 8 years ago

    I don’t see what’s wrong about this policy. Think about it. Imagine that you bought a game, and then the game says ” Sorry, you have to pay additional 99 dollars to play this game” That will be more ridiculous then requiring all games to play by siri remote.

    Also some complexed game such as asphalt 8 works fine at siri remote. I can’t see why 9to5mac is complaining about this policy.

    • rogifan - 8 years ago

      Why didn’t Apple just design it’s own game controller?

      • vecter304 - 8 years ago

        Because there is not enough market of course

    • vecter304 - 8 years ago

      Personally I think siri remote is main input device for apple tv. It is like touch screen for iphone and ipad. It is like a trackpad or mouse for mac.
      Therefore, I can’t see why apple will accept an app that doesn’t use its main input at all. It’s like accepting a iOS game app that doesn’t use touch screen at all. Or a mac drawing app that can be use only by stylus pen and not using a mouse

      • There are games that don’t use the touch screen on the app store (used via tilt only for example). There are also no restriction on apps for Mac OSX, so that’s not a relevant example.

      • You should also realize that it’s likely that buttons on the Siri remote may be unusable for arbitrary functionality right? Pause is going to have to act as pause. Maybe they’ll let you re-purpose volume – MAYBE. Menu.. don’t know. The Siri button? No way.

        If you have 1 button you’ll be able to do a proportional joystick 1-button experience when you use it along with the trackpad. Someone might get clever and also use motion for some games, but that’s not a replacement for a modern controller at all.

        Since all content needs to be purchased through the store, it would be very easy to inform customers that a controller is needed before the purchase. Even as someone suggested, making it mandatory that one is paired.

    • o0smoothies0o - 8 years ago

      9to5mac writers actually understand that a gaming controller requirement is necessary for more complex games, of which ‘asphalt 8’ certainly isn’t.

    • Smigit - 8 years ago

      Asphalt’s not a great example. Sure, the game itself might be relatively complex but as with most racing games it’s IO requirements are not. You can pretty much get by with left, right, accelerate and brake for most racing games, particularly arcade ones where you don’t need to shift gears.

      Where the controller becomes an issue is with things such as platformers that require quick and precise responses and FPS titles which require precision and probably a fair few buttons even for a basic title assuming the game isn’t on rails (like the mech game they demo’d the other week was). To that end I think the policy is an issue, and they could have looked at alternative safeguards to prevent accidental purchases such as requiring a compatible controller to be actively paired with the Apple TV, otherwise the user will be prompted to inform them that they require a controller. As it stands, the systems going to be relatively constrained by what games can be made for it.

      Any game where the out of the box remote makes sense would probably have been given support anyway given devlopers 99% of the time want to hit as large a market as possible.

      It’s not the end of the world, but Apple did make a point of talking up and highlighting the systems gaming capabilities but it’s going to be hampered if it requires support for the bundled remote which doesn’t really have a gaming orientated form factor.

      • Smigit - 8 years ago

        The alternative is developers will still create FPS and other titles not suited for the remote and be forced to create illogical control mappings for the Siri remote, which might meet the ‘support’ requirement but offer a well below par experience for the users that haven’t gone out and purchased a third party controller. In the end the title might end up being largely unplayable anyway on the remote and the users wasted more money than if they hadn’t assumed real compatibility at the time of purchase.

      • vecter304 - 8 years ago

        Is it possible to program siri remote’s trackpad as a4-6 virtual buttons and a d-pad? Then it will be lot similar to touch based games.

        For example, if we convert Modern Combat 4 (gameloft’s fps gmae) to apple tv game you might can do this in this method.

        1. One trackpad is used as d-pad
        2. Second trackpad (I think there are two trackpad on siri remote. Elaborate if I am wrong) can be used as cluster of 4buttons. Each button is for shoot, reload, jump, and granade.

        And vitual control or symbols can be shown at TV screen showing which virtual button is pressed

        3. If Two finger gestures can be implemented to the trackpad, you can put additional controls. Such as if you swipe to right or left using two finger, you can swap weapons. And if you swipe down with two finger, you can take cover or duck.

        Yes, it is lot more difficult then physical button controller but it isn’t totlally impossible to implement hard core games. In fact, it might be similar to the touch based games.

    • Randall Wright - 8 years ago

      Absolutely, right? How is there such difficulty in understanding that it is vital that apps must be usable with the standard input device? Yes, games are better with a dedicated gaming controller, and you can get one and enjoy the enhanced experience. If your interest is in games, you would naturally get your preferred controller to use. You “can” play games on a laptop trackpad, but it would be far from optimal – so you get a mouse or whatever. This is no different.

  3. The Big Geek - 8 years ago

    This is a horrible idea! Tim just effed up!

  4. Mike Murray - 8 years ago

    This is a horrible idea. Tim just ruined it.

  5. incredibilistic - 8 years ago

    I’m sure it’ll be fine. Doesn’t effect my decision at all. Only thing I have to decide is to get the 32GB or 64GB.

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      Depends on how big developers make the apps. With the initial download limited to under 200 MB really wonder how much space additional assets will take up for apps.

      • o0smoothies0o - 8 years ago

        It has a 200MB limit, but apps can remove and download more information as needed, it’s a way to keep storage low, whilst getting the full game.

  6. K-SQUARE - 8 years ago

    No doubt Apple will come out with an accessory game controller of their own. It’s inevitable.

  7. It’s obvious that if there was compatibility for 3rd party controllers that either apple can make there own (More money) or specific code will have to be written to access said controllers.

    • vecter304 - 8 years ago

      I think misunderstood. There Is a third party controller compatibility on all apple tv apps. Apple is only requiring developers to build their app can be always worked on Siri remote.

      • o0smoothies0o - 8 years ago

        It’s you who doesn’t understand that developers will be turned off by the fact that they have to waste time and money creating compatiblity for their complex games which need a good tactle ergonomic gaming controller to be controlled by the only for casual gaming Siri remote. Not only that, but some games wouldn’t even be feasibly controlled by the Siri remote, and thus, cannot be developed for the Apple TV.

        This will also only make gaming a very poor experience for gamers if developers include the Siri remote support, but with very limited, dumbed-down, nearly impossible control, just so they can have their game which they want users to use a real gaming controller for, on the App Store.

      • vecter304 - 8 years ago

        Sorry. But I personally think designing a game using siri remote can be very similar to designing a touch based games.

        I believe there is two trackpad on siri remote. (Tell me if I am wrong) One trackpad can function as a d-pad and other trackpad can function as 4 buttons. (Draw a X at the trackpad and each quarter can be programed as one button)
        Then make sure to put a virtual button at the tv screen indicating which button (or parts of trackpad) is pressed.

        Of course, physical button contoller will be superior than this method, but still you can program a simple 4 button controller. I also assume you can build a simple strategy game using siri remote as some kind of mouse pointer.

      • Vector, you’re wrong. You asked, and I answered. :)

      • Paul Andrew Dixon - 8 years ago

        where did you hear that it has 2 track pads…

        it has a touch pad at the top, the bottom half has buttons, and the back is metal… it can act like wii remote – unless apple release an add-on controller with something like a joystick, then many decent games will not be playable… and given that a certain top titles are ports with a virtual controller system, it shows that developers are not willing to mess around recoding an entire game for a new limited controller

      • Ditto o0smoothies0o and others.

        Some games can’t be made to work with the Siri remote or Wii remote (think Halo or Call of Duty style games, how would you strafe, turn and shoot all with that remote), also if the tvOS simulator is any indication the touch pad on the Siri remote lacks mouse like capabilities, it’s more like a gesture recognizer and less like a track pad.

  8. cdm283813 - 8 years ago

    Apple releases a $100 stylus but they can’t do a first party controller? Apple could have reinvented gaming and I don’t see that Wii remote knock off doing it.

  9. Paul Andrew Dixon - 8 years ago

    Given that they are having a separate Apple TV App Store, they could clearly mark whether a 3rd party controller is needed…

    This now heavily limits the kinds of games that can be played — anything that needs a joystick controller and no longer be played… everything must be playable by either swiping or pushing a button… very disappointing…

    im sure though they will go back on this again

  10. Hum, the must support the pause button item is a bit odd as a blanket statement. How does that work in a real-time online multiplayer game? Does that pause everyone, is online multiple exempt (hopefully)?

  11. Scott Hodson - 8 years ago

    From this article I don’t see anywhere where it says that the Apple TV Remote must have all the same functionality of a 3rd party controller. It just says it needs to be supported. Therefore, you can offer certain controls for the Apple TV Remote whilst keeping more complicated ones for 3rd party controllers. This will also allow new people to get interested in your games and potentioally buy it and one of your controllers maybe.

    • Terrence Newton - 8 years ago

      Good point. I suppose when the new Guitar Hero for Apple TV comes out, we’ll see if that holds true. There’s no way Activision would be be able to implement the full Guitar Hero experience on the remote.

  12. Terrence Newton - 8 years ago

    It’s not entirely horrible as I thought at first. In addition to using the trackpad as a d-pad, tapping the trackpad also is a button-press (A) and the play/pause button is another button (X). It’s still far weaker than a regular iOS device, where you can create unlimited on-screen buttons as well as use direct interaction with the game elements, but it’ll at least allow developers to comply with Apple’s policies.

  13. Talkmactech - 8 years ago

    I think maybe this is what Apple has in mind.
    Developers are free to design a game with two levels of features. Basic that are controlled by the Apple Remote and Extended that require a third party remote. This ensures that the game will always be usable at some level.

  14. inthemorningg - 8 years ago

    I don’t understand what the consternation by some is about; it doesn’t matter whether they are required to support the Siri Remote or not, gaming on the Apple TV will be a relative non-starter. Gaming via all the underpowered (compared to traditional consoles) set-top boxes has not taken off in the least, and the lack of the catalog available in the iOS App Store has not been the limiting factor. Mobile games, which is what are going to be brought to the Apple TV, tend to be quicker, more shallow experiences than traditional console or PC games. You can jump in and out in a heartbeat when you have a few minutes to play, and they work great for the very personal mobile devices, but they do not translate well to the big-screen. They are not experiences that engage the gamer or provide the level of content befitting the gamer’s choice to dedicate a portion of their time to sitting down in front of their TV to game. I foresee gaming on the Apple TV having no more success than gaming on any other set-top box; Apple is not doing anything different or special to crack that particular activity on their device…

    • aaronh - 8 years ago

      I think this is actually just the opposite. I own a PS4 (and an Xbox 360 before that) and buy TONS of expensive titles that I never really have time to play (or even learn to play). Like, I’ll spend a Saturday afternoon getting up to speed on GTA V and by the time I get back to it 6 weeks later I can barely remember how to do anything or what I’m doing so they just languish.

      I feel like an idiot spending so much money on something I don’t use nearly enough and ALWAYS wish there were more casual games. They don’t have to be something like Candy Crush or Angry Birds even (though those are obviously popular) because they probably AREN’T great big screen experiences. However, something like The Journey (on PS) is perfect. You can finish it in a couple of hours and have a great experience, etc.

      The ease of purchasing a wide variety of inexpensive and more “casual” games will open gaming to a MUCH wider market that another take on Call of Duty will.

  15. Evan - 8 years ago

    I believe it said what you have quoted from the tvOS Developers Guide since the day it became available in 9/9. I do remember reading that specifically about working with Siri Remote in addition to any 3rd party controller.

  16. Developers could emulate mouse and keyboard style game play with the remote, which yes, for most games would probably be junk, however, I see this more of a user friendliness option: users won’t have to purchase a third party controller just to try out a game on the app store. And if you just navigate all the menus with the remote, then switch to a controller for gameplay, I don’t see this as a bad thing.


Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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