Apple TV 4 top view remote

As first brought to our attention by MacRumors’ Juli Clover, Apple is requiring that games created for the Apple TV must support the Apple TV remote. This means that developers cannot create games that require an external Bluetooth controller to play, although games can use Bluetooth controllers as an alternative means of control.

While this may sound a bit harsh on the part of Apple, seeing that some games feature control schemes that are more ideal for a traditional controller, I think that it’s the right direction. How frustrating would it be for a user to download a game, only to find out that they can’t play the game due to not having the necessary hardware? And how frustrating would it be to browse the App Store, and see tons of games that have prerequisites for a piece of hardware that didn’t come bundled with the Apple TV?

This might not sit well with some developers and some gamers, but it’s the right decision for the greater good.

Here are more of the requirements as outlined on Apple’s App Programing guide for tvOS:

Requirements for Games That Support Game Controllers

  • 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.

Keep in mind that Apple also has a plan as to how the Apple TV remote can be used as a controller. It’s probably not as bad as you think, and I believe that most developers will be able to come up with a control scheme that, at the very least, makes their games playable with the controller.

Using the Apple TV remote as a controller

  • The touchpad on the remote can be used as a D-pad. The D-pad provides analog input data.

  • The remote can be used in either a portrait or landscape orientation. Your app decides whether the profile object flips the input data automatically on your behalf.

  • The touchpad is available as a digital button (button A), by firmly pressing on the touchpad.

  • The Play/Pause button on the remote is a digital button (button X).

  • The menu button on the remote is used to pause gameplay, calling the controller object’s pause handler.

True, there’s not a lot of usable physical buttons on the Apple TV remote, and game controllers just work better for certain games and genres, but developers only need to support the remote. Developers can always recommend a third-party controller for more precise and complex control schemes.

Apple simply wants to make sure that its App Store isn’t littered with fragmentation-inducing controller-only titles. It wants to make the Apple TV experience as quick and as free of frustrating as possible. Another decision regarding the Apple TV, one that enforces a 200MB initial download limit for apps, is proof enough of that.

This is a great move by Apple, and I’m glad that it decided to make this decision. Gamers can always go out and buy a third-party Bluetooth controller if they want more precise control, but that should be an option, not a requirement.

Source: MacRumors

  • DeAndre Enrico

    If Apple wanted to make the gaming experience better, they should have put some of the Apple Remote buttons near the bottom so that using it as a controller in landscape would actually make sense.

    • lowtolerance

      If you put the buttons closer to the bottom, it would be very awkward to hold. The remote is not very big at all, much smaller than a NES controller, and the Play button is well within reach even for smaller hands when holding it in “landscape” orientation. If the buttons were placed lower on the controller, it would feel very unnatural.

  • Anonymous

    I guess i see your point jeff. But i will be getting a real controller if ps4 controls are not possbile.

  • Requiring games to support the Apple TV remote is a fundamentally bad idea and here’s why. Some games just arent designed to be played with a remote and adapting them would result in a poor user experience. A game like Tetris might be fine but can you imagine playing a game like Modern Combat with the Apple TV remote? I predict this will backfire on Apple at some point in time.

    • Joey_Z

      Apples says games must support Apple TV remote. Apple didn’t say games must only support Apple TV remote. Even on PC, you can play Project Cars using keyboard, which is the default input that everyone has, but you can also buy a G27.

      • If a game isn’t designed for the remote though developers will end up botching the controls to comply with the guidelines which will lead to one star reviews that will hurt developers. For example how good is Guitar Hero going to be with the remote? It might work but it won’t be a good experience it’d be better if Apple had a section for games that require third party controllers that spelled out clearly that the games require a third party controller rather than force developers to add terrible Apple remote controls.

      • Joey_Z

        If I were the developer, I will treat this as an opportunity instead of a problem. The very least you can do is to state it very clearly under the description. Either way it doesn’t seem like a big deal…

      • As a developer I suppose this is all you could do. Spell it out clearly that the game is best played with a third-party controller and hope that people read and understand this and don’t leave bad reviews when the game is barely playable with the Apple remote.

        All of this could be avoided though if Apple would just accept that a remote isn’t the best way to interact with anything but the most casual games or better yet come up with their own games controller for the Apple TV.

    • Chindavon

      If you read the whole article, for complex games, there will be third party controller support (XBOX and PS4 style controllers).

      • I did read the article. Just to reiterate the point I’m attempting to make it’s not that games won’t have controller support it’s that games will be required to support the Apple remote even if it does not make sense to do so (e.g in Guitar Hero). The majority of people won’t have third-party controllers so they’ll be downloading games expecting them to work 100% with the Apple remote and when they don’t because the developers added terrible basic controls for the remote because Apple mandates it, users will leave bad reviews that ultimately will harm developers and drive them away from developing for the Apple TV.

      • Chindavon

        And that’s the major difference with iOS and Android. People calling iOS the “walled garden”. Why would Apple want to have some games support it, while others don’t? Fragmentation in Android is why Apple does this. Streamline it all.

    • :D

      That’s exactly what I thought when I first heard about this

  • Bugs Bunnay

    Controllers for all better better have something good cooked up when a jailbreak is ready.

    • That’s all I am concerned with too, but this won’t be possible with that tweak unless the aTVis jailbreakable though.

  • Lucus Bendzsa

    Ok, I am developing a new space game for the Apple TV, and will have to modify the controls now. This will be difficult but better in the long run.

    I agree with Apple’s desicion. Though Look at it this way. Google’s Android Wear application requires a smart watch for the iPhone. What is the difference.

    I still agree, but see a lack of consistency.

    But I still agree.

    Oh yeah, I still agree. Want to make this clear before trolls come.

    • Bugs Bunnay

      You still haven’t agreed enough.

  • Sofakingstepwit

    The works with remote requirement makes total sense. However, the more I hear about this box, the more disappointed I become with it, as it relates to games. I may just wait to see what it turns into once Apple releases it TV service.

  • MinkShoals

    A easy solution that would eliminate this requirement would be a quick system check prior to download from the App Store that verifies a Bluetooth controller has been paired. If so, the download for titles requiring a controller is approved and available for purchase. If not, the title would display “controller required” and not allow a purchase.

    • jp2002

      Yea or just alert the user with an alert sheet before download that the game needs a 3rd party controller to play, just how they intimate users about iap apps.

  • omakad

    This is very smart of apple. They know what they are doing. Any user of Amazon TV that tried gaming on the box knows that this is a huge downfall for everyone who didn’t buy a controller which is 90% of users. You try to play something and it tells you are you sure you want to download it as game controller is not detected. Notable user experience. As a result most try one or two games and never game again. Doing this will ensure that everyone who try’s to game will be able too and will continue to do so in the future.

  • 5723alex .

    The new Apple TV remote will be available only for 8 countries.

  • enifome

    Got one question, do apple TV work in non authorized country talking about Africa? “Nigeria”?

  • Dan

    Bad move, this will restrain developers, games will need to simple to be playable with this remote.

  • iPhoneWINS

    yes it is but that damn remote sucks… apple needs to also create a proper gaming remote like the PS4 controller