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MFi brings console-style controllers to iOS gaming

By Paul Williams / September 9, 2013

Apple has positioned its mobile products as serious competitors to the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP ever since the announcement of the first iPhone. And now, thanks to iOS 7’s MFi controller support, Apple may be replacing your at-home gaming consoles, too.

With a MFi (Made For iOS) controller and Apple TV, those games we love to play while riding the bus or fulfilling our senatorial duties can finally come to life on our living room screens. Now that iOS developers have been given this new opportunity, its time to see what they can do with a larger canvas.

Taking control of controllers

The touchscreen and accelerometer may have created an exciting new form of gaming, but many fighting, shooting and racing games still benefit from traditional controls. With Apple introducing their own game controller SDK, game devs no longer have to find third-party sources to add controller functionality to their titles.

This graphic created by TouchArcade reveals two probable controller designs. The first essentially turns your phone into a Nintendo 3DS by wrapping the standard directional, gameplay and shoulder buttons around your iPhone. Just like with Nintendo’s 3DS, this allows developers to utilize both remote and touchscreen controls.

The second design, similar to the Wii Classic controller, is wireless and features two analog joysticks, shoulder triggers, a directional pad and those gameplay buttons your right thumb knows and loves. This latter model works perfectly with iPads and Macs, so developers will need to make sure their games are ready for both formats. And if developers really want to get ahead of the game, they should start thinking beyond computers and mobile devices altogether.

From touchscreens to televisions

What if the iOS platform was just one way to use a MFi game controller? Could Apple TV also serve as a gaming device? iOS architect Conrad Stoll thinks so.

“Apple is certain to make a bigger move into the living room and if they opened up an App Store for the Apple TV, where you could download games and control them with an MFi game controller, I think that would be a powerful force in the living room entertainment space,” says Stoll

With traditional game manufacturers slowly weaning themselves off physical CDs and cartridges, the time is ripe for Apple and its developers to get ahead of the digital gaming tidal wave. As smartphones and tablets have demonstrated, operating systems are king in the new land of video games.

The iPhone, iPad and iPod have already made a serious dent in Sony and Nintendo’s handheld offerings. Could MFi controllers and Apple TV be the power-up Apple needs to dominate the entire video game industry? For that, we’ll have to wait. Until then, gamers will just have to bring Angry Birds to the big screen the old fashioned way, through Apple AirPlay.