As a gamer, I’d love nothing more than to see a proper physical controller for my iOS devices. Sure, the touchscreen works great with titles like Angry Birds or Words With Friends, and accessories like the iCade work well with retro games. But for first-person shooters, soccer sims, 3D platformers and the like, nothing beats a physical controller with real analog sticks and real buttons.
Google’s Android operating system already supports external game controllers, and that’s one of the few things it has over iOS. But maybe not for long. According to one source, Apple is working on a physical controller of its own that will make iOS gaming even more incredible.
AppleInsider points to AnandTech’s review of the new iPad, written by Vivek Gowri and Anand Lal Shimpi. Within it, Lal Shimpi reveals that he has been made aware of an “internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market.” He notes, however, that his sources were unable to confirm whether anything would actually come out of the project:
"While controller support in Android in its infancy at best, it’s more than iOS currently offers. I know of an internal Apple project to bring a physical controller to market, but whether or not it will ever see the light of day remains to be seen."
Lal Shimpi suggests that Apple may be feeling some pressure to offer a physical gaming accessory, with Android offering built-in support for wired and wireless game controllers since the release of Honeycomb around a year ago. He also notes that such a device may soon be a necessity for hardcore mobile gamers who find touch controls just don’t cut it.
And I must say I agree. Don’t get me wrong, iOS devices are terrific for mobile gaming, but they could be even better. They’re already stealing market share from portable consoles from the likes of Nintendo or Sony, who saw their share of software sales slip from 70% to 36% and 11% to 6% respectively between 2009 and 2011. But there’s only so far they can go without physical controls.
Some games — especially first-person shooters — can be a frustrating experience on touchscreen devices, and they need physical controls. Until they get those, they’ll never be a true replacement for portable consoles in the eyes of many gamers — myself included.