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Apple Exec Reportedly Pushed For Headset To Have 'Strong Gaming Component'

Apple Exec Reportedly Pushed For Headset To Have 'Strong Gaming Component'
A drawing by The Information of a 2021 prototype of Apple's headset

Phil Schiller, who leads the App Store, pushed for Apple's upcoming headset to have a "strong gaming component", Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports.

The report published this weekend is a rundown of the key Apple executives behind the hardware, software, content and marketing of the headset expected to be branded Apple Reality Pro.

Schiller is "known to have a VR car racing rig at home", Gurman writes, and "pushed for the device to have a strong gaming component, particularly via third-party apps". Schiller may see gaming as a lucrative potential avenue for the device's app store, given that's his purview at Apple.

Gaming reportedly wasn't a focus for Apple's headset until relatively recently though. Just last summer The Information published a report citing “four people who have worked on the project” as saying the AR/VR team “almost never” mentions games in internal presentations and isn’t developing a tracked controller. Multiple reports have mentioned hand tracking and eye tracking as the primary input for Apple's device, alongside some earlier reporting which had mentioned a “clothespin-like finger clip” that also showed up in Apple patent filings.

Still, the lack of tracked controllers doesn't mean the headset couldn't support gaming at all - Apple's vision of AR/VR gaming may simply be quite different to the offerings so far from Meta, Sony, and Valve.

While Apple often isn't seen as a gaming company, it may be more accurate to describe it as not being a hardcore gaming company. The App Store brings in an estimated $50 billion gaming revenue each year and more than a billion people play games on iPhone and iPad, while the entire games console user base is only around 200 million. Console gaming gets more media attention, but to the majority of people gaming actually looks more like Subway Surfers or Clash of Clans than Cyberpunk 2077 or God of War.

Even on Meta's Quest platform today, a number of games support controller-free hand tracking. With potentially higher quality tracking performance on Apple's headset this could be a more viable input method than ever for games.

The developer of hit VR game Job Simulator believes console-like controllers are a barrier to VR gaming eventually reaching a billion people. At GDC, UploadVR's Ian Hamilton tried a demo of their hand tracking interaction technology and said it "made a believer out of me".

Meta has in recent years released multiple samples showing developers and users the potential for hand tracking in games, including a port of the Quest's introductory tutorial, an action-puzzle game Tiny Castles, and simple platforming puzzler First Hand demonstrating multiple hand-world interactions and a teleport gesture.

And with Apple's headset expected to have room-aware mixed reality, games could be able to interact with your real environment. You can imagine a tabletop game anchored to your desk, or a finger-guns cover shooter where your couch is a sandbag and the enemies are coming through the windows.

Another aspect of gaming on Apple's headset could be playing iPad apps on a virtual screen, perhaps with support for bluetooth gamepads. Last month Gurman also reported the headset will support "millions" of iPad apps via the App Store. In that same report he wrote gaming will now be "a central piece" of Apple's offering, representing "a reversal from Apple’s stance earlier in the product’s development".

The Information and Gurman have previously reported the product will be priced around $3000. A prominent supply chain analyst has claimed it will weigh noticeably less than Quest headsets and feature high resolution OLED microdisplays, while The Information has claimed it will be powered by the M2 chip seen in the latest MacBooks and feature iris scanning for logins and payments.

In March, Apple announced its yearly WWDC conference will take place June 5-9, with a “special in-person experience at Apple Park on June 5.″ Gurman first wrote in February that Apple plans to unveil the headset at WWDC23 and has stuck by that claim in recent reports. Supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seems to concur, writing in a note last week that it's "highly likely" the headset will be revealed at WWDC.

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