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Apple TV Will Become a Video Game Console, Sources Say

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Industry insiders report that Apple TV will soon support the ability to play iOS games, putting the set-top box into the video game console market.

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Last year, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) galvanized the media center market with its incredibly inexpensive Chromecast device, which turned users' TVs into connected sets for a mere $35. But whereas Mountain View raised the bar in 2013 for home entertainment in terms of price, ease, and streamlined UI, 2014 could prove to be Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) year to shake up the industry with an update to its Apple TV line.

Sources indicate that Apple is planning to add gaming content to its set-top box, giving the Apple TV an added layer that many would consider long overdue. According to information gleaned by iLounge and 9to5Mac, the update will come in the first half of this year (iLounge predicts by March) and may coincide with the release of a new set-top device with a completely revamped operating system based on iOS.

Gaming support is expected to be backwards-compatible with the current-generation Apple TV, so casual gamers won't have to shell out for new hardware to enjoy iOS games on the big screen. One developer suggests that games would be downloaded directly to and powered by the Apple TV, which -- given the limited storage space of the device -- indicates a potential reliance on iCloud streaming.

While iOS devices are likely to act as controllers, there's also word that developers are looking into Bluetooth-powered controllers, which should make gamers used to Xbox (NASDAQ:MSFT) and PlayStation (NYSE:SNE) consoles happy that they wouldn't have to give up their tactile buttons and switch to an all-touchscreen interface.

But there's also the matter of Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense -- a company specializing in motion-sensing technology -- back in November 2013 (see: What Will Apple Inc. Do With Its Latest (Rumored) Acquisition?). Although the latest rumors fail to mention if any Kinect-like controls will be included in this Apple TV revamp, it's unlikely that the technology acquired in the $345 million buyout would go completely missing -- especially if Apple is serious about taking on the cutthroat combatants in the video game console market. If not in this round of updates, we could very likely start waving our arms and shouting commands at some future iteration of the Apple TV.

Details on the games themselves are still unknown. No official titles have been leaked, nor have their method of access. However, 9to5Mac suspects a dedicated Apple TV App Store will premiere alongside the release of a new device, allowing owners of the current Apple TV to also access its content.

Apple TV's entry into the gaming market is the shot in the arm the "hobby" device needs. As it stands, the $99 streaming box does what it needs to well, but its oft-used features are nothing the considerably cheaper Chromecast can't do now. But by tapping into Apple's mammoth selection of games in its App Store and by targeting the millions of casual gamers that are familiar with the company's offerings, the Apple TV has the potential to not only push the media center market forward, but also put more fear into Microsoft and Sony who continually try to steer potential customers away from addictive $0.99 games on their smartphones and tablets.

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