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Apple presents biggest threat to home consoles, say game luminaries

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Apple TV (Credit: Apple)

The iPhone has already had a sizable impact on the traditional portable video game industry, but two video game VIPs are cautioning that the company could have a much larger -- and potentially devastating -- impact on the home console market.

Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell and Nat Brown, who was one of the first engineers on Microsoft's Xbox project, have issued warnings about Apple's potential threat. The alerts come amid analyst speculation that Apple may hold an Apple TV-related special event next month.

In a keynote presentation at last week's D.I.C.E. Summit, Newell lauded the PC gaming market and talked about the advantages of a living room PC (aka SteamBox). As he listed threats, though, he didn't seem all that worried about the Xbox or PlayStation.

“It’s not scary what’s going to happen on the console side,” he said. "It’s scarier what Apple’s going to do. Apple has a natural progression to the living room. … Another great thing Apple does is they have a much [smoother] upgrade cycle. … That has been beneficial to both consumers and developers – and is a challenge to us in the game industry."

It's not the first time Newell has warned of Apple's threat. In January, he sounded the alarm during a lecture to students at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs.

"I think that there’s a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily," he said. "The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room?"

Brown expanded on Newell's warnings in a blog post Wednesday, chastising Microsoft for failing to innovate and not capitalizing on those advancements it has made, like Kinect.

"Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and Xbox," he said.

The reason, he noted, was Apple's commitment to small developers, offering them the ability to create games cheaply and earn a percentage of each game's sales.

"Why can’t I write a game for Xbox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home Xbox or at my friends’ houses?," he asked. "Why can’t I then distribute it digitally in a decent online store, give up a 30 percent cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad?"

Microsoft, coincidentally, announced last week it was planning to sunset the XNA development platform, which was created to help independent developers cheaply create games for Xbox and Windows.

New systems from both Sony and Microsoft are expected to arrive this year. Sony plans on formally announcing the follow-up to the PlayStation 3 at an event on February 20.

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