The newest release of the Apple TV is a full featured, app enabled set-top entertainment device, meaning that in addition to running streaming applications like Netflix or HBO Go, it can play a variety of games designed for the big screen. Among those games is Beat Sports, which has become the most downloaded game since the Apple TV’s launch.
With its casual cartoon style, motion based controls, and musical backdrop, developed by Harmonix (famous for the Rock Band series), Beat Sports became a big Apple TV hit. In it, you play an assortment of sports-themed music and rhythm based mini-games to combat whimsical alien creatures. Players can swing virtual baseball bats, tennis rackets and golf clubs using the Apple TV’s remote control, iPhone or iPod Touch as game controllers.
[a]listdaily speaks to Beat Sports creative lead at Harmonix Jon Carter, and Tom Bass, senior vice president of marketing at Tilting Point (publisher of Beat Sports), about what it takes to succeed on the rising Apple TV entertainment device.
What makes the Apple TV an appealing platform to develop games for
Jon: It’s exciting to work on a new platform, especially one as unique and promising as this one. Apple makes it incredibly easy to distribute games on a global scale, and Apple TV is the first time that distribution network has been available to devs interested in crafting living room experiences. It’s a lot more than a gaming console, and because of that, it’s potentially a way to reach tons of people that, until now, have only been playing games on mobile — people that don’t even know how ready they are, as gamers, to graduate to the living room.
Harmonix already has a strong reputation as a console game developer. Does that reputation help when promoting an Apple TV game like Beat Sports
Jon: It’s definitely great to have a community that enjoys our games, regardless of platform. Hopefully, when people think of Harmonix, they think of fun, musical experiences that they can share with friends, and maybe even the fact that we’re good with new interfaces. Our past experiences with plastic peripherals and motion controls helped us find smart ways of channeling the unique affordances of the new remote into fun, intuitive gameplay.
That said, we do want to appeal to people that don’t regularly read gaming or tech blogs, who probably don’t know one game studio from another. Maybe they’ve played console games, but they’re probably much more familiar with mobile. So we’ve worked hard to give Beat Sports a fun and inviting charm that will (fingers crossed) appeal to you whether you’re a Harmonix fan or not.
In your opinion, how critical are games like Beat Sports to getting more people to adopt Apple TV
Jon: The App Store is such a powerful and enticing distribution network, that I think it’s safe to say there will be killer applications (beyond, obviously, streaming TV and movies). Games like Beat Sports, that are built from the ground up for the platform, could certainly be among them. I hope so. I’m excited to see more developers explore gameplay built specifically for the new remote, since there’s a lot of fun to be had there that couldn’t exist on any other device.
How is promoting a game on the Apple TV different from advertising console or iPhone/iPad games
Tom: Marketing an Apple TV game shares more similarities with marketing a mobile game, with the added challenge of a limited installed base. At launch, we rely more on PR, influencers, and word of mouth, and shift the majority of our marketing spend toward the end of the year and into early 2016 when the audience for the hardware increases. By that point more avenues will open up to advertise within other Apple TV apps, directly to Apple TV users. Beat Sports will continue to be updated with content, so we want new Apple TV owners in December and January to experience the same enjoyment and discovery of the game that the early adopters did.
What are the benefits and challenges to promoting an all-new game designed specifically for Apple TV, as opposed to perhaps a Rock Band 4 port
Tom: Launching new IP at the launch of new hardware is ideal — there’s less competition and the opportunity to establish a brand to the early adopters. The challenge is sustaining that buzz beyond launch, which we’re doing by continuing to support the app with free content and updates, and reaching the new Apple TV owners through targeted advertising after we exit the launch period. While we don’t necessarily have the brand cachet of Rock Band, it’s less of a handicap at this stage in the hardware lifecycle than it would be two or three years from now.