Apple's iOS 7 to include standardized game controller support

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Smartphones and tablets have been gaining ground in the mobile gaming space for a while now -- much to the dismay of Sony and Nintendo -- but now Apple is really getting serious about this booming market with iOS 7. The upcoming  software update for iDevices is said to have 1,500 or so new APIs, and among them are a bunch related to gaming and the use of standardized third party controllers.

Standardized is the key word here. Although a handful of attachments for this very purpose already exist, Apple is now launching a “Made for iPhone, iPod and iPad” (MFi) program so that developers can optimize their games for controllers that adhere to the company’s guidelines, thus enabling a console-like gaming experience and potentially a large base of controllers to choose from in one fell swoop.

Screenshots from the iOS 7 developer’s guide (via Touch Arcade) suggest the company plans to support both controller attachments that wrap around your iPhone or iPad, transforming them into a portable gaming handheld, as well as standalone controllers that more closely resemble a traditional gamepad.

Both designs incorporate home buttons. The first includes left and right shoulder buttons, a D-pad and four action keys. The second design adds a couple more shoulder buttons, dual joysticks, and perhaps more interestingly a LED array with four small lights that could be an indication of multiplayer support coming to iOS.

Combined with AirPlay support in games and Apple TV, the move could spell trouble for traditional consoles as well, not just dedicated gaming handhelds. The horsepower is not there but Apple will be able to iterate on a yearly basis as faster hardware becomes available, while the rest of the industry is stuck on longer life cycles. After all, iOS’ massive user base is certainly an interesting target for game developers.

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