Is Virtual Reality the Future of Apple Arcade?

IKinema Credit: IKinema
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Apple’s new subscription gaming service, Apple Arcade, is already off to a great start, but it seems likely that the company has bigger plans for the service and the type of games it will offer, if recent hires and acquisitions are any indication.

Earlier this year, Apple hired Nat Brown, one of the co-creators of Microsoft’s Xbox, and an engineer with an established track record working on virtual reality applications, most recently as a member of the VR engineering team for game publisher Valve.

Now, according to information uncovered by MacRumors, it seems likely that Apple has quietly acquired IKinema, a motion capture company based in the U.K. that also specializes in gaming and virtual reality technology.

IKinema primarily develops animation technology to be used in VR games, and according to the company’s website, it has a particular focus in “real-time procedural animation and whole body solving technology,” basically powering real-time animation of virtual characters, and the company has a solid enough reputation that game publishers like Ubisoft have signed deals to use IKinema’s RunTime software to handle character creation in their games.

While Apple naturally hasn’t confirmed the acquisition — the company almost never does — documents filed with the U.K. government now identify Peter Denwood, Apple’s counsel for international affairs, as the director of IKinema, effective Sept. 12, 2019, with Apple’s U.S. corporate headquarters listed as his address. The address for IKinema has also been updated to 100 Bridge Street in London, the location of Apple’s European headquarters.

IKinema’s website has also gone almost entirely dormant, along with its social media accounts, and a MacRumors reader who works in the industry told MacRumors that the company’s customers have been “left in the dark for weeks” until only recently when the acquisition was confirmed in a private Facebook group for those working in the motion capture field.

What This Could Mean

We’ve known for a while that Apple has been taking a serious look at virtual reality and augmented reality applications, and numerous reports indicate that Apple is working on an AR/VR headset of some kind.

These more recent reports, however, suggest that Apple’s plans may be even more ambitious than simply creating a hardware device. With Apple Arcade, the company has basically established itself as a game publisher in its own right, backing the development of dozens of games from indie developer studios.

Although Apple isn’t calling itself a game publisher, every indication is that it’s now in this role, investing over half a billion dollars to back the development of games on the platform, as well as dictating many of the standards of what will appear there. Games on Apple Arcade also clearly bear the “Apple Arcade” logo on an opening splash screen, so regardless of whether Apple wants to admit it, the company is now a game publisher.

Since it’s bankrolling the development of games on its platform, this also puts it in a perfect position to create an even tighter integration between both its current and upcoming hardware devices by developing its own advanced game technology that can be incorporated into the games that are published on Apple Arcade. This is especially true as the company will have to raise the bar and keep fresh content coming if it hopes to retain subscribers to the new gaming service.

Now that Apple has set itself up as a rival to companies like Valve, it’s easy to see how encouraging augmented reality and virtual reality gaming is going to be the next big thing for Apple Arcade, and acquiring talent with expertise in these areas will be critical in helping it get ahead of the curve to produce the kind of quality games that will really make Apple Arcade stand out from the rest of the pack.

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