One of the Creators of the Original Xbox Just Joined Apple

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Although we haven’t heard much about Apple Arcade recently — the company’s new subscription gaming service expected to launch this fall — there’s no doubt that Apple is still working on it behind the scenes. Apple also seems to be extremely serious about ensuring its success, not only by providing a platform for high-quality games, but actually approaching it in a manner similar to its upcoming video streaming service, Apple TV+, by ensuring that there will be a lot of quality content available to entice users to join when it launches.

Apple has of course already promised that the games will be serious, premium titles that will be exclusive to the Apple Arcade service, and like Apple TV+, it paraded a roster of similarly big-name talent when it announced the service in March, including legendary game creators like Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy fame and Will Wright, the developer behind the SimCity franchise — arguably the Spielbergs and Oprahs of the gaming world. Apple has also been actively courting other developers to pitch ideas to come on board, and has committed to spending $500 million to support the development of revolutionary new titles on the platform.

While Apple has otherwise been quietly working behind the scenes — undoubtedly hoping for a big reveal come September — news has just slipped out of another significant new hire that will further bolster Apple’s position and shows that it’s absolutely dead serious about becoming a big-name game publisher in its own right.

As reported by Variety, Nat Brown, the co-creator of the Xbox, has just started a new position at Apple, announcing the move via Twitter — a fairly rare step for a new hire at a company that usually prefers to keep such things more quiet. Although Brown’s LinkedIn profile still simply lists him as a “VR engineer at large” his Twitter announcement includes a thread explaining his background and his motivations for joining Apple.

Brown also notably has a strong foundation in virtual reality, having previously been a member of Valve’s VR engineering team, before he became victim to a series of layoffs at that company. However, his real claim to fame was being part of the small team at Microsoft in the 1990s that created the original Xbox.

It’s not entirely clear what Brown’s role will be at Apple — the company is also clearly building its AR glasses team, and Brown’s VR experience would be a good fit for that. From his comments on Twitter, however, it sounds like he will be more focused on graphics and gaming than VR specifically (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Games and AR/VR push systems really, really hard. so making games & AR/VR content work well makes platforms better for all types of software. often games spin off new UX concepts, or the game hardware supply chain (like GPUs) ends up powering completely new solutions like AI/ML.

Nat Brown, via Twitter

What’s perhaps even more interesting is what this says about Apple’s longer-term plans for Apple Arcade and its augmented reality glasses. Despite recent rumours, we firmly believe Apple’s augmented reality project is still on track, but there’s been some debate about what these AR glasses will actually do, with some suggesting simply a Google Glass style “second screen” for everyday interactions, but with Apple putting so much of its muscle behind Apple Arcade, it’s easy to see how the company’s AR/VR efforts may be focused at least as much on creating a revolutionary new gaming experience.

While some may scoff at the idea of Apple becoming a major force in gaming, some of us are old enough to remember a day when people said the same thing about Microsoft, and Apple has significantly more resources, so we wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the idea that Apple Arcade could very well become the next Steam.

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