During Tuesday’s iPhone 15 launch event, Apple focused on games. While mobile devs talked about the improved hardware and software, we also learned that some recent top-tier console games, including Resident Evil 4 remake, Resident Evil Village, and Death Stranding, are coming to the iPhone. The iPhone’s distinction from dedicated handheld gaming devices like the Steam Deck has been becoming increasingly irrelevant, and the 15 Pro is eroding further.
Apple also announced that iPhone 15 Pro would support hardware-accelerated ray-tracing dynamic lighting effects for Assassin’s Creed Mirage, a Ubisoft game from its popular franchise. This is not just a continuation of the device’s impressive gaming story. The original iPhone opened software access to third-party developers, changing gaming so much that mobile devs are today’s megacorporations. Despite that, it’s never reached the console and PC gaming markets, where even the Mac has failed to break in despite multiple attempts.
The iPhone could finally make Apple a top destination for big-budget, studio games. The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max’s A17 Pro processor is comparable to those in the Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, and other portable form factor console PCs. The iPhone 15 Pro could make standalone gaming hardware obsolete when paired with devices like the Backbone One USB-C controller, which announced support for the iPhone 15 immediately after its launch.
Even with excess technical capability, a massive installed user base, and flagship game industry partners, the iPhone may not become a AAA game console. iOS is still a stretch compared to Windows (or SteamOS, which doesn’t even need to be a target), but Apple is making progress with compatibility tools, especially after WWDC this year.
More important is whether Apple can court and maintain strong game developer relationships like Sony and Microsoft. Apple has always focused less on relationship building and incentivizing studios for exclusives and timed exclusives than game console hardware companies. Apple Arcade, launched a few years ago, has made some progress there. It will always have access to a massive potential audience, though this year’s Pro focus limits that compared to the standard iPhone.
The A17 Pro will trickle down next year, and Apple’s processor progress means the entry-level iPhone will likely gain gaming chops faster than successive console generations and niche devices like the Steam Deck, which aren’t likely to get annual improvements due to cost-benefit math.
Not to mention that the iPhone 15 Pro could replace a handheld AAA console and a living room one with video out and multimanufacturer-native controller support. The reasons for it keep getting more attractive and numerous, and the 15 Pro could be the generation that breaks the mold and makes “Coming to PS5, Xbox Series X and iPhone” a norm in the marquis gaming industry.