With physical controller support now showing up in gaming engines for iOS 7, the iPhone’s gaming experience is finally beginning to catch up to gaming-specific devices like the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS. At least, it would be if there were actually any iOS 7 controllers to be found.
With Unity’s announcement that the latest version of its gaming engine supports iOS 7’s built-in controller scheme, the focus is now shifting to iPhone accessory makers. For its part, Unity says that its updated engine supports all the buttons that iOS 7’s developer documents list. That includes everything from simple buttons, joysticks, bumpers and a directional pad.
Developers can even start adding support for the functionality today. Unity does point out that developers can’t build games physical controllers only. That’s because Apple has forbidden developers from treating iOS 7’s touch capabilities as anything other than essential. Any game made with Unity’s engine and Apple’s first-party controller support will need to support both touch and physical controls as primary input methods.
Now that Unity has support for the controllers, the functionality should begin to flow to iOS 7 games that support the engine quickly. That isn’t to say that support for them isn’t trickling into the iTunes App Store already. Alien vs. Predator: Evolution already and a few other titles added the functionality shortly after iOS 7 became available.
The only problem is that hardware controllers are simply nowhere to be found. Apple failed to show off any iOS 7 controllers during its September press event, and since that event none of the firms that typically announce iOS accessories have brought devices to store shelves.
Instead, many of them are counting on shipping their first controllers for months. ClamCase’s GameCase isn’t expected to ship until very late this year or early 2014.
That’s a shame since, first-party gaming controllers would be the perfect accessory to an iPhone or iPod touch and could very possibly mean the beginning of the end for handheld gaming systems like the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. iOS 7 currently dominates both of the devices in terms of game spending. Having physical controllers in store, would only accelerate Apple’s rise to mobile gaming powerhouse.