tvOS is the smart TV operating system from Apple that let’s you play games and use apps on your Apple TV. Support for tvOS apps and games has been added to Felgo & Qt so now you can launch your cross-platform games and apps on your Apple TV too.
What is tvOS?
Apple based tvOS on iOS but it also includes a range of frameworks that are only supported on Apple TV. The company launched it in September 2015 alongside the 4th generation of Apple TV. The Apple TV is a device that acts as a digital media player and micro-console with a touch-screen interface.
tvOS lets you play games and use apps from your Apple TV. It offers a unique experience in comparison to a mobile device or tablet. It’s better suited than smaller devices at creating a shared experience for users. This is because the large screen allows multiple people to interact with it at the same time.
This shared experience is the focus of the tvOS user experience. You need to keep it in mind when you create your own tvOS apps and games.
Why Develop for tvOS?
There are many reasons why making tvOS apps and games make sense.
The Growing Popularity of Smart Homes
Smart devices like the Apple TV are only a small part of the Internet of Things that will become more popular in the next few years. Many companies are working on ways to make the home more intelligent. As this trend grows, Apple TVs and tvOS may become as popular in homes as the MacBook or iPad.
As it’s only been a little over a year since it’s release, tvOS is still a relatively young OS. While there’s no guarantee of success, it’s hard to see Apple letting one of Steve Job’s greatest passion projects fail.
A Lack of Competitors
It’s no secret that it’s becoming harder for apps and games to get seen on both Google Play and the App Store. It’s not just harder for your app to get discovered, cost-per-install is on the rise for most developers too.
There are other avenues available to mobile developers. But targeting a platform other than these two means entering into shrinking marketplaces. These marketplaces are already struggling for relevance and will do for years to come.
tvOS apps and games don’t have either of these problems. They exist in a small marketplace that still has the opportunity to grow.
Not having to worry so much about app store optimization and user acquisition is a bonus. It means you can invest more time in developing a great app rather than marketing. And as the marketplace grows, you’ll be in the right place to take advantage of it’s popularity
The Unique Monetisation Possibilities of tvOS
Felgo developers will know about all the mobile platforms they can launch their apps & games on. But it’s worth noting that you will also be able to port your existing apps and games to tvOS with minimal effort.
With it being so easy to bring your game or app to this new platform, you should know that it can be profitable too. Opportunities exist for both F2P and premium apps and games to make money from Apple TV users.
If your F2P game or app is doing well, it won’t hurt to get a little extra ad revenue by putting your app or game on Apple TV. The real benefit is for developers seeking to release premium apps and games.
Historically, people seem to have no problem paying to see stuff on their televisions. Whether it’s extra channels, pay per view events or apps and games. There seems to be less resistance to shelling out for something that appears on TV.
It’s also worth noting that Apple users are more likely to buy premium apps anyway. Paid apps make up 47% of the apps available for Apple TV. So some developers must have had success in this area already.
What to Know Before Getting Started
Before you get started on making your tvOS app, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
The Big Screen Experience
Using an app or playing a game on a TV screen is a different experience than using a phone or tablet. Make sure you understand the differences before you start making your app or game. If possible, try out the Apple TV for yourself and test some games and apps to see what works best.
Remote Controls & How to Use Them
All Apple TVs come with a remote that’s used for navigation. The main feature of the remote is a touch surface that works extensively with swipe gestures. It also features buttons for standard actions such as play/pause and volume up/down. You’ll need to consider if these navigation differences will affect the UX that your app or game provides.
Keep Multiple Users in Mind
As mentioned, the Apple TV creates a shared experience; just like a traditional television set. There’s no such thing as creating a tvOS app or game for just one person. You need to be aware that there may be multiple users viewing your app or game at any time.
No Local Storage
tvOS apps have a maximum size of 200 MB and don’t make use of local storage. Instead, you need to stream app data from iCloud. Apps larger than 200MB can be packaged and loaded with On-Demand Resources. If you’re not a fan of a data-conscious approach, then tvOS apps mightn’t be for you.
tvOS Development with Felgo
You can develop apps and games for tvOS using the exact same Felgo workflow as you would for Android or iOS. You write your code in Qt Creator and deploy it from there to an Apple TV or simulator. Porting your existing games is easy too. tvOS support for Felgo uses the same API as the current SDK, so your game or app won’t change in any way when you port it to Apple TV.
Felgo is yet to support touch input but it supports a range of swipe gestures on remote control. Felgo mapped these gestures to the up/down/left/right keys of a keyboard. This makes it possible to test your game or app on desktop before deploying to Apple TV.
Nativeutils are fully implemented for tvOS. This makes it possible to show native confirmation dialogs and input dialogs in your app or game. This feature is essential for providing your users with a native UX.
Felgo added support for key events such as buttons and focus hints. This enables you to improve the UX of your app or game by making it easier for users to see which button is selected.
tvOS Example Game – One Card!
Felgo has an example tvOS game on the App Store. Felgo released One Card! for iOS and Android but we were able to port it to tvOS with only minor additions to the source code.
The only change we needed to make was to add support for keyboard input (up, down, left, right, enter). We wanted this feature so it would be easy to test apps and games on desktop before deployment to Apple TV.
As there’s no point device available, we also added a focus hint for the currently active (selected) item, like the currently active card from the user’s stack or the selected menu item in the main menu.
Finally we added one of those shiny app icons with parallax effect, which are the essence of the Apple TV user experience All of these changes took less than a day. You can do the same with your Felgo games or apps!
One Card! uses Felgo Multiplayer, an all-in-one multiplayer component that adds the following features to your game:
- Real-Time & Turn-Based Multiplayer Action: play against friends in real-time or at your own pace
- Intelligent Matchmaking System: The ELO ranking system matches you against the best players at your level
- Built-in Messaging System: Message your friends, even when they’re offline, to organise games or discuss previous matchups
- In-Game Player Chat: Chat to other players right inside the game scene
- Push Notifications: Never miss a beat or game invitation; push notifications alert you to all the action
- Cloud Synchronization of Player Profiles: Play with the same profile and continue the same game across multiple devices and platforms
- Social Features: Add your friends and compete on your own private leaderboards
- Cross-Platform: Players on tvOS can play against iOS, Android and Desktop players from around the world
You can use this open-source game example as the basis for all your multiplayer card games. You can access the free source code when you download Felgo.
<Path to your Felgo SDK>/Examples/Felgo/demos/OneCard/OneCard.pro
Get Felgo Support for tvOS Development
At the moment, tvOS development with Felgo is available to Enterprise customers only. Enterprise customers can access all Felgo Plugins and features and receive advanced support and training. Make sure to get in touch if you’d like to become an Enterprise customer and we can arrange your Enterprise evaluation today!
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