An Apple TV with dedicated games sounds good, perhaps with gesture control as well as dedicated physical game controllers

In a note to clients — as noted by AppleInsider — analyst Rod Hall with the investment firm of J.P. Morgan thinks the big selling point of the next generation Apple TV, which is expected to be unveiled next month, will be an app store with traditional console-style videogames.

He estimates that an anticipated set-top box with a dedicated Apple TV App Store would give Apple a foothold in the US$34 billion console gaming market. Hall thinks that every 5% of the gaming market Apple captures would add about 2% to the company's annual earnings per share.

If Apple really wanted to make things interesting, the next gen Apple TV could support gesture control. Apple has been granted a patent (number 8,908,277) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a “lens array projector” that involves a projection-based 3D mapping solution. The result could be gesture recognition on Macs, Apple TVs and iOS devices akin to that of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect.  (Shown is an image from the patent showing a schematic side view of a 3D mapping system.)

The patent ties into Apple’s 2013 purchase of PrimeSense, an Israeli gesture recognition company. The company’s sensing technology was used to help power Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. The 3D sensing technology purportedly gives digital devices the ability to observe a scene in three dimensions. It translates these observations into a synchronized image stream (depth and color) — just like humans do.  It then takes those synchronized images and translates them into information such as: identification of people their body properties, movements and gestures; classification of objects such as furniture; and location of walls and floors.

In 2013 Xbox founder Nat Brown said that if Apple opened an Apple TV App Store, the platform would “simply kill” the Playstation, Xbox and the Wii by introducing an open 30% cut app/game ecosystem. Apple’s Metal developer tool will push graphics in iOS (and, hopefully, Mac OS X) games to the next level. However, it could also have major implications for the Apple TV.

The Metal framework supports GPU-accelerated advanced 3D graphics rendering and data-parallel computation workloads. According to Apple, it provides a modern and streamlined API [application programming interface] for fine-grain, low-level control of the organization, processing, and submission of graphics and computation commands and the management of the associated data and resources for these commands. A primary goal of Metal is to minimize the CPU [central processor unit] overhead necessary for executing these GPU [graphics processing unit] workloads.

Metal is designed for A7 (and higher) processors. Imagine an Apple TV with an A9 a processor running Metal-developed games designed for screens bigger than those on iOS devices.

Of course, if we do get console-like games for the Apple TV, what will we use as controllers? Will it be our iPhones and iPads? Will it be controllers built especially for Apple TV games? Perhaps we'll get some answers by mid-September.