I have two entertainment hub systems in the home which I use primarily as media players - with gaming as a secondary consideration. I blogged about Apple TV not so so long ago and the excellent Apple endorsed / licensed 3rd party Nimbus gaming controller from Steelseries. The Steelseries Nimbus is very much a 3rd party product, but is an officially authorised and endorsed accessory for the Apple TV, and Apple seem to have had very significant input in its specification and manufacture. It is to a large degree based on Sony’s PS4 Controller, and has a great quality of finish, good weight and crisp trigger and joystick actions - everything you would expect if Apple had manufactured it themselves. It also works brilliantly and consistently across all the relevant games and apps on Apple TV.
The officially Sony sanctioned / licensed PDP Universal Media Remote for PlayStation 4 could not be further from the quality of the aforementioned Nimbus controller. This is the first media remote to be made available for the PlayStation since it was launched more than 2 years ago. I loved my PS3 and both the official Sony media remotes created for it. Like many people, my PS3 was mainly for Blu-ray / 3D Blu-ray playback, so having a dedicated remote for that purpose was pretty much essential. I’ve been waiting for a media remote for the PS4 before I upgraded, and this has only just happened.
The officially sanctioned PDP remote though is very very disappointing. It is made of a lightweight and cheap and brittle plastic, and not up to the quality of the other accessories for the PS4. That would not be too bad if it actually worked! However, Sony has somehow officially sanctioned a remote which has a far inferior feature set to both its own previous PS3 remotes - no dedicated buttons for useful functions such as Subtitles and Playing Time / Info. The volume button won’t sync with any AV Amp - only the TV - which is highly bizarre. Worst of all, the basic directional controller does not work on most of the apps - in fact for the majority of apps I tried - the controller was wholly useless - including perennial favourites like BBC iPLayer and Netflix.
It handles the basic playback functions for Blu-ray media - including eject. But does very little else. It is being sold at roughly the same price point as Sony’s previous own PS3 media controllers, but is quite evidently vastly inferior - why would Sony do this? Sony is the owner of the Blu-ray format / technology, and I know dozens of individuals like myself for whom the PlayStation is primarily a video playback device. Yet two years into its life, Sony has not deigned to produce an official full-featured controller for this key audience.
Microsoft’s XBox One has by contrast had an offical media controller out for over a year now. Sony has made several mis-steps in the last 24 months, and it seems like it really doesn’t give a damn about its customers. There are all manner of strange non-happenings which I don’t fully understand - like the fact the 3D playback was not supported at launch, but owners had to wait a few months before they could once again play their enhanced blu-ray discs.
Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray playback on the PS4 is actually quite excellent now, but Sony has not really adequately sorted the core navigation or control of the system - which both feel clunky to me, especially compared to how easy the Apple TV is to operate. Although Apple TV will unlikely have the high complexity and fully incredibly high production qualities of the top level console games, it is nonetheless a major competitor, and will produce its own top-level games of a different sort. There are few things as satisfying as playing modern arcade blockbuster - Geometry Wars on Apple TV - with the Nimbus controller. Although its graphics and soundcard handling will never be as good as the consoles, there are some very clever developers working within the Apple Apps Ecosystem, and even though they won’t be able to get to GTA V console standards, they will be able to create slick games of equal appeal.
There is a lot to be said for ease of use and great quality control!