Apple getting into games?

Internet Reports reckons so.

Online reports are indicating that Apple is recruiting a team to work on a new videogames project, with former LucasArts technical director Mike Lampell said to be heading up the secret division.

That's according to US website GameSpot, which got a tip-off from a source described as a tech-sector recruiter who revealed that games industry engineers were being recruited by Apple.

Until now, Apple hasn't shown much interest in videogames; a small number of titles are released on the various Mac platforms through publishers such as Aspyr, and a few companies such as Blizzard regularly release Mac ports of their PC titles, but that's about it.

On the handheld side, the iPod may recently have added video playback, but it has only a few simple built-in games - and Apple has shown no particular desire to expand on that, although some third-party coders have created ports of games such as Doom for the system.

According to GameSpot's report, the brief of Apple's rumoured games team is specifically to work within the iTunes division - implying that the games will be digitally distributed by Apple itself, and may be compatible with the iPod devices.

It's unlikely, however, that Apple is hoping to give devices such as the PSP a run for their money in the games space - and entirely more likely that any games project will be aimed firmly at casual gamers.

Apple has been working to position devices such as the Mac Mini as home entertainment boxes, and other rumours suggest that even more specialised Mac home media devices are in the pipeline - but while those devices boast mature features in terms of audio, video and still images, they lack games functionality.

Having observed the success of devices like the Nintendo DS in penetrating the mass market, and the warm reception received by both Microsoft's hugely successful Xbox Live Marketplace and Nintendo's Virtual Console concept, it seems reasonable to assume that Apple is considering adding games to the repertoire of its media devices. At present, the Mac systems are a more attractive target platform than the iPod - whose hugely specialised interface is excellent for navigating menus, but less suited to most styles of videogame.

For now, however, the Cupertino-based firm has remained silent on the question of whether it plans to add videogames to the iTunes store; but if the firm is actively recruiting engineers at this point, it seems possible that more information about the project will appear in the coming months.

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