SteelSeries CEO Explains Why the New Apple TV Needs the Nimbus Game Controller

If you’ve followed my Game Centered column, you’re likely already familiar with SteelSeries. The company makes some of the best gaming peripherals available for Apple devices and is a brand that I’ve included in my articles numerous times before, with good reason. Whether you are a casual Crossy Road player looking for an affordable but excellent pair of headphones, or a Vainglory gamer on the pro-circuit looking for a high-end pair of headphones, SteelSeries has you covered. The company also specializes in designing game controllers for the iPhone and the iPad, and now it's unveiled its latest controller, the Nimbus, designed specifically to deliver a console-type gaming experience on the new Apple TV. On the day of the Nimbus’ announcement, we interviewed the SteelSeries CEO Ehtisham Rabanni about the controller and his thoughts on the future of gaming.

 SteelSeries Unveils the Nimbus Game Controller for Apple TV.

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iPL: Well, first off, congratulations on being first to market with a new game controller for the Apple TV.

Rabanni: Thank you, it's a journey that’s been over a year in the making. As you can imagine, the last 12 months have been quite secretive. Now we get to actually talk about it. We’ve always seen the iOS platform as being the future of TV/Living room gaming. We’ve seen that for many years and have invested in it. Not many companies, within their gaming businesses said; ‘You know, we are going to treat iOS separately, because we really think this is the future.’

iPL: So, you folks worked closely with Apple on the development of this controller. Can you tell me a little bit about that process?

Rabanni: It started out talking with the folks at Apple engineering. Traditionally we've had a very good relationship with them, the best selling controllers in the Apple Stores were the Stratus controllers. There’s history and a relationship there. We started talking about the future of gaming, where things are headed; eventually, it led to this project being born. Even though we are a third party, this feels very much like a collaborative effort. It wasn’t us going away and developing a controller and then bringing it back to Apple. We've literally been joined at the hip developing this product every step of the way. And that was absolutely essential. If you think of a controller is an independent device that isn’t connected to the set top box, I think that’s a mistake. These two things have to be designed and engineered to work seamlessly together. It cannot be an afterthought. That’s exactly how Apple viewed it, that’s how it was developed. They were developed hand in hand so that they work really well together.

iPL: How does the Nimbus handle multiplayer gaming? Is it compatible with other gamers who might opt to play the same multiplayer game using an iDevice?

Rabanni: That’s a really good question. The way this was designed, at least to start off with, is that it's a multiplayer experience with multiple nimbus controllers. Ideally you should be able to play someone with a different controller, though why you’d want to challenge someone with a physical controller, with a virtual controller, you’re going to be at a disadvantage almost immediately. But for someone who wants to do that, the functionality should be there.

iPL: If I understand correctly, the Nimbus is also completely compatible for use when gaming on an iOS device. Is this accurate?

Rabanni: Yes, definitely!

iPL: Does it also double as a fully-functional Apple TV remote as well?

Rabanni: Yes, in terms of being able to move backwards or forwards, yes. It doesn’t have the touch [functionality] that the Apple remote does;, that is unique in its own way. But being able to navigate across the screen, it actually has the built-in home button controller which helps you navigate. So it does have many of the elements that let it serve as a good remote controller.

iPL: Will the older Stratus controllers be compatible with the Apple TV as well?

Rabanni: Yes, they will be. Though there are a couple of big things to consider. What Nimbus has is the next generation Bluetooth, so in terms of even more lag-free gaming, Nimbus takes it to a whole new level. It is also the only non-Apple product with a menu button, with a home button.

iPL: Can we expect the Nimbus to be sold on shelves in Apple stores?

Rabanni: Yes! Absolutely!

iPL: Now that Apple has embraced gaming on the big screen, is it possible that we will see game applications that start to take advantage of the SteelSeries Sentry eye-tracker and it’s tremendous eSport training potential?

Rabanni: (Laughing) It’s such a natural isn’t it? So, without giving away too much, yeah, it just makes too much sense.

iPL: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about the Nimbus?

Rabanni: We’ve been working on Nimbus for a while now. I think it is a product that is going to redefine what a game controller for the living room should look and feel like. We haven’t talked much about the ergonomics, and man, the ergonomics are absolutely critical. We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the precise distance between buttons, the precise place the joysticks need to be. It needs to feel very much like an extension of your hand. If you have to move your hands to reach the different buttons, you’ve already lost. You’re not going to win, especially competitively, you’re not going to win.

 SteelSeries Unveils the Nimbus Game Controller for Apple TV.

Another thing to consider, mobile game tends to be in short bursts of gaming, then you walk away. With Apple gaming on the television, the implication is that you are going to game for hours. The controller needs to feel really comfortable in your hands. Those are the things that you don’t really see or feel, because if we’ve done our job, the controller will feel so comfortable you don’t even notice it. It is these little details that take a long time to craft, that take a lot of sweat and concentration. The comfort factor of the Nimbus is going to be amazing.

iPL: Indeed, this is great to hear, very reassuring. We all know that the more competitively one plays, the more movements become measured in microseconds and every microsecond counts. I’m glad to see SteelSeries continuing to blaze the trail when it comes to offering support for gaming on Apple's devices.

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Dig Om's picture

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech