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Tuesday, March 06, 2007, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple TV to dual as casual gaming device?

Apple's much anticipated Apple TV wireless set-top box will not only stream various types of media from Macs and PCs to widescreen TVs, but also serve as a casual gaming hub, the company appears to have inadvertently confirmed.

In releasing iTunes 7.1 on Monday, Apple began prepping users for the release of the $299 device, which was originally due in February but delayed at the last minute to the middle of March. The software will act as the central go-between for the hub and media stored on a personal computer, allowing users to sync movies, videos, podcasts and photos to the Apple TV in very much the same way they currently do with iPods. Similarly, they'll also be able run Apple TV in disk mode for manual file swapping.

What Apple has not yet said, but is quite apparent from Monday's iTunes release, is that Apple TV will also sport some rudimentary gaming capabilities. "Are you sure you want to sync games? All existing games on the Apple TV," reads a localized string file hidden in the software. Another reads, "Some of the games in your iTunes library were not copied to the Apple TV [...] because they cannot be played on this Apple TV."

In total, iTunes 7.1 includes a little over a dozen text strings relating to game management on the new Apple device. In addition to syncing, the strings offer user prompts for various other operations such as removing games, preventing unauthorized games from making the sync, and warning users when their Apple TV can no longer accept new games due to a lack of space.

The findings in the new iTunes release, while shy of an official endorsement, arrive on the heels of similar Apple TV-related gaming clues dropped by Apple and its partners over the last several weeks. It began with Greg Canessa of PopCap games, an official iPod game developer, who last month told Wired that he was in the process of taking his firm's the "stable of franchises and games" and customizing them for different platforms, including Apple TV.

"[Casual games] are going to continue to grow into non-core demographics," Canessa told the technology magazine. "This is relevant as it pertains to devices that are not currently earmarked as gaming devices: mobile, set-top boxes, Apple TV, MP3 players and other devices in the home that will reach the non-gamer —  people who don’t think they want to play."

Apple TV Gaming Strings

Apple TV gaming strings found in iTunes 7.1


In the weeks that followed Canessa's apparent slip-up, readers of AppleInsider noted that Apple had been canvassing local institutions in search of junior additions to its internal game development workforce. In one particular instance, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design reported receiving an e-mail from a recruiter working directly for Cupertino-based company who was seeking interns for a summer program would be tasked with creating "consistent, high quality 3D and 2D art for games." A similar, but programming related proposition, was issued to the computer science students at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Although Apple has not commented publicly on its Apple TV gaming plans, it's believed that users of the device will need to purchase games on a Mac or PC through the company's iTunes Store and then transfer them to the media hub.