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Monday, February 11, 2008, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Filing drops more hints at Apple gaming initiative

Rumors of an impending gaming initiative from Apple received a shot in the arm this past weekend with the company filing for an extension to its namesake trademark that would embody both handheld and console-based gaming entertainment systems.

The filing, first discovered by Trademork, seeks to protect the 'Apple' trademark in relation to International Class 028, which includes "hand-held units for playing electronic games; hand-held units for playing video games; stand alone video game machines; electronic games other than those adapted for use with television receivers only; LCD game machines; electronic educational game machines; [and] toys, namely battery-powered computer games."

The generic class description is not tailored specifically to Apple's ambitions, and could therefore simply represent a tardy attempt on the part of the Cupertino-based company to further protect existing assets such as its third-generation iPod nanos and fifth-generation iPods, both of which include support an increasing number of two dimensional arcade and trivia games.

That said, however, rumors of a broad gaming initiative from Apple have been rife for the better part of a year, fueled largely by comments from analysts and iPod game developer PopCap.

It all began last February when PopCap's Greg Canessa 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," he said. "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."

In the months that followed, PopCap would go on to release a web-based version of its widely successful Bejeweled title for the iPhone, which almost instantly drew over 100,000 hits. The response was so great that company mobile business development director Andrew Stein would later inform Reuters that his firm has set its sights on developing additional games that would run natively on the handset, presumably with help from Apple's iPhone SDK due out later this month.

"There are a lot of passionate Mac users here in the company. They looked at the iPhone and thought this would be really cool to do 'Bejeweled' on," Stein said. "We don't typically make announcements about what's in the pipeline, but based on the success of 'Bejeweled', we're looking pretty closely at the iPhone."

Apple Games


Analysts, like Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, would later latch on to this notion, saying they believe it's likely that Apple would soon spawn a new breed of games designed exclusively for its multi-touch enabled handheld devices.

"Rather than simply porting iPod games over to the touchscreen devices and making them available for purchase in the iTunes Store, we believe Apple is developing a new class of games that will make special use of the touchscreens," Munster advised clients in a December research report. "While such an announcement would be relatively insignificant, on a high level it is important to keep in mind that the iPhone has many capabilities that are not being fully utilized, and unique touch-based games are one example."

In its report on Apple's trademark extension this weekend, Trademork also pointed to AppleInsider's recent report on Apple's closely-guarded plan to adopt Intel's Silverthorne ultra-mobile platform for a new generation of ultra-compact and low-power devices, speculating that one such product could be a dedicated gaming device.

The extension request itself is awaiting examination.