Media & Entertainment

Ohio-Based Entrepreneur’s SketchParty TV Shows AirPlay’s Gaming Power, But The Tech Needs A Spotlight

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SketchParty TV is a game that essentially allows a group of people to play a version of Draw Something on a big screen in a party setting, usually with between four and six players. The AirPlay component works by allowing AirPlay Mirroring to turn your Apple TV-connected television or display into the easel for the game. A player gets the word they’re supposed to draw on their iPhone or iPad, and as they draw on the screen, that image appears (without the clue words) on the TV, allowing others to join in and guess.

The app earned high praise from tech bloggers including Federico Viticci and Jim Dalrymple of the Loop nearer to its original launch back in July last year, but overall the response from the general public has been more muted. SketchParty TV’s Braun explained in an interview that to date, SketchParty TV has seen only around 5,000 total downloads, which he says still has probably put the game in front of between 20,000 and 30,000 people, given that it’s meant to be used in a group setting.

Those “aren’t breathtaking numbers,” admits Braun, but the reviews have been positive and this seems to be more an issue of consumer education and getting the feature out there than any limitation of the AirPlay tech itself, Braun suggests.

“Apple has a lot of technology in their platform to encourage developers to support, and AirPlay Mirroring is a smaller piece of the equation than something like, say, iCloud,” he explained. “There’s also a consumer education component involved – right now it seems to be up to the savvy to disseminate the wonders of AirPlay to their friends by word of mouth. Or by showing off games like SketchParty TV.”

Others like Real Racing have embraced the two-screen Mirroring experience, but even the support of a major publisher like EA hasn’t pushed it into the spotlight, and Apple isn’t exactly crowing about the feature either. They advertised that AirPlay Mirroring made it possible to see the same thing on your TV as you’re watching on the iPhone or iPad, but there’s been no formal campaign to promote the fact that gamers can get a true, Wii U style dual-screen gaming experience from current apps with the tools available now.

“It’s been surprising to me that there are many people who have an Apple TV and an iOS device and are aware of the ability to send a video stream over AirPlay, or mirror the device display, but not of the ability to do second-screen to the television and show different content on each,” Braun said about the conspicuous absence of hype around the feature. “Personally, I’d love for Apple to give more love to the Apple TV – whether that means improvements to the current offering or some bold new direction like an actual HDTV set.”

Rumors still prevail that Apple is planning its own HDTV set, despite the fact that this has been rumored for years now. But if it does come true, that would provide a big reason for Apple to push more of its features. The other big question mark that remains centers around whether Apple might just open the Apple TV platform to third-party apps, which might minimize, though not eliminate, the benefits of having an AirPlay-connected game.

Braun says that the addressable market is large for this type of experience, ranging between 10 to 12 million by his calculations, and with plenty of growth potential thanks to the more than 300 million strong iOS user pool. It’s a bigger potential market than that represented by the current combined sales of all major home gaming consoles, in fact, with the provision that Apple needs to blanket more of those with the AirPlay component. One way or another, that’s a market that won’t go ignored for long.

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