Apple's "iDevices," including the iPhone and iPad, have been making major inroads into the mobile gaming space in recent years. Many kids are shifting to playing games on Apple's touchscreen phones and tablets at the expense of Nintendo's once-dominant handheld devices.
The only thing missing from Apple's devices and games have been physical buttons for controlling the on-screen action. Many players prefer the feel of physical button mashing when a game gets intense to having to touch a glass screen.
Epic Games CEO Donald Mustard speaks about "Infinity Blade 3" at the introduction of the iPhone 5S at Apple headquarters on Sept. 10, 2013. View Enlarged Image
But that's about to change. Apple added support for game controllers in its iOS 7 software release, which came out Sept. 18.
MacRumors and other websites took note of photos posted this week by Twitter user @evleaks, who is considered a reliable source, purporting to show a snap-on controller from Logitech. The gamepad case with standard control buttons is sized for Apple's iPhone 5 and newer smartphones and the fifth-generation iPod Touch.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple said it expected third-party game controllers for its iOS devices to come out in the fall. Apple game controllers, including standalone controllers and those built into iPhone enclosures, reportedly have been in the works at Logitech and Moga, among others.
Survey results out last month from the NPD Group showed a significant shift away from Nintendo's handhelds toward Apple and Google (GOOG) Android smartphones and tablets. NPD's survey of more than 4,200 kids ages 2 to 17 found that 26% play games on iPhones, up from 11% in 2011. By comparison, 25% of kids surveyed play games on Nintendo's DS devices, down from 37% two years ago. Gameplay on Apple iPads and Android smartphones and slates also showed growth.
The photos of an iPhone docked in a Logitech controller showed a gaming device that could provide an experience similar to an Sony (SNE) PlayStation Vita, though not as sleek and compact.
If Apple comes out with a larger screen iPhone next year, as expected, its portable gaming solution could be even more threatening to Nintendo and Sony.
At its recent iPhone 5S and 5C launch, Apple executives spent a significant amount of time talking up the gaming and graphics capabilities of their new handsets. Epic Games showcased its iOS game "Infinity Blade 3" at the Sept. 10 event.
By showing off a big title like "Infinity Blade 3," Apple was signaling to the world that it is "dead set on remaining the preeminent mobile-gaming ecosystem," CNET writer Nick Statt wrote last month.