Could VR gaming save Apple Vision Pro? These new releases point to a future Apple may not have anticipated — or wanted

Pips and Pixels Vacation Simulator
(Image credit: Future)
Pips and Pixels

Pips and Pixels Boxout

(Image credit: Future)

Pips and Pixels is a new column from James Bentley, iMore's resident gaming expert, discussing all things gaming in the Apple ecosystem. Pips and Pixels explores the latest news, accessories, and titles you might have missed out on, and brings you commentary from the leading developers in the app market. As recent advancements in the Apple Silicon M processors and the brand new A17 Bionic chip show, Apple is becoming more serious about gaming. James looks to the rest of the games industry to see what could be next for Apple gamers.

Apple Vision Pro has been out for a few months now, and while it’s a very impressive headset, lackluster sales performance and a lack of developer support have held it back somewhat. With one of the most iconic traditional VR games launching on the headset with fully immersive environments, this could open the floodgates to much more traditional gaming experiences on Apple’s headset. 

As well as this, a third-generation iPod prototype has been found with a Tetris clone on it called “Stacker”. To think that the best iPhones now are capable of running gaming experiences like Resident Evil Village, Genshin Impact, and Death Stranding shows just how serious Apple has gotten about its handheld devices. 

Finally, we have heard a little more about the Baldur’s Gate 3 team’s next game. Having produced one of the best Mac games and one of the best iPad games, Larian is an excellent studio and we’re hoping its next major project has Apple support.

Read on for the rundown.

This week's Apple gaming news

1. Apple Vision Pro has just received two of VR’s most popular games — “now optimized for hand-and-eye tracking”

Olwchemy Labs has just launched both Job Simulator and Vacation Simulator on Apple Vision Pro, with immersive environments, eye tracking, and hand tracking. Unlike What the Golf? and some of the best spatial games, this doesn’t place the screen in your physical space. Instead, it puts you in an entirely digital environment. The risk of you accidentally bumping into your plants goes up but so does your immersion. 

Though these games will be a lot of fun to test out in Apple’s spatial headset, their launch is bigger than just a new game launch because it’s a sign that Apple Vision Pro is worth more traditional VR game companies adapting their games for it. Getting a game working on there isn’t the same as just porting to another device or store platform. Given it doesn’t have any physical controls, games need to be built from the ground up with eye and hand tracking in mind. 

In addition, both games are set in an immersive environment, which is a sign that more traditional VR games can work in a more conceptual sense. The spatial element of the headset isn’t always necessary to get applications working and a long-time VR gamer will still have a familiar experience here.

Apple has very specifically never called the Apple Vision Pro a VR headset and this is for a reason. At its heart, it is envisioned as a productivity “spatial headset” — something you would wear around the house as you do office work or watch TV. The games thus far have mostly fit this model, being quite arcadey and taking up a physical space you can simply walk away from. However, Apple Vision Pro has some of the best specs in the entire market, making it great for dedicated VR experiences. Hopefully, if these do well, we could see more VR games on the headset. 

2. Prototype iPod reveals a Tetris clone that was never released

A cute bit of nostalgia, a prototype third-generation iPod from 2003 has been found, and it comes with a Tetris clone called Stacker. Tetris didn’t officially launch on the iPod until 2006, so this seems like it could have just been a way of testing the processing power of that old iPod. 

This is a fun story to come out now, given that the best iPhones right now are excellent little emulation machines, thanks to the slew of emulators that have launched on the App Store over the last few weeks. It’s always important to remember how far devices have come in such a short time and this really shows the advancement Apple has made. 

Gaming news from our friends

Baldur’s Gate 3 studio’s next RPG is officially codenamed Excalibur, but even its director doesn’t know “what the hell it is” from GamesRadar

With excellent titles behind it like Baldur’s Gate 3, Divinity: Original Sin, and Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios is finally starting to talk a little about its next project. Though the codename for the project is “Excalibur”, the director behind it hasn’t quite figured out what it even is. The team has ideas about what it looks like but not much more than that. 

"if anyone from Larian at this point tells you this is what the game is going to be, they're lying. They don't know because we're trying a whole bunch of things. We have ideas, but we're an iterative company. So we iterate. We're trying things. We're experimenting." Larian is well-regarded for its Apple ports so we hope Excalibur will get the same treatment when it arrives. 

Calendar: May's Big Game Releases

F1 24

(Image credit: Formula 1)
  • What If..? An Immersive Story has just launched on Apple Vision Pro. Somewhere between a video game and a movie, it uses the space around you to tell stories from the What If..? Marvel spinoff series. 
  • Though I've never been a huge fan of the series, F1 24 has just launched and looks to be a continuation of what fans are looking for. Our friends over at PCGamer gave it 74% in its review, liking many of its mechanics but criticizing its lack of a story mode.
Swipe to scroll horizontally
GamesRelease DatePlatformsPlayable on Apple?
Abiotic FactorMay 2PCNot Natively
IndikaMay 2PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PCNot Natively
Hades 2May 6PCNot Natively
V RisingMay 8PlayStation 5, PCNot Natively
Imagine EarthMay 9Mac PortYes
Animal WellMay 9PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PCNot Natively
Crow CountryMay 9PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PCNot Natively
Little Kitty Big CityMay 9Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PCNot Natively
Athenian RhapsodyMay 14PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PCNot Natively
Dread DelusionMay 14PCNot Natively
Lorelei and the Laser EyesMay 16PC, Nintendo SwitchNot Natively
Caves of LoreMay 16Mac portYes
Read Only Memories: NeurodiverMay 16PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PCYes
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2May 21Xbox Series X, PCNot Natively
MultiversusMay 28PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PCNot Natively
What If...? An Immersive StoryMay 30Apple Vision ProYes
F1 24May 31PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, PCNot Natively

Level Up — Gaming accessories on our radar

A good iPhone controller is an excellent choice for anyone who is serious about gaming. Be it for playing Assassin’s Creed Mirage when that lands next month, or just to get your dailies done in Genshin Impact, you will want something comfortable to use and easy to play. Luckily, we have just the thing. 

GameSir G8 Galileo | $99.99$79.83 at Amazon

GameSir G8 Galileo | $99.99 $79.83 at Amazon

One of few iPhone gaming controllers to get a full 5 out of 5 stars from us, we adored the Gamesir G8 Galileo in our review, praising how comfortable it is and how great the controls are. It is now $20 off too, making it even better. 

Hitting the Arcade — What to play on Apple Arcade

Pips and Pixels Hitting the Arcade

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Arcade is filled with tons of exclusive experiences and fantastic games. However, with so many out there, it can be hard to decide what to play. Here are a few choices I've been testing out this week:

I’ve been looking for a short quick arcade-like game to eat up some of my time as I’m waiting and A Slight Chance of Sawblades+ does that very well. With only a few buttons, you have to move and jump around sawblades that are hurtling straight at you to get the highest score possible. 

I’ve also been revisiting Disney Dreamlight Valley recently, Disney’s Animal Crossing-like title all about harvesting resources, doing quests for iconic figures, and unlocking new lands to explore. It has a predictable yet fun gameplay loop and a very charming cast. 

Have you played any great games this week or seen some interesting Apple gaming news we've missed? Let us know in the comments!

James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.