What is Zenless Zone Zero, the spiritual successor to Genshin Impact, and why have 15 million people wishlisted it?

Pips and Pixels Zenless Zone Zero
(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.

Zenless Zone Zero was recently shown off very briefly at the Let Loose Apple event, with an entire three seconds of gameplay, just before moving to Assassin’s Creed Mirage, both of which are suggested to launch soon. However, despite getting mere moments of footage, the ZZZ Reddit had hundreds of people analyzing the clip, to get as much information as possible. You may not know this if you follow the more traditional AAA game cycle of big companies like Ubisoft, Sony, and Bethesda, but Zenless Zone Zero is one of the most anticipated games in the world right now. We’ll get into why that is when we talk a little more about the specs of Apple’s next major Pro tablet, the iPad Pro M4. 

In addition, this week saw Provenance, a new Sony, Nintendo, and Atari emulator available as a beta on iPads, iPhones, and Apple TV. This is huge news for the emulation scene and makes me quite excited to see what creatives will do with these new consoles at their disposal. 

Finally, the Apple Pencil Pro just got announced and I can’t wait to see how that might work in Apple Vision Pro. Apple is looking pretty well set up for an interesting year of gaming, it just needs the right support. 

Read on for the rundown.

This week's Apple gaming news

1. Apple’s new M4 chip blows M3 out of the water in early benchmark leaks — M4 iPad Pro could be faster than an M3 Pro MacBook

In a bit of a surprise, this year’s iPad Pro is equipped with a beefy M4 chip, skipping the fairly recent M3 altogether. In recent benchmarks, the M4 chip’s multi-core performance scored 25% higher than the M3 chip and even seems to be faster than the M3 Pro. These are incredible scores that will ensure the M4 iPad Pro’s spot in the best iPads out there. 

Though this power will help productivity apps and creative suites, I can’t help but wonder what exactly it will do for gaming. In the clip we mentioned above (which is at 8:04 in Apple’s upload of the event) both Zenless Zone Zero and Assassin’s Creed Mirage are shown off, and this is only with the M2-equipped iPad Air. Though one might assume the iPad version of Assassin’s Creed is the bigger mention, it is not. Zenless Zone Zero is the follow-up to Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail, two incredibly popular free-to-play RPGs with slot machine-like Gacha mechanics. Where Genshin Impact’s world takes after fantasy, and Honkai Star Rail is inspired by sci-fi, ZZZ is a more urban take on the RPG genre. In it, you play a Proxy, someone whose job is to explore other dimensions with horrors, in order to recruit new members and level up your team. 

The previous two games are not only incredibly competently made RPGs with defined art styles and hundreds of hours of gameplay, but they also have tonnes of personality and give players the chance to interact and perform cooperative actions in multiplayer. That “Gacha” mechanic, where you have to spend currency to roll a random chance of getting a certain character, is incredibly engaging for many, and keeps them coming back and spending more money. Like Fortnite or Call of Duty Warzone: Mobile, it’s a live service title that changes constantly and sees new events all the time. Given its monetization system and appeal to a more “casual” fanbase, it doesn’t tend to receive the same acclaim that other games get but, with over 15 million wishlists, it will be huge when it launches this year, and the iPad will be an excellent way to play it. 

Zenless Zone Zero

(Image credit: Zenless Zone Zero)

2. PlayStation emulator Provenance now available for Apple TV users in beta — and its next major update will support a classic Sony handheld

Delta is a very impressive emulator but Provenance is the one I’ve been waiting for. As said in my column about it a few weeks ago, Provenance is an emulator capable of running the PlayStation, which is one of my favorite eras of gaming. The blocky graphical aesthetic, the unique style of music — games of this era worked around the limitations of tech in fascinating ways and, as we can see from the best free Delta games, there’s a market for developers creating experiences on older digital machines. 

It is finally in beta via Apple’s TestFlight, which means that budding developers and creatives can finally start implementing their PS1-style games on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. It’s not exactly going to get the most out of the new M4 chip, but it should still be a great way to fill up a couple of hundred megabytes. 

3. Apple Pencil Pro made me care about gyroscopes for the first time since that fake beer-drinking app

Apple Pencil Pro, with unique squeeze features and Find My, is a very impressive upgrade from the Apple Pencil 2  but these aren’t the features that impress me most. I found myself wondering how the new gyroscope and haptic feedback could work in the future and I think it could make for a powerful Apple Vision Pro experience. The gyroscopic element means your device can tell what angle you are holding the Pencil at and the haptic feedback could allow for unique rumble and friction as you hit something. This means that drawing on a huge easel in a virtual space or even playing puzzle games like “stitch.” could be entirely possible with the device. It would need support from developers and Apple itself but this feels like an excellent way to use what seems set to be a very nice device. 

Gaming news from our friends

Hi-Fi Rush fans mourn studio closure despite critical acclaim and millions of players: “what hope is there for anyone?” from GamesRadar

Microsoft, just this week, has made the decision to close a handful of its studios. These include Tango Gameworks, the studio set up by legendary horror developer Shinji Mikami, Arkane Austin, who recently released Redfall, and Alpha Dog Games, who made Mighty Doom. Roundhouse Studios will be merged into ZeniMax Online Studios, which are responsible for The Elder Scrolls Online. 

The Evil Within 1 and 2, which were developed by Tango Gameworks, are two of my favorite horror games of the last two decades, and Hi-Fi Rush, another recent effort from the team, was a critical darling. Arkane Austin is known for creating the first Dishonored game, as well as working on Prey, Deathloop, and more. This closure was not only a horrible surprise for the hundreds of developers involved with the teams but also crushing for many other developers. One particularly biting Tweet said “It's ironic how the plot of Hi-Fi Rush is that it's about teaming up to take down a megacorporation and Tango Gameworks just got shutdown

Congrats Microsoft, You proved the game right”

Indie devs react to Hades 2’s stealth launch: “Good thing we picked a quiet news week to launch a video game” from GamesRadar

Hades 2, the follow-up to one of the best Mac games of all time, has just surprise launched into early access and has already managed to make its way to the very top of the Steam charts. I haven’t had the chance to dive in yet but GamesRadar’s early access review heavily praised it for its narrative ambitions and excellent combat. 

Though it’s wonderful to see the game doing so well, many indie developers are worried the huge launch will overshadow their work, taking up much of the conversation around games for the foreseeable future. 

Richie De Wit, a video game consultant said “I’m happy a sequel of a massive indie game is doing well, but can we collectively stop doing shadow drops for majorly anticipated games?

It is, respectfully, a massive f*ck you to your peers who have had to squeeze the most out of (in most cases) minimal marketing budgets.”

Calendar: May's Big Game Releases

Crow Country

(Image credit: Crow Country)
  • Animal Well, the first game from YouTuber VideoGameDunkey's new publisher has just launched and it seems set to be one of the best games of the month. Our friends at GamesRadar said it is "an endlessly inventive Metroidvania with unfathomable depth" in its 4.5-star review
  • I've spoken above about my love of PlayStation One-style games and Crow Country seems to be the fix I'm looking for. An isometric horror set in a theme park, it takes inspiration from Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and a whole ton of excellent horror games. I played the Steam Next Fest demo of this a few months ago and love not only the aesthetic but the atmosphere. 
Swipe to scroll horizontally
GamesRelease DatePlatformsPlayable on Apple?
Abiotic FactorMay 2PCNot Natively
IndikaMay 2PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PCNot 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
Read Only Memories: NeurodiverMay 16PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PCYes
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2May 21Xbox Series X, PCNot Natively

Level Up — Gaming accessories on our radar

A good gaming keyboard will not only help you get better at the best Mac games but will allow you to play for longer, thanks to their fantastic durability, ease of use, and great sound. The Keychrone Q1 HE, with customizable Hall Effect switches and easy customization, is an excellent choice for any Mac gamer. 

Keychron Q1 HE | $199 at Keychron

Keychron Q1 HE | $199 at Keychron

In our glowing 5-star review of the Keychron Q1 HE, we said “If you're looking for a mechanical keyboard that excels in productivity and gaming, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better option.” it’s a bit pricey but more than makes up for its cost with excellent build quality and design. 

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:

Mini Motorways is a game I decided to try out after really enjoying Mini Metro+ in my column last week. It’s a surprisingly satisfying puzzle game all about building motorways between central locations. The goal is to get all cars to the right location with pileups and that level of strategy could get quite stressful if it wasn’t just so fun to play. It also works perfectly with Apple Pencil — great for the launch of the Apple Pencil Pro and new iPad Pro M4 next week. 

Turmoil originally launched way back in 2016 on Steam but Turmoil+, the Apple Arcade edition, has lost none of its charm. A simulation game that places you in the role of an oil prospector, you have to set up rigs, silos, and drills to collect the most oil and create efficient networks to get as much money as possible. 

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.