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Apple TV to offer online games?

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Could Apple be preparing a move into the digital games business? Engadget thinks so. A “trusted tipster” has informed the site of several references to gaming in the iOS 4.3 beta 3 firmware code. While it is impossible to say for sure, lines like “com.apple.appletv.play.live.thunder” and “.play.archive.thunder,” sprinkled throughout the code may refer to controllers, a leaderboard system, multiplayer scheduling, and an iTunes-like game storefront.

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OnLive is the only service that currently streams games and the company claims it has fundamental patents on the technology behind their distribution system. Has Apple found a way around these patents? More importantly, is the company planning on streaming or simply downloading games? The current Apple TV model isn’t exactly built for gaming in any shape or form, but the 2011 model could be.

Sadly, that’s all we know at this point. The code has us speculating on features could and may exist, but it’s a longshot to actually try and decipher what Apple’s intentions are with its code. For all we know, an intern threw this code in on the day he got fired for playing too much Xbox at work. Or perhaps Apple has intentions with gaming, but never actually follows through. Apple is one of the most focused companies around. If it plans to start competing in the home gaming  space, OnLive, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have reason to worry. We may have a fifth legitimate contender entering the fray.