A Game-Changer for Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s disruption of the gaming market was entirely inadvertent. The company merely provided a blank canvas for developers, who promptly turned iOS (and subsequently Android) into vibrant gaming platforms. Mobile gaming has become increasingly popular, which has helped contribute to a decline in handheld gaming device sales.

One way that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could have further reinforced this trend would have been to launch a first-party hardware controller, since some game genres don’t lend well to touchscreen controls. Apple creating such an accessory was always a remote possibility, but with iOS 7, the Mac maker is quietly doing the next best thing.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is preparing to expand its MFi Program, the licensing program for companies to make third-party accessories, to include support for third-party hardware game controllers for the first time. The company will introduce a new game controller framework for both iOS 7 and OS X 10.9, but iOS is a more robust gaming platform than OS X.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a strong ecosystem of third-party accessories to complement its products, and the move could spark a whole new category, further strengthening the platform as a whole. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android has long included support for hardware controllers, which has given it an advantage with certain types of games like first-person shooters.

NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) is also hoping to capitalize on the demand for such devices with Shield, which also runs on Android and leverages the company’s Tegra Zone that’s full of Android games optimized for its chipset. NVIDIA also sees Android’s openness as an important opportunity to disrupt the current model of gaming.