Game Controllers

Game controllers can enhance gameplay and increase people's immersion in a game. A game controller can also navigate the Apple TV focus-based interface, eliminating the need to switch input devices.

Images of game controllers from SteelSeries, Xbox, and PlayStation.

Consider supporting both a game controller and the remote. A game controller is an optional purchase, but every Apple TV has a remote. If you support game controllers in your app, consider letting people use the remote as a game controller, too. In a driving game, for example, you could let people rotate and operate the remote in landscape mode.

Determine game controller requirements. If your game has advanced game mechanics that can’t be supported by the remote, you can require the use of a game controller. The App Store displays a "Game Controller Required" badge to help people identify such apps, and may warn people if they haven't paired a compatible game controller with their Apple TV.

Confirm required game controller connections at launch. People can open your game anytime, even when there’s no connected controller. If your app requires a game controller, check for its presence at launch and gracefully prompt people to connect one if necessary.

Help people understand the advantages of using a game controller with your app. If your app supports both the remote and game controllers, show people what they can do with a game controller that they can't do with the remote.

Test all supported input devices. Make sure menus and essential navigation work with any input devices your app supports so people don't need to keep switching devices as they use your app.

Buttons

Game controllers tend to offer similar sets of buttons arranged in various ergonomic ways. Here is one example.

Image of a SteelSeries game controller with callouts that indicate the locations of the controller's triggers, shoulder buttons, directional pad, and thumbsticks.

Ensure that controller buttons behave consistently and predictably within the context of your nongame app. Although people expect different games to map a controller's buttons in different ways, they tend to expect consistent button behavior in nongame apps. Here are the expected behaviors for all controller buttons except for the Menu and logo buttons, which are described next.

Button Expected behavior in a nongame app
Directional pad (D-pad) Moves focus.
A Activates a control or selects an item.
B Returns to previous screen.
Exits to Apple TV Home screen from an app's root-level screen.
X Activates media playback.
Pauses/resumes media playback.
Y N/A
Left shoulder/trigger Navigates left or moves focus.
Right shoulder/trigger Navigates right or moves focus.
Left thumbstick Navigates.
Moves focus.
Right thumbstick N/A

A controller with a single auxiliary button should support the following behaviors when people interact with the Menu button.

Interaction Expected behavior
Press Returns to previous screen or pauses a game
Long press Exits to Apple TV Home screen
Double press Reveals multitasking UI

A controller with multiple auxiliary buttons includes a logo button in addition to the Menu button. Such a controller should support the following behaviors when people interact with the logo and Menu buttons.

Button Interaction Expected behavior
Logo Press Reveals Control Center
Long press Exits to Apple TV Home screen
Double press Reveals multitasking UI
Menu Press Pauses a game

Support clickable thumbsticks when present. Some controllers include thumbsticks that people can click or hold down as well as rotate. These buttons — also known as L3 and R3 — typically let people modify the action that's enabled by rotating the thumbstick. For example, clicking or holding a left thumbstick that enables motion might let people move at a different speed; clicking or holding a right thumbstick that controls camera orientation might let people zoom in or "crouch." As you consider ways to support clickable thumbsticks, be guided by the behaviors that people expect in various game genres.

In general, prefer using the left thumbstick or D-pad button to move focus in the current screen. Typically, people don't expect to use the right thumbstick to perform focus navigation while in a game.

In general, avoid using triggers or shoulder buttons to perform UI navigation. Unless your game has a deeply nested UI that requires accelerated navigation, it's typically best to let people navigate by using the A and B buttons.

Customize onscreen instructions to match the connected game controller. Different controllers can use different colors or symbols to represent similar buttons. For example, on an Xbox controller, the B button is red; on an MFI controller, the same button is green. To avoid confusing people, refer to buttons using the connected controller's labeling scheme.

Let people use the Siri remote with your game, when possible. Remote > Buttons lists the behaviors people expect when using the Siri remote in a game.