With Nvidia’s surprise entry into the console space, Aaron Carlisle looks at the recent spate of Android devices and wonders which will make it
There is no denying that this is an exciting time to be a gamer. We are across the threshold of a new console generation – kicked off by the Wii U – with releases from Microsoft and Sony certain to follow, and with Valve’s Steam Box rumors seemingly turning into fact. However, home consoles aren’t the only way in which our gaming is changing. Growth has also been seen on the mobile front with Android, iOS, and Windows 8 all pushing for control of our short attention spans.
There is one particular area, however, that is going through a sudden and explosive expansion right now – Android. While our homes were once dominated by powerful but closed-system consoles, this may soon change thanks to the open-source OS that was formerly restricted to mobile platforms.
By now many – if not all of us – have heard about Ouya, the upcoming console that will use the Android OS. This will be one of the first big pushes to bring the OS from the mobile space into the home for gaming. Many of the games that already exist on Android’s mobile devices could be easily ported over to the console, opening themselves up to an expanded market, one that perhaps doesn’t necessarily like playing on the go. While the Ouya console does have its work cut out for it – as pointed out by our own Kayla Bourque recently – the potential is huge.
As if trying to make it to market with quality content and hardware weren’t difficult enough, the Android gaming space is also becoming crowded. The recently announced Gamestick is also looking to break down the barriers between the mobile game space and our TVs. While Ouya is going with high design and flashy packaging, Gamestick is going for a more subtle approach. The console is no less unique, but it lacks the visual flair of Ouya, making up for that by focusing on easy pick-up-and-go gaming.
Both of these products are breaking new ground and causing excitement within the gaming community,but they are still subject to much uncertainty. Industry analyst Kevin Dent took to Twitter at the height of the Ouya hype to express his concerns with the quirky console.
He Tweeted his top ten reasons why the console will fail. Included among these reasons were, “Lack of developer buy in: there are no developers that JUST focus on Android because it does not monetize well. Open: they make rooting super easy, which means piracy will be super easy.”
While many of his concerns are valid, others, such as the “Lack of experience in the VG space”, are less of a hindrance. After all, many predicted the swift demise of the Xbox based on Microsoft’s lack of hardware experience.
Now with Nvida recently announcing Project Shield at CES, things look set to heat up even more. Rather than building a dedicated home console or mobile handset, Nvidia is merging the two. At first glance, the Shield appears to be simply a handheld – albeit one that looks like an Xbox controller with a screen attached. However, there is more to it than meets the eye as the Shield will also be able to wirelessly stream content via Steam with the use of a compatible PC.
While each of these three Android offerings are in some senses similar to one another, they each have their own benefits, too. Ouya aims to be the console you can add to your living room entertainment center without it being an eye-sore. This also comes at a slightly higher price ($99) tag when compared to Gamestick, which is expected to retail for $75.
Where Gamestick comes ahead is with its mobility and slim profile that can easily be slipped into one’s pocket. As the console itself resides on a flash stick with an HDMI port, it opens up the possibilities of where one can play.
However, it is not quite as mobile as Nvidia’s Shield, which is the only true mobile device of the three. This is also likely to be the most expensive of the three (although no price has yet been announced) but, with its strong brand and deep pockets, Nvidia may already be ahead of the game.
Breaking new ground and building a new ecosystem is never easy and it seems likely that none of the above will nail it on their first try. With the known lower price points of the Ouya and Gamestick, they stand a chance of being impulse purchases for many. Although if they end up without serious developer support, no price point may be low enough to save them. Nvidia, of the three has the most to prove and, with its likely higher price, it will also have the most to lose.
Follow Aaron on Twitter: @Acidbrn