Posts tagged Gamestick
There have been three major venues for video game playing in the history of video game playing: the arcade, the home, and in your pants…pocket. Your smartphone. So…mobile. The popular science fiction trend goes that computer hardware begins big (UNIVAC) and ends up teeny-tiny (nanobots in your bloodstream) which insinuates that as technology progresses through time, the ability to process numbers becomes easier to do in increasingly smaller packages. Frames get smaller; power gets bigger.
Seemingly intent to kick this trajectory in the nuts, recent history has unveiled to us three (that we know of) new *ahem* home consoles for gaming enthusiasts. These new devices aren’t more powerful than the XBOX 360 or the PlayStation 3, and can’t even hold a candle to PC gaming power. Instead, they’re sporting Android as an operating system, and have more in common with those “36 Games In What Looks Like An Old School Atari 2600 Joystick!” devices you see in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart than they do with the current crop of home consoles.
First, there was Ouya, which is a small box running Android Jelly Bean. It went from “I doubt it” to “holy hell it’s real!” pretty quickly when developers actually got their kits and started working with it. Then came the Gamestick, which looks like some hipster-rendered art house minimalist gamepad all-in-one system, also running Android Jelly Bean. Today, we hear that Nvidia wants in on this ultra-mini console “revolution” with it’s Shield, sporting not just an “OS in the gamepad”, but a built-in screen, which I assume gives the device it’s name. Guess what? It runs Android Jelly Bean!
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I like the march of time to improve on my gaming experiences, not set the industry back a decade or two. This whole initiative to put Android on everything strikes me as a tad bit silly. The gaming sector isn’t immune to the Bubble Effect, and I think we’re in one now. The social gaming bubble as deflated, if not outright burst, leaving mobile as the latest basket into which companies are putting their eggs. Developing for a smartphone market makes sense because it’s a new frontier, and because everyone has one. What these consoles are looking to do is to marry the zeitgeist of mobile development with a corner of the industry that primarily mobile developers traditionally had no chance of cracking: the living room. With the cost of developing for Big Console being whatever it is, coupled with the crappy consideration the gatekeepers give to indie and small developers, the Ouya, Gamestick, and Shield seem like homeruns: it’s spit in the eye of the corporate giants who have dominated the console space for so long.
But who really cares? Now, that’s kind of broad; I can think of some ways in which I care, but stepping back, what’s the market for these things? PC gamers? The Shield has a Tegra 4 chip (which PC gamers will swoon over), and there’s claims that it’ll (eventually) allow you to stream your Steam Big Picture session from your PC to your TV or the built in screen. OnLive 2.0, I suppose. But really, I don’t think PC gamers will give up their titanic rigs for clown cars like these. How about console gamers? Just to let you know, I’m laughing my ass of right now at the thought, even though you can’t see or hear me, so let’s leave it at that. How about your mother? The one who bought an iPhone because everyone at her Pilates class had one, or Android because you browbeat her into it (even though she doesn’t know a widget from her elbow)? Those kinds of people don’t buy their smartphones for the apps; they buy phones which happen to run apps.
I suppose the ubergeek culture will dive right into these, spouting off how “hackable” they are, and they’ll fawn over the dawn of Android as a “major player” in a space that’s new to it. They’ll probably sell a lot of them. But Nintendo sold a lot of Wii consoles, and I could ask for a show of hands as to how many people are still in love with theirs, but I think that would essentially prove my point too well.