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Android-based GameStick won't replace your Xbox... not yet, anyway Exclusive
Android-based GameStick won't replace your Xbox... not yet, anyway
January 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose

Will 2013 be the year of the Android home console? It will certainly be the year that various startups around the world have a crack at it, with multiple takes on the concept set to launch in the coming months.

We're all aware of the Ouya, of course -- a tiny box meant to sit alongside your Xboxes, PlayStations and Wiis, that funnels Android games directly through to your television.

Then there's the Green Throttle wireless game controller, which aims to turn your Android mobile device instantly into a game console. Each solution is just cheap enough such that it may well be worth checking out whether you're hugely interested or not.

PlayJam's GameStick, revealed earlier this week, is looking to trump the competition in as many areas as possible, as quickly as possible.

If size matters to you, the GameStick may well be for you: It's but the size of a USB stick, and will slot either directly into the back of your TV, or into the supplied Bluetooth controller. If you're all about grabbing a bargain, PlayJam's hardware is $79 -- $20 cheaper than the Ouya.

As for games, PlayJam says that the device will work with at least 200 Android titles from launch, although the team reckons that its GameStick can handle thousands of different Android-based titles thanks to different "modes" that the Bluetooth controller can launch into, acting as either a joystick, a mouse or a keyboard.

"The affordable games revolution has brought on the age of affordable gaming," says Anthony Johnson, CMO at PlayJam.

gamestick 1.jpg"GameStick is not going to replace the Xbox any time soon in terms of core gaming, but that is not our aim today," he adds. "We want to leverage the TV, the thousands of great games available today and a fully featured controller to create a console-like games experience without the associated price tag."

Johnson is well aware of the Ouya and the effort that PlayJam needs to put in to overcome the hype surrounding the competition. Notably the GameStick is due to launch in April -- the same month that the Ouya is released to consumers.

"Competition is great," he says. "We are the proof, I suppose, as in the short time that Android games consoles have started to come through, we have been able to develop even further and push the boundaries in terms of manufacturing to create a powerful yet extremely portable device."

But what of fragmentation? The Android platform is already known for its awful spread of OS versions and ranging resolution sizes, meaning that developers have to plan ahead for multiple different versions if they want to release on Android. Won't multiple Android consoles running various different setups result in an even worse scenario?

Says Johnson, "With regards to fragmentation there are two approaches: One, to create a device that 'should' technically work with any game in the Play Store. Or two, to ensure that only games that are fully compatible are available on your device, thereby providing a great user experience every time."

PlayJam is opting for the latter, locking out any titles that don't fully work with the provided control scheme.

"This way we know that the consumer will be getting great content that works seamlessly with the GameStick and our network," he says. "This will of course involve only a light touch from developers in terms of key-mapping and simple billing options to make their games for GameStick."

Interesting parties can pre-order a GameStick by pledging to the GameJam Kickstarter -- a campaign which is rapidly approaching its goal of $100,000 with only 24 hours of crowdfunding under its belt.

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Lyon Medina
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I honestly think the step in gaming is a television that is a gaming console, or in Microsofts case, a fully fledged out media center. The only place left to go for consoles are into the TV's them selves, or at the very least having some type of inter-connection.

One idea I have always palyed around with is having one console for the entire house that wirelessly tramits the game to every tv. So that way regadless of what room your in the game can be moved from place to place.

David Campbell
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As appealing as that idea always seems on the surface, I can't see much logic in it other than some minor convenience. It just doesn't make sense to shoulder the cost of replacing a perfectly good screen in an effort to upgrade the internals. A good TV should well outlast the tech we want to put on it, so best it remain a pure output device.

Maybe when cloud gaming advances a bit farther along, we can look into TVs being quality streaming devices since hardware upgrades won't be as important user-side anymore. I think we have a ways to go for that though (quality broadband coverage maybe the biggest limiting factor).

I think in the short-term I'd be more interested in TVs just having better communication w/ the devices used on them. Something like a standardized API maybe. Seems crazy that in 2013 I'm still hunting for manufacturer codes over IR to get my digital device's remote to work w/ my TV.

Joel Nystrom
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I've also felt like Lyon the past couple of years, but David brings up a good point with investing in really good TV screens without locking you in to tech that will outdate quickly.

However, I think that's merely logic. And we all know that logic is not sexy. I STILL believe that even with the risk of being stuck with quickly outdated tech, Smart TV's will completely replace consoles before soon.

Remember there is ALOT more R&D being pumped into mobile/low-power tech etc than in 'traditional' GPU tech, so to be significantly better looking than mobile gfx in, say, 2014, the console would probably have to be even more expensive than they are today. And conversely, an expensive TV can eat up alot of the cost of the added ARM chip, so the difference in price between a 'smart' TV and a dumb one will be less and less.

Tom Baird
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The TV eating the cost of the ARM chip would be a solution opposite the issue brought up by David Cambell.

The fact that the shelf-life of a TV is much longer than the 'Smart' part of it means that you are potentially chopping years off the shelf-life of the TV. This is good for Sony, and other TV manufacturers, but overall a negative impact for customers, since you would be required to buy a whole new TV to use cutting edge smart features.

Also the reasons for an ARM chip compared to more PC-like architecture in mobile devices has to do with battery usage, and so a TV would be more likely to mimic an existing console or PC rather than a mobile device, since those chips are designed to fix problems a TV doesn't have. And simply eating the cost of the processor, ignores all the other parts that make a computer work (RAM, Storage, I/O ports, etc...).

Lastly, why would a 'Smart TV' be in the power range of a mobile device, rather than a current or next generation console, which is what is currently powering the smarter elements of your TV?

GameViewPoint Developer
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I've been saying throughout most of 2012 that App stores on TV's are going to replace consoles. Everything seems to be hinting at that.

Gennadiy Potapov
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First they must somehow convince Android game developers to add support for their gamepads/platforms.

Alan Rimkeit
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Not interested. I also am not really interested in Ouya either, though it is still on my radar. I am wanting to see more on the Steam box. That has my largest attention. Even more so than PS4. Come on Valve, hook us up with more details.

Dave Long
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I take issue with the whole "The affordable games revolution has brought on the age of affordable gaming," - we've had cheap or free, android-quality (and often far better) games on PC since the early 1990s. This'll be the first time on the TV in large numbers though. Good luck to 'em :).

Pallav Nawani
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'Affordable games' are generally not so good for the people who make them, but great for the company that has a monopoly on the consumer...