I'm not the kind of guy who would ever discourage a new console developer from entering the video game market. In fact, I would probably actively encourage it, even if I knew it was a bad idea—market shakeups are always fun to watch. But ever since the Ouya's Kickstarter campaign hit the net, I've had this queasy feeling in my gut about where upstart console developers seem to think the market is going.
I love playing games on my iPhone. In fact, if the police knew how often I played Angry Birds while driving, I'd probably have my license suspended and my phone taken away. Though, to be fair, I never plan on slingshotting any angry birds while my foot is on the gas, but sometimes stoplights are shorter than you expect, and those damn pigs aren't going to kill themselves. However, the vast majority of mobile titles are far too monotonous to justify more than a round or two when your editor thinks you're working on an article. Even the most impressive mobile titles tend to get old quickly. And this is what concerns me.
See, one of the reasons that the Ouya looks so impressive is that the little console will have dozens, if not hundreds, of titles in its library on launch day. The Ouya runs on Android, Google's open source mobile platform, which means that many of the existing titles in the Android marketplace can be quickly scaled to the Ouya’s specifications. But is that what gamers are looking for? Do we want to sit in our living room and plan smartphone games on our television?
Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to giving the Ouya a chance, but yesterday a new Android-based console was announced, and my gut is starting to feel queasy again.
If you haven't already heard the news, a little company called PlayJam has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of an incredibly tiny console called GameStick. GameStick is about the size of a USB thumb drive and actually fits inside of a recessed compartment in the accompanying control pad. When it's plugged into the HDMI port of your television, it becomes a fully-functional, Android-based console.
It's extremely impressive. Plus the whole unit is only $79, which makes it $20 cheaper than the Ouya.
So, before the Ouya has even made it onto the market, we're already seeing a competitive console with exactly the same smartphone-based gaming philosophy. As you may have already guessed, I'm a little skeptical.
However, I am looking forward to the opportunities that that GameStick and the Ouya will bring to indie developers. And, as long as these unassuming little consoles aren't entirely stocked with smartphone games that I'm already bored with, I'm completely sold.
Date: January 3, 2013