03
Jan
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Stop me if you've heard this one before: An Android-powered <game console / TV / toaster> that's  <buzz-phrase> and will <more buzz, with gratuitous usage of 'revolutionize'> and change <your life / entertainment / socks> FOREVER.

I have my own personal skepticism around Kickstarter projects to begin with, so bear with the cynical jabs. GameStick is an Android gaming console on a USB stick, and it just reached its $100,000 Kickstarter funding goal. Go ahead and listen to the pitch video. In fact, I'll transcribe the first part for you, because it's just so... nauseating.

So we were really frustrated by the TV gaming space. It was really clunky - big consoles, big controllers, wires everywhere, and the ecosystems were completely closed. So we wanted to blow that apart with a really beautiful product; something really simple, really elegant, on a completely open operating environment. We call it GameStick.

So, you're frustrated by the TV gaming space? That's interesting, because last I checked, the TV gaming space was prettily happily humming along (if slowly shrinking) as a multi-billion dollar business with three very competitive players, one of whom just released a new console that's probably the most innovative thing to happen to consoles in a decade. The other two have new consoles coming out this / next year.

Granted, it's very hard to break in to this space because of the massive overhead involved in producing a console, and getting worthwhile publishers on board. That's probably frustrating. But does that actually mean there is something wrong with the industry? That's pretty big leap to make in my mind, and it's exactly why I'm highly skeptical of GameStick, Ouya, and anything else claiming to be the next "disruptive force" in this arena.

GameStick's next assertion is the one that really boggles my mind, though - that traditional consoles are 'clunky.' Because they're big, and so are their controllers. And they use wires. GOD, NO - NOT WIRES! If you believe that the average person's real problem with video game consoles stems from the fact that they're the size of a few 13" laptops stacked together and use cords to connect to a television, I can't say I'm particularly confident you really understand what it is consumers want in a home gaming system.

The ability to take a console wherever you go would be nice, sure, and not dealing with various video/audio I/O tangles would also be a big plus. Fewer wires is obviously where consoles will go in the future anyway, though. It makes sense. It may also take a while, because the necessary standards have not yet been established. But saying a USB stick with Bluetooth is the answer to that conundrum is like saying a bicycle is the answer to emissions from big rigs. It doesn't make sense. I'm not saying the GameStick is trying to completely replace the full-sized console - and neither are they - but their product's premise asks consumers to make some major sacrifices to gain benefits that, frankly, can never outweigh the costs. It's not like consoles are big and use wires simply because the industry is lazy, guys. There are - surprise of surprises - technical considerations involved in that sort of decision.

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And big controllers? Really? That's an issue? News to me.

The next bit is about making a "beautiful ... simple ... elegant" product. Whoa, for a second there I thought Jony Ive took the mic. Thankfully, Jasper has hair, so the confusion was short-lived.

Finally, the standard "open <ecosystem / environment / platform>" comment, because it runs Android. Because Android's the only free OS out there with compatible content worth a damn, and choosing anything but Android would be monumentally stupid. And because open's always better no matter what, right? There's not word one about the Play Store or Google services, though, so don't count on any of that - hooray for proprietary app stores, because they're so open.

There's little here to separate the GameStick from the growing pile of Android on-a-sticks on the market. It runs an Amlogic dual-core A9 processor with a Mali 400MP GPU (a pretty good GPU, to be sure), Android Jelly Bean with some sort of proprietary overlay, and uses a Bluetooth gamepad that looks pretty unexciting.

And when it does end up in consumers' hands, it may very well please some people, at least for the low, low price of $80 if you buy during the Kickstarter. But the fact of the matter is that mobile hardware is advancing at such a rapid pace that it will quickly be lapped by quicker chips, more demanding games, and whatever the next big and exciting Android-powered Kickstarter super-thing is. It will in all likelihood end up a forgotten product, and I'll be surprised if the fickle tech media gives it a second wave of coverage when it ships (I doubt we will). Ouya has stolen the limelight of the "Android game console" niche for the foreseeable future, and I'd say its chances of succeeding are still slim at best.

So, why has the GameStick generated $116,000 of backing at the time of this writing? Well, because people like the concept of a stick that runs Android and plays games, I guess. And make no mistake, that's what you're paying for on Kickstarter: a concept.

But even that amount isn't actually very much in the grand scheme - they've only actually had orders pledged for around 1250 GameSticks at the time of this writing, nowhere near the quantity needed to actually be viable in the marketplace (or make it worth developers' while to bring more titles), let alone disrupt it. Even ten times that many orders would still just be scratching on the surface of relevance.

Sorry GameStick, a nice video and a 3D printer may get you off the ground, but when you strip away the pitch, your product's a tiny Android computer on a USB stick bundled with a Bluetooth gamepad - two things that are already well-represented out there. I struggle to see even an evolution of TV gaming here, let alone a revolution.

Kickstarter

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://twitter.com/Defenestratus Defenestratus

    "Proves that people will throw their money at basically anything"

    Well, duh.

    How else do you describe the pile of cash that Apple sits on?

    • http://www.facebook.com/masond Mason Donahue

      so brave.

  • Tommy Thompson

    Would definitely go for the Ouya over this...

    • Alex

      Ouya, this, its all trash. No one wants to play shadow gun on their tv...its a mobile game for a reason.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        I have to agree. Ever seen Shadowgun played on a 50" screen? It looks terrible. Even with the T3 enhancements.

        • PCSievers

          Whether Ouya is successful isnt going to be defined by the current batch of Android games and whether they look good blown up on a TV or not.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            Never said it was the only factor, but it is definitely one of them. For example, existing mobile games aren't truly optimized for hardware controllers, either, and generally play pretty badly with them compared to console titles that are designed for them from the ground up.

            I've spoken to developers about this, and tweaking your game for individual gamepads - which is a wide array on Android already - is a nightmare. You have to optimize for rebound, sensitivity, smoothing, degree of control available, etc. if you want to get it right, and you can't unless you're using a specific gamepad maker's proprietary API.

            Console game developers have been doing this for decades, and they only have to worry about a few highly standardized, professionally-designed pieces of hardware with lots of powerful tools available to make implementing those controls easy.

            No, the success of Ouya will not "depend" on how Shadowgun looks on a big TV. It will depend on attracting independent developers and showing them it's a serious platform that will stick around with real sales potential, and good luck to them with that.

          • PCSievers

            I never said you said it was the only factor and I agree attracting developers and creating an easy to use standard for controls is going to be key.

            I just think lumping Ouya with various on-a-stick makers such as GameStick is missing the number of partners they have onboard already, the seed funding they have secured and just generally the clearer focus and vision of concept. It seems the vast majority of work they have put into the development is precisely to attract indie devs which is basically where it either lives or dies.

            I have no disagreement with the general notion of the article, namely that GameStick doesnt understand where the gap in the market is and how they can successfully fill that gap. When I first saw their kickstarter my assumption was they saw the success of Ouya and decided to just have a go at the same thing while trying to compete on price taking a slightly different approach of creating a "portable console" so they couldnt be accused of being literally identical.

            Which when you think about it makes zero sense, is their vision that people will go about their daily life with a GameStick pad and "console" in their bag and then they will hunt for a TV to do some gaming on when bored? It isnt like the XBox is so cumbersomely large you cant put it in a bag and take it to a friend's place which seems basically the only reason you will want to have a "portable console".

          • TK

            I disagree. Maybe it's my laziness as an American but after trying to move my xbox back and forth between my fiance's house 2 or 3 times I quit. The xbox is definitely not fun to carry around.

        • marcusmaximus04

          Can't speak for shadowgun, but I've tested my own game(sample screenshot here: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/hg1MMKf02Fq8UFznpcx4ZdMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink still in development) via MHL(Galaxy Nexus) and micro-hdmi(Nexus 10) on my 117" screen and it looked pretty decent.

      • Tommy Thompson

        I didn't say I was getting one. Calm down crazy.

      • Egin Tollkuci

        no but i will be playing all my old nes, snes, genesis, and gba games because thats what i bought it for.

  • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

    It's literally one of those Android TV sticks + a controller. Not worth the effort

  • mgamerz

    Ouya will kill this thing. It's got a tegra 3, and it has a fan. Who wants a portable gaming console..? I know it might have been fun in the past but not anymore. Not with the convenience of the internet.

    • Kenny O

      And Ouya is pretty small, so it could even be considered "portable" as well.

  • http://youtube.com/user/CurelessSyn CurelessSynergy

    I agree with what you say, though I'm not skeptical in the slightest about OUYA's incoming success. I can see in the related posts section of this page the article about Ouya partnering with Square Enix to bring in more launch titles, and it's not a bad move by their part. This at least shows that current game companies do know that OUYA exists at least, and they might consider it as a future platform.

  • Lol

    Someone didn't receive a free review system...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Yep, I didn't get a free review unit of that console that doesn't actually exist yet. AND I'M MAD ABOUT IT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lantaar Jay Logan

    The only good thing about this is the controller which looks like a nice, modernized & upgraded tribute to the NES controller. I'm still skeptical about the Ouya, but compared to that, this looks kinda like a cheap,less functional knock-off console.

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    The Wii U is a joke.

    And I think Kickstarter is a great thing, as long as you understand you're donating money to a project, not buying a product. That said... I don't think any of the Android gaming machines will have any traction.

  • yay

    Start porting the good console games (XBox and Playstation games, for example) to the GameStick (or Ouya for that matter) environment, and we'll see.

  • John_Merritt

    I too threw my money at a gamestick, I call it the "PS3 Sixaxis". It even has it's own app, funny enough it too is called the Sixaxis. I predict this "Sixaxis" will do well.
    On a different note, lets begin with C#.

    "Dad, the Gamestick isn't working anymore"
    "Thats because you have a 16Gb USB storage stick instead. What did your mother do with the Gamestick"
    "She said she had to be in the office early with her laptop and usb storage stick"
    "Oh fucking christ"

    Sorry, ignore me. Slooooooow, boring, day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Antigreen12 Don Nguyen

    they just lick off ouya just smaller this is so dumb

  • Adam

    Yeah, I'm somewhat underwhelmed by it, even at the low low price of $80.

  • Cuvis

    These guys are pretty obviously trying to ride Ouya's thunder. I don't see it working out well; there really isn't room for two Android-powered Indie consoles, and Ouya has a head start and more mindshare.

  • primalxconvoy

    1.This article felt more like a rant. More objectivity, or at least succinct subjectivity, please.

    2. I find it ironic that the op was so out for blood against an android product at an Android news site without having tried it themselves.

    3. Ouya and perhaps this product ARE open as it/they allow for hardware tinkering and allow for anyone to write apps for it/them without the usual constructions or legal ramifications of the main 3 console companies. For example, releasing patches won't cost devs a second mortgage.

    4. Android was chosen, perhaps, because it's a famous brand that some understand how to use/relate to and is relatively cheap to produce hardware and software for, plus many coders are familiar and probably working with it right now.

    5. Regardless of this or these consoles becoming successful or not, it shows that "mobile" platforms are converging with the tv/console market and that some/many people want cheap stb's instead of expensive traditional consoles.

    6. Mobile phones, although part of the solution mentioned in point 5

  • http://www.twitter.com/Genjinaro Genjinaro

    I can see this taking off, not GameStick or Oyua (time will tell) but the low cost open-source console can fill a void. I can see a netbook-ish boom happening. Granted, the netbook (although it was neat & cheap) drove me to a $1,100 custom Tablet PC with dedicated graphics. I'll buy an Oyua & use it at my folks house , hotels, etc.

  • primalxconvoy

    Comment continued here due to this supposedly android friendly site being unfriendly to my galaxy note 2.

    6. Even though mobile phones may indeed be the solution to replacing consoles, they lack universal and easily available hardware controls (mouse, keyboard and gamepad) with a gamepad being the minimum needed. Granted, apple tv, Samsung's note 2 dock, hdmi cables etc are good gateways but hardware controls are a must.

    7. The Wii U is revolutionary and innovative? Really? A faux ipad with controls that you can take away from the tv for a limited distance with limited apps that costs just shy of 300 dollars is more innovative and more value than either sticking to a regular wii for the tv and getting the kids a ds to play in their bedrooms, or using an apple tv and a phone or ipad, which allows the screen unit to be used anywhere in the world and not just a few meters away from the box under the tv and comes with apps for everything?

  • Dortamur

    Despite the glowing rhetoric, and the presence of the Ouya, I can see a market for a gadget like this, and not just for games. I have an older non-smart TV that is still an excellent display, and a stick like this could potentially enable it to act as a Google TV, or an XBMC client, or a Games machine.

    Many houses also have more than one TV, so having something like this on a TV other than the home theatre loaded up with all the "big" consoles, would be useful.

    This device also appears to in some ways be more mature than the Ouya, with the interface shown in the video promo (although that could be a mock-up). The service details are a bit light on though.

    Yes, I backed the Ouya (mostly as an XBMC client). No, I won't back this - but I think something like this will be useful for many people. Wouldn't it be nice if they had a common games/apps marketplace?

  • FknTwizted

    this is what I thought Google was trying to accomplish when they developed the nexus q. I would love to see where there was a home unit like the q that I could connect and use apps from the play store etc.

  • Tarun Pemmaraju

    I lost interest as soon as you mentioned "dual core AMLogic processor". It seems that all they are doing is selling yet another one of the widely available Android TV sticks that have AMLogic processors, one of which I own. The only extra thing they are doing is bundling a gamepad instead of the standard gyro-remote.

    Here is a link to some of these- most of them have the exact same specifications mentioned here:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=ug007&catId=0&manual=y

  • Mario

    Console gaming is not going anywhere. Any little company trying to provide "alternatives" is either kidding itself, or scamming people. Although mobile phone gaming can be addicting, it will never replace games from a dedicated gaming console for gamers. This article hit the nail right on the head about that. Even desktop computers have a hard time competing with gaming consoles even with superior graphics. what makes these companies think they can compete with them with lower specs, lower memory, and no support from the major dev companies. The only reason why smartphone mobile gaming is as big as it is now is because it fills the void of when we can't play console games.

  • PINJ

    Its Like A Galaxy S2... In A Stick.

  • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

    "Stop me if you've heard this one before: An Android-powered {game console / TV / toaster} that's {buzz-phrase} and will {more buzz, with gratuitous usage of 'revolutionize'} and change {your life / entertainment / socks} FOREVER."

    I'm still waiting for the Kickstarter project that can change my underwear for me.

  • Matthew

    It's an HDMI stick, not a USB stick.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who got into Android through game systems (specifically tablets by JXD and Yinlips), this article is kind of disappointing to me. I figured you guys would be all over something like this, especially after Ouya. It may not be the Coolest Thing Since Canned Bread™, but I still see potential in it. I personally would have preferred a handheld akin to the JXD S603 (which is what this really makes me want) but its not a bad idea in itself.

  • http://twitter.com/videomap videomap

    with a generic android hdmi stick and droidmote on your phone you can play with all android games. (multi-touch and not). Now you can use also a physical controller with the new DroidMote Client Gateway function. DroidMote Client Gateway forward commands of your physical controller to DroidMote Server