We recently saw the tremendous appetite for Ouya, the small Android-based games console whose Kickstarter funding drive was oversubscribed almost ten-fold. Now Ouya could be the template for a wave of similar, smaller indie TV game devices.
GameStick, which just launched its own Kickstarter pledge drive, aims to deliver a game console on a USB stick-sized dongle that plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port.
Like Ouya, the device will run on Android and pack 8Gb of storage. But GameStick is much more portable — the $79 stick console is so small that its own gamepad is planned to double as a carry case for the device.
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This is not the first time I have seen Android leveraged to surprisingly innovative low-cost services. Two years ago, Vodafone launched a self-contained SIM-toting, Android-powered keyboard that, when plugged in to TVs in Africa, served as a rudimentary internet TV box. In GameStick’s case, the stick will plug in to non-smart TVs, which lack online games, via HDMI, as long as it can be powered over USB via a nearby device.
What is interesting about GameStick is that the initiative is being developed by an outfit that is already one of the dominant interactive TV games software distributors, PlayJam.
PlayJam has long powered simple TV games for pay-TV firms like the U.K.’s BSkyB. Now it has a large library of such titles and is taking them on to the new generation of smart internet TVs, where it stands a greater chance of adoption and claims to already be installed on 50 million sets. With GameStick, PlayJam is launching its own hardware for the first time.
But, whilst GameStick is developed by PlayJam, it won’t only be geared toward simply bringing the same PlayJam service and game library to dumb TV screens. “It uses the PlayJam backend. The games, however, are drawn from the Android ecosystem – meaning that we are able to bring many of the best mobile games to TV,” PlayJam CEO Jasper Smith tells me.
Smith says the outfit has identified 250 existing Android titles that will work with the GameStick controller and is working with seven developers to guarantee compatibility. Titles can be added to the stick via its built in WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity accessing GameStick’s own store, from which PlayJam will keep a slice of revenue.
And PlayJam’s Smith wants a thousand GameSticks to bloom. “Whilst we love this device, our play is much bigger,” he says, adding:
“We are making all of the software we have developed (content, UI, billing, leaderboards, analytics, CRM etc) available to any other device manufacturer who wants to create a GameStick- or Ouya-like device. We don’t see ourselves as a hardware company, but as a software company that is trying to encourage change within an industry. So far, Ouya has not gone down this route – they have a device strategy.”