So the world is full of big ideas and dreamers, and sometimes those dreamers take their big ideas and decide to present them to the world. That is what we have seen of late as we’ve seen a few upstarts take to Kickstarter to help fund their big idea of Android-based gaming consoles that are inexpensive and therefore more accessible to consumers. In theory, it is a marvelous idea to take an open operating system, jam it into a box full of some okay hardware and then sell it to consumers as a game console. The amount of time it would take to actually develop the thing would be cut down due to using an existing operating system and there will already be a built-in base of games available at launch.
I guess the problem that I’m seeing with some of these ideas, with the big ones being the Ouya and the more recent GameStick, is that Android is truly an interesting operating system and I’ve long been a proponent of it, but there is quite simply a sheer lack of interest in bringing over high-level games to the system. On top of that, fragmentation is something that a lot of developers fear and have a hard time dealing with. Sometimes the things that will work on one Android device and not another can be confused. I recently got a Samsung Galaxy Note II, which really is a quite marvelous device and downloaded Grand Theft Auto III for it when that game was on sale. It runs smoothly and is pretty fun to have the ability to play a full game like that on a phone. So why then does Grand Theft Auto: Vice City not run on my phone? It is one of the more powerful phones on the market and while it does feature a bigger screen, the dimensions shouldn’t be a problem.
It just doesn’t work.
That seems to be how things go on Android devices. Even if Apple’s iOS is spread out on a few different generations of devices and that some apps simply do not work on older ones, there is still less fear of “fragmentation” with that due to Apple controlling the hardware and the software. Both Ouya and GameStick are trying to work directly with game developers to ensure that there will be games available for their respective systems and you have to believe that a big selling point for these developers is that their games will work on just about any Android device and not just those ones, as there are a ton of Android devices out in the wild now.
Will developers really take this risk? There is still no assurance that either the Ouya or GameStick will be successes, no matter how much money they see on Kickstarter or how much they end up being the darlings of the gaming media. The gaming media loves an underdog story and loves the idea of the industry expanding a bit, yet there is not a ton of room in the marketplace for new brands without billions of advertising dollars behind them. You’d have to believe that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will do everything in their power to ensure that these open source, inexpensive consoles don’t gain traction, and if that means stealing away smaller developers to develop for their platforms instead, that is exactly what will happen.
In a perfect world, developers would see the potential in Android and simply dive in headfirst, but the reality is, the fears of “fragmentation” and that these consoles will never happen are strong as well as possible.