Are Android gaming consoles doomed?

Android gaming consoles may die a quick death in the marketplace

Android Gaming Consoles

Mashable has a roundup of Android gaming consoles. I have to admit that I was surprised to find out that there are five of them available already. Five? Wow. Who'd have thought we'd even have one?

What's the appeal of the Android console? As developers create games more prolifically and cheaply for mobile phones, hardware manufacturers seek to bridge the gap between mobile and living room. Android-powered platforms could turn these mobile titles into games with longer shelf-lives, accessible from the comfort of the couch. They could also unlock the eager indie developer community, which is eager to reach more players.

Android also offers an easy, open platform to build upon, as we've seen from the plethora of 'droid-friendly phones and tablets. While more popular and profitable games are iOS exclusives, Apple's walled garden means third parties can't access its ecosystem. Ultimately, console fragmentation may soon resemble the Android phone and tablet markets, as games must be modified to work with external controllers for every console.

More at Mashable

Here are the models listed in Mashable's roundup:

OUYA

Gamestick

GamePop

Green Throttle

Nvdia's Shield

Who's the Market for Android Consoles?

Yes, I'm somewhat of a cynic on Android console gaming. We already have popular consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Who is going to buy an Android gaming console instead of an Xbox, Playstation or Nintendo system? How many consumers even know that Android consoles are available in the first place?

You have to figure that most serious gamers already have an XBox, Playstation or Nintendo system. So why would they shell out money for new hardware just to play mobile games on their TVs? I can't see the market for these things.

Cost of Android Consoles versus Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo

The cost of these consoles seems to run from $49 to $299. I suppose there's a cost advantage here for some of them compared to what Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo offer. But let's remember that these cheaper Android console products seem to be offering mobile games and not games designed for a large screen TV.

Is the cost difference enough to lure gamers away from the big three? I doubt it.

Mobile Gaming Experience on TVs

If you're a serious gamer, I doubt very much that you'll enjoy playing a mobile game on your TV. Mobile games are...well...they are designed for mobile devices. Sure, they can be very enjoyable. I have some on my mobile devices.

But do they stand up well to consoles games that were designed to run on more powerful hardware, and designed to be displayed on an HDTV screen? I can't really see these mobile games cutting it for serious gamers. The experience just isn't going to be the same.

How many serious gamers will keep on buying games for Android gaming consoles once the initial novelty wears off? I can see game sales plunging once the boredom factor sets in and the mobile-experience-on-a-TV becomes tedious.

Buying Games Twice?

Another issue that comes up here is duplicate game purchases. If you already own a game on an Android mobile device, are you going to want to pay for it again on a home console system?

From what I read in the article, some games will have to be tweaked to run on these Android consoles. But will those changes add enough value to get somebody to buy the same game twice, for two different Android devices?

I suppose it might be worth it if the console version had spruced up graphics and other value adds. If not then people will be paying twice to play the same game, just on a larger screen.

Cost of Android Console Games

How much will the games cost on Android consoles? The Mashable article doesn't mention the cost of these games, beyond the $6.99 content subscription for the GamePop (I don't know exactly what you get for $6.99 either).

If the games cost significantly more than they do on Android mobile devices, I think it will be a huge turn off to gamers. And let's not forget that these Android console games will probably have to be priced significantly lower than games for the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo consoles. If the games for the Android consoles are too high (even anywhere near the traditional consoles) then I suspect most gamers will pass on buying them.

Slow Growth for New Gaming Consoles

Speaking of gaming consoles, the EE Times has a story out about slower growth being projected for new gaming consoles.

If slower growth is being predicted for Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony systems, what will that mean for yet another batch of gaming consoles? It certainly does not bode well for sales of Android gaming consoles.

Shipments of eighth-generation gaming consoles from gaming's big three -- Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft -- are expected to total about 133 million cumulatively in their first five years on the market, less than the 140 million units sold in the first five years of seventh-generation consoles, according to market research firm ABI Research.

More at EE Times

The story also notes that the Android consoles might be hurt by a lack of differentiation in their gaming libraries. That's a point I hadn't thought of, and it seems like a darned good one. If all of these Android consoles are running the same games, what's left to differentiate one from the others?

I guess it will end up being hardware and the cost of games. Over time though, the features and capabilities of the hardware may end up being a wash. And if they are all selling the same games, more or less, than how much pricing power will they have?

Google's Android Gaming Console

Of course, the really big fish in the pond has not yet weighed in fully about an Android gaming console. I'm talking about Google, of course.

The Wall Street Journal indicates that Google is interested in the Android console market. But the article lacks specifics about how far along Google is, what the system would be like, and how much it would cost.

Still, if there's a company that could make a viable Android gaming console, it's probably Google. We'll have to wait and see what they come up with.

Google had better watch it though, if they release a successful Android gaming console, then Samsung won't be far behind them. Samsung has made more money off Android than Google has, and they could eat Google's lunch in an Android console market the same way they have in the Android phone market.

Google Inc. is developing a videogame console and wristwatch powered by its Android operating system, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Internet company seeks to spread the software beyond smartphones and tablets.

With the game machine and digital watch, Google is hoping to combat similar devices that Apple Inc. may release in the future, according to the people.

More at Wall Street Journal

We'll see how this plays out, but I'm not optimistic about the future of Android gaming consoles. I suspect they will be viewed as gimmick gadgets that will die a quick death in the marketplace.

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