You hear a lot of talk, mostly from non-gamers, about the death of the modern gaming console at the hands of smartphones and tablets. I don't buy it, of course. I'm looking forward to having an Xbox 720 and a PS4 in my entertainment center.
But if I was buying into the idea, one thing we'd really need to fix is the issue of physical controls. Old story, right? The Xperia Play tried to fix the issue with a slide-out deck laid out with gamepad-style controls, but that doesn't seem to have taken off.
Android tablets do support game controllers but the ergonomics aren't great (you really have to have your tablet in some kind of stand which cuts down mobility) and most Android games aren't designed with physical controls in mind.
Streaming game service OnLive came out with a tablet client for their service a while ago. This brought PC games to Android tablets (an iPad version was planned but as far as I can tell never released). In some cases OnLive creates an overlay to add touch controls to existing games, but an alternative solution is their Universal OnLive Wireless Controller which connects to "many" tablets (all of them running Android) via Bluetooth. This solves the problem of finding games with controller support, but you've still got the ergonomic problem.
Now OnLive's competitor Gaikai has announced their own solution to the problem. They're partnering with WikiPad, a not-yet-released Android tablet that features glasses-free 3D and a wrap-around game controller attachment with dual analog sticks. The WikiPad was initially revealed at CES in January.
In theory WikiPad plus Gaikai solves all your gaming woes (assuming you have access to a fast WiFi connection). Gaikai means you'll be getting real games (and gives you a reason for buying a WikiPad in the first place) and the WikiPad's controller solves the ergonomic issues and of course gives you real controls. And as an added bonus, you can get an "optional accessory" that lets you play your games on a TV. Voila! Consoles are dead!
OK, maybe not.
Call me skeptical but I can't imagine there's going to be a huge audience for this combo. We've all seen how well Android tablets are doing in the marketplace, and gamers continue to be somewhat resistant to the idea of a streaming game service. I wish the partners well but I think they have an uphill battle.
You can read the full press release from Gaikai for more details, but what do you think? Is this combo a winner or just another niche system that won't gain traction?
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