January 03, 2013, 8:30 AM —
Android-based open game console Ouya seems to be on pace for its March launch to consumers (development kits went out on schedule in late December), and a good thing too because the Ouya folks are already getting some competition.
Like Ouya, Gamestick runs Android but it's even more portable, being roughly the same size as a USB stick (the Ouya is about the same size as a Rubik's Cube). The GameStick itself plugs into an HDMI port on your TV, but when you're not using it, it snaps into an included controller. There are (ideally) no wires; the controller connects wirelessly and the Gamestick draws power from an MHL compliant HDMI port (or alternatively via power from a USB port or as a last resort, via a power adapter). Best of all, Gamestick is cheaper than the Ouya. A $69 Kickstarter early bird is already sold out, but you can join the first wave of Gamestick owners with a $79 pledge. That's also the intended retail price. (I've reached out to Gamestick to ask if the $79 package includes a power adapter for those of us with slightly older TVs and I'll update the post if they respond.)
Gamestick says their product will launch in April of this year, which seems somewhat optimistic even though the company says they've been working on the device for a year. According to their posted schedule they'll be doing prototype testing this month, doing an initial production run of 100 units in February and the first full run in March and have the units in gamers' hands in April. I suppose if no one makes any mistakes they can pull this off but if you choose to back the project I'd be prepared for some delays.
The Gamestick has a gig of RAM and 8 gigs of storage (plus some kind of cloud storage service) and runs on an Amlogic 8726-MX processor. That means it isn't as powerful as the Ouya which runs on a Tegra 3. I've seen some concern in comment threads that the Ouya is 'already obsolete' because the Tegra 3 is nearing end of life. I imagine these same commenters will have unkind things to say about the potential of the Gamestick, too. That said, Gamestick says they've identified 200 currently available Android games that will be a good fit for their console and they say they're working with over 250 Android game developers to bring us "the best lineup."
The Gamestick comes with one controller but it will work with any Bluetooth controller supporting HID, and the company singles out Green Throttle's not-yet-released controller as a specific example. Based on the prototypes they show off in their Kickstarter video (see below) those of us used to an Xbox or PS3 controller will probably want to invest in something a bit more hefty than the controller that comes with Gamestick.
It'll be interesting to see if either Ouya or Gamestick can really gain traction among gamers. I just hope the process of bringing an Android game to these two competing consoles is similar enough that developers won't have to choose one or the other. The last thing we need is a 'console war' between sub $100 gaming consoles!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.