Roku is starting to step up its game against Internet-connected gaming consoles with expansion to casual gaming titles, including everyone's favorite: Angry Birds.
Much like Netflix's Watch Instantly streaming service, it's nearly impossible to escape the Finnish sensation. Starting out with huge success on iOS devices, Angry Birds has moved on to Google Chrome as well as Android smartphones and tablets, and soon Windows Phone 7.
Now Roku is hoping to cash in on the Angry Birds bonanza while the game is still hot and not just some big annoyance (if it isn't already). Roku will be providing the full Angry Birds experience in a deal with its maker, Rovio, marking the first time the game has made it to the television set. The set-top box will soon feature three of the franchise's video games (Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio) video games, a dedicated Angry Birds video channel with animated shorts, and Angry Birds merchandise will be available from the Roku Channel Store.
Rovio is expected to roll out Angry Birds to more platforms within the next few weeks, but this actually marks a bigger step for Roku. There are three possible versions of the set-top box with varying price tags, but the peak is only $99.99 (not including taxes but there is free shipping). Roku's platform provides access to over 250 channels and popular portals such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and most live/on demand sports channels. Many critics would call it a better deal than set-top boxes in the same range (i.e. Apple TV).
With this move into the gaming world, it could soon be considered competitive with lower-priced gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Wii. Obviously, for avid and frequent gamers, there is still no contest, especially with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But for the casual gamer who just wants some extra features on the set-top box but doesn't want to shell out $250-$300 for a console, this could fit the bill.
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