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Fair Game: Consoles vs. Mobile

A couple new gaming consoles have embraced mobile operating systems. Are the big players gearing up for a battle over who owns TV-based gaming?

I'm a big fan of crowd-sourcing. And I’ve backed a fair number of artists on Pledge Music funding the recording of new albums in return for bonus tracks, etc.

Almost a year ago I funded my first hardware project on Kickstarter: OUYA, an open game console.

When time allows (which it doesn’t much) I do like gaming. I have most consoles and handhelds from Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox at home, along with a growing backlog of games to start.

So when I learned about OUYA, I got really excited. It’s based on the Android mobile OS, so it’s inherently open, and it’s adopting best practices from mobile app stores, i.e.:

  • You have a curated store.
  • Everything is free to try.
  • The user interface is very simple.

On the OS/hardware side, the OUYA is basically a mobile phone without all the phone 'bits'. And it takes a very different approach to the increasingly high-end approach to the bigger consoles (Xbox One and PS4).

It is also centred around indie developers, who have thrived on mobile, but with a few exceptions have had more of a struggle on the big consoles.

So can mobile (OS) now take over your lounge as well?

OUYA isn’t the only company taking this direction. There’s also:

  • Google TV, although I'd say it’s way too early to call that a success or failure
  • The recently announced Google Chromecast which connects your mobile device to the big screen
  • Gamestick, which has a dongle approach to Android gaming
  • Bluestack's Gamepop even borrows the mobile phone monthly subscription model in return for free gaming
  • Dual boot devices that run Windows 8 and Android.

And don't forget the Apple TV, which is basically an iPad 2 without the screen. It could be Apple's Trojan horse. The company has sold 13 million of these. Whilst the Apple TV has a sleek, stick-of-gum-like remote control, you can also download an app on your iPod/iPhone and iPad to use instead. And even though you can use Airplay to mirror content from your iOS device, I currently doesn’t support gaming.

BUT the perhaps one of the more interesting announcements at WWDC last month was that iOS 7 would include a new Game Controller framework, which opens the door for Apple TV to support other controllers. Add in app support and one can only imagine just how successful this could be.

Games like 'Where's my Water' already support iCloud sync, enabling me to play (and keep track of my progress) across my iPhone and iPad. And if I could then play on my TV at home as well—just perfect!

PCs are now firmly in the post-desktop world (if not the post-PC world). So, for gaming, could mobile be about to start another revolution?

Or, is it just another false start? There’s nothing new, as I've said before. My Sega Dreamcast, which was the first 'mobile' OS-powered console, as in ran on Window CE (the precursor to Windows mobile), is sitting at home. But despite being significantly more 'powerful' than rival systems at the time, it only earned one role in history: the last console Sega ever made.