The case for Gamestick: is mobile gaming on TV still an attractive feature?


Let’s face it, consoles are expensive. Damn expensive. With the PS4 slated at a projected retail price of R6 299 and the Xbox One price as yet unannounced, gamers everywhere are getting ready to bite the proverbial bullet for the latest next-gen consoles.

But what about those people out there who will probably never be able to afford next-gen? What about those people who are tired of playing the mainstream games and are looking for an alternative, are there other options?

At the moment there aren’t too many alternatives. Perhaps mobile, portables such as the PSP or 3DS or even maybe the Ouya, but interestingly that’s not the case. I’m here to tell you about GameStick. I was lucky enough to meet up with one of the developers this past weekend, demoing GameStick at AMAZE, an indie gaming festival that began in Berlin, and is now in its second year in Johannesburg.

a gentle unboxing for you sir?

Stick it to me

GameStick is a portable Android console the size of a USB stick. I’m not kidding. It plugs directly into your TV via a USB port (assuming you have a newer TV that caters for this). Your games are loaded up onto the stick, and then played with the wireless controller that connects via Bluetooth to the console. It fits all rather neatly in your pocket as well, which means for those of you who travel a fair amount, you have a console that is always on hand when you’re stuck in a hotel with nothing to do.

Will the GameStick be able to compete with the upcoming PS4, Xbox One or even the Wii U? No probably not, but that’s also not the developers’ aim. This is a console aimed at the casual to mid-core gamer and is designed by PlayJam, the team behind many SmartTV games.

I hear you say, “but the games are really crap right? I mean, who plays those SmartTV games?” Wrong actually. (Ok, perhaps not the latter statement). There are already some great games on the GameStick Network, an online store that not only provides access to the newest games on the platform, but which can also be age restricted in order for tighter parental control. Not only will your kids not be able to play the games you don’t deem appropriate, they won’t even be able to see them as options.

The future of gaming? Not on my watch…

What I find particularly interesting and exciting about the GameStick is not only its alternative market, but the potential for development within the African market. It’s much cheaper to make an Android game than it is to get together a big game development studio, and the thriving indie scene in SA is just one of many examples of this. Up until now these were largely limited to mobile devices or PC, but the emergence of consoles such as the Ouya and now GameStick, could change all that.

Developer friendly

GameStick is incredibly developer friendly, I was told. PlayJam are opening up the console for development via a simple process that provides developers with a special version of the firmware. This gives them access to a variety of tools enabling them to upload, test and submit games to an internal PlayJam QA team prior to publication. Developers can also expect a 70% share of the revenue stream generated from the online store.

The UI design is intuitive to navigate — PlayJam haven’t set about to reinvent anything new here, rather building on an easy interface that lets players get right to the gaming. GameStick comes with 8GB internal memory, with an option to expand it up to 32GB via an SD card.

The best part? Games already released on the Android market would merely need to be ported to work on the GameStick. It’s not even a big job according to the console’s developers, there are only minor adjustments required, making the potential (and indeed likelihood) for prominent mobile games to make their way to this console.

GameStick will release in the UK, US and Germany at the end of September, retailing for US$79, which is somewhere in the region of R800. It might not be next-gen, but if you’re big into your Android games, you can be sure that this portable console will have all your favourite mobile games on it soon enough. If you’re a parent that can’t quite afford to go the Playstation and Xbox route, your kids will also find hours of entertainment in this much cheaper console option.



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