Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What? Amazon on the console bandwagon too?

? Ok. I could see the Steam Box. The PC game library offers a similar calibre of game as traditional console gaming. And, there are many more PC "exclusives" than any console has ever gotten. So, if there is a market for console games, there is quite likely a market for playing PC games through a console to the TV.

But Android games? I hope this rumour is false. This would be beyond stupid. Plus... aren't there already a out there that tried this already? Honestly, the only thing on that list I've even heard of before is the OUYA. And I don't know a single living soul who owns one.

The problem, perhaps surprisingly, is choosing Android or iOS. Yes, those are popular platforms with a lot of games, but they are mobile and touch first platforms. On top of that, you could throw an 8 core processor and top of the line graphics in there, but no one in their right minds would design a game that requires that level of graphics processing. Why? Because largest part of those market segments are using phones and tablets. And the bulk of those are on mid or even low end models as much as 2 years old. If you're designing an app or game for Android or iOS or BlackBerry or even for Windows Phone you want to make sure your product can get in as many hands as possible. Designing it with hardware to rival other consoles is a waste.

And guess what? Last year, total smart phone sales were greater than the combined lifetime sales of the 2 most successful consoles in gaming on the market, the PS3 and Xbox 360. And yes, I'm making those facts up. But I can guarantee you at 80+ million phones sold by Samsung and 50+ million sold by Apple, if I am wrong, it likely isn't by much.

So, the reality is, even if such a console matched the sales records being set by the Xbox One and PS4 it would take close to a decade for such a console to catch up to a point where they even have half the market share of their competitors that are running the same OS. And at least half that amount of time would need to be invested to get to the point where you are a feasible target for developers.

I made an assumption there that they would also be trying to compete on hardware. And many may argue that Amazon might not do that. But I would argue that if they aren't offering console quality hardware, then there is absolutely no value to this whatsoever. And the reason for that is even simpler. Smart TV's. We're already getting to the point where many Smart TV's are packing a separate processor and GPU, and usually they are along the same lines of performance as what is available in a mainsteam smartphone. And guess what? Samsung makes TV's! They are also the single biggest Android vendor. Do you really think it will be long before we start seeing Android powered Smart TV's? I don't.

And once that starts happening 2 other things will start happening. The first is, by virtue of it coming in a Smart TV, everyone will instantly learn to hate it. Secondly, every set top box manufacturer on the planet will add Android support as well. Amazon's offering will be killed before it ever gets established.

It is a shame really. Amazon does nice UI's. They also have some great content catalogues. But, and this has really been the whole problem all along... who wants to play an Android game on a console? I can buy an Android phone off contract for less than $100. The game was designed for a touch screen, which my cheap ass phone will have. My cheap ass phone can come with me on the bus, in the coffee shop, school, work and damn near anywhere else I want. Including in front of my TV. My gaming console on the other hand is glued to my TV. It will have an input mechanism designed as an after thought. And it will play games my shitty Android phone can play. WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!

Console games have a market because they are more portable than a desktop computer which is its primary competitor. And even you draw the conclusion that both are functionally at zero mobility they at least draw even. Where a console beats a PC is that the games are optimized for the hardware you own. And as long as games are still being produced for your console, you know they run and run well. If I buy a PC I have no such guarantee.

Console gaming WILL die out if we ever reach the point where a phone or a tablet is as powerful or more powerful than a gaming console and console game titles start popping up on mobile devices. The portability story beats most other market factors.
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