As discussed in our previous blog post, the burgeoning microconsole category is making significant headway into the minds of consumers. Generally characterized as low(er)-cost alternatives to the three traditional console brands (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo), this diverse collection of devices is helping to broaden the appeal of gaming to a wider audience. So what are the key players this category?
A Kickstarter-funded open gaming platform that launched in June 2013 at a price point of US$99/£99. All games are free-to-play.
> Valve Steam Machines
In late September 2013 the longtime game developer announced plans for its first foray into the living room hardware business with PCs designed to hook up to the TV. According to their website, there will be multiple models to choose from, as they plan to partner with various manufacturers. The news came on the heels of Valve’s other big announcement, plans for their very own Linux-based operating system, SteamOS, which will presumably power the new hardware. Steam Machines are slated to hit shelves sometime “beginning in 2014.”
> Nvidia Shield
Seeking to target two audiences at the same time – Android gamers and PC gamers – the Shield combines elements of a microconsole and a more traditional handheld console. Download and play games from Google Play, or stream PC games from Nvidia-powered PCs. The hardware features a flip-up 130 mm (5 in) touchscreen display and an “Xbox-like” controller. The Shield was released on 31 July 2013 and retails for US$299.
> PlayJam GameStick
One of the smallest microconsoles, this USB flash-drive sized device plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port and runs on the Android OS. Following a third delay, GameStick finally launched in the US and UK on 29 October 2013 for US$79, while the EU, Canada and Middle Eastern territories will have their chance to buy sometime “prior to the end of year holiday season.” According to the GameStick website, games will average US$2.99 apiece.
> Mad Catz M.O.J.O.
Positioned as a “super-charged” smartphone that plugs into a TV and plays Android games, M.O.J.O. is designed to work with Mad Catz’s wide array of gaming peripherals: controllers, mice, keyboards, and headsets. The hardware will likely contain a processor similar to that of Nvidia Shield and will launch on 10 December 2013 for US$249.
Rumored to be working alongside Qualcomm on a set-top box that will offer the Amazon app store through the TV, Amazon’s microconsole offering is assumed to launch in time for the 2013 holiday season.
It is widely assumed by the gaming community that the search engine giant will ultimately enter into this market in some capacity, but details at this point are merely speculation.
Inevitably, with such an array of activity, these brands are hoping that Christmas 2013 will bring increasing sales and increasing awareness to this blossoming console subcategory.
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