Google is developing an "official" Android game console that might have a release date as soon as this fall. The rumors seem to be suspect, because Google would be hard pressed to compete in an already crowded market where systems like the Ouya, Bluestack's Gamepop, Gamestick and handhelds like the Shield jockey for position.
"Citing anonymous sources, the report claims that the console is part of a bevy of secret projects, including a new smartwatch and a revamped version of its failed Nexus Q set-top streaming device. Additional details are sparse, but given the recent influx of Android gaming platforms, like the Ouya, Project Shield, GameStick, and others, a Google-produced gaming product isn't outside the realm of reason."
Google declined to comment on these rumors. It is questionable if Google really intends to release an Android game console. Consumers may prefer an "official" Google device, but the current lineup of Android game console has had mixed results. The $99 Ouya has had mixed reviews. Some praised it for being functional and effective, while others criticized its controller, limited repertoire of games and functionality. Many consumers felt that the console they got simply wasn't ready for retail.
However, a Google Android console would be able to counteract one of the major criticisms of the Ouya, the non-optimized software:
"Now, we had to shoehorn the benchmarks into the Ouya via the Android SDK, which means that they certainly weren't optimized for the device. But this shows the danger of running any software that isn't optimized for the device. Not only is it difficult to install, it may not perform as well as it does on a current high-end smartphone. For a dedicated gaming system which should be all about graphics, that's a real pity."
A Google Android console, would be optimized and would also receive timely Android OS updates, basically making it the Nexus as a game console. Google also already has an Android game center to work off. But even that is not a sure thing because It's not just Kickstarter funded projects that are facing difficulty. The SHIELD by Nvidia has been faced with first a price cut and then a release date delay. The powerful Android handheld is coming with an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor and will have powerful graphics, but its $349 price turned off consumers, prompting the company to cut it to $299. Even still, the device, set to be released this week, has been delayed till next month due to mechanical issues.
"This is a critical launch for Nvidia, which has been a big name in the component business for years but which hasn't come out with its own gaming devices until it announced the Shield in January. The firm may suffer a black eye with consumers over the delay, but it probably couldn't afford to let its initial device debut to bad reviews."
It's not certain there is even a market or demand for an Android game console at anything above $100. If you have to pay $299 for a device, why wouldn't you just save up your money and buy one of the flagship consoles like the Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U? They have less software issues, top of the line hardware and a vast game collection. Getting into the console gaming business is hard, it requires a lot of trial and error to do it right and some companies don't make it. Lots of people forget that when console gaming first started becoming big in the late 80s and early 90s there were probably a dozen companies in the market.
Remember the Atari Jaguar, Commodore 64, Virtual Boy and the Sega Dreamcast? Right now the Ouya and other Android game consoles feel like these early game systems, rather than well-developed and polished devices that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have developed. Because the market is so new, there are a lot of indie 90s-esque start-ups like Mad Catz's M.O.J.O Android game console. All of them have promise, but none of them have as much visibility as the flagship non-Android consoles.
The only thing that could motivate Google to produce an Android game console with a release date in the fall would be if Apple beat them to it:
"The people briefed on the matter said Google is reacting in part to expectations that rival Apple will launch a videogame console as part of its next Apple TV product release.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment."
An Apple game console is also still just rumors, so it's hard to say for sure what any of these companies are really planning or when release dates are.
That's not to say that an Android game console is a bad idea or pointless, just that the market is volatile and right now a Google Android game console seems unlikely. As the Wall Street Journal acknowledges Google has many other projects it is working on, including the Google Glass, a replacement for the Nexus Q, a smart watch and most importantly Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie updates.
There are plenty of Android users globally:
"Jen-Hsun Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia Corp., which makes microchips for devices powered by Android, said in a recent interview that over time there would be three billion people who use Android devices, and that one million programmers globally are already using the software to build applications or devices. He said Android is poised to disrupt the videogame and consumer-electronics industry; computer systems in cars; as well as personal computing, such as desktop computers. He declined to discuss any unreleased products."
But it's just not clear if there are as many Android gamers who are interested in playing Android games on the big screen. However, as the Android game market develops, with devices that have more powerful graphics and processors, we could see quality games that have graphics and gameplay capabilities on par with anything Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo has. In that case, all bets are off.
Do you thing a Google Android game console with a release date in the fall is plausible or is the market too saturated with rival devices like Ouya, Shield, Gamepop and Gamestick?