For a long time the big three (PlayStation, XBox and Wii) ruled the land of the game console. But last year a new console was announced: The Ouya. This Android based game console aims at independent game creators and casual gamers instead of competing with the big consoles. The only competition for the Ouya comes from the recently announced GameStick, another Android game platform. Let’s see which one looks the best on paper.
Both the Ouya and the GameStick run Android and come with a controller. And both are relatively cheap. But that’s about as much as these two consoles have in common. Yet they will be fighting for the same group of gamers.
The Ouya is the more classic console of the two. It comes with the beautifully designed game console itself which is roughly the size of a Rubix cube and a Bluetooth controller. For 99 Dollar you get a Tegra-3 quad-core processor, 1 GB or RAM, 8 GB of storage and both Ethernet and WiFi.
In April of this year the Ouya should be officially released. But this Kickstarter backed project is right on schedule and the development units already started shipping in December last year.
The GameStick is an Android based stick which is combined with a Bluetooth controller as well. The GameStick plugs into your TV directly with its HDMI connector which also acts as power source. This means it has no cables at all. When not in use the GameStick can be stored in a slot on the controller leaving you with a very small and portable package.
At 79 US Dollar the GameStick is cheaper than the Ouya but you also get less powerful hardware. It is equipped with a dual core Amlogic 8726-MXS processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage and WiFi and Bluetooth. Just like the Ouya it runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1.
Though the GameStick team also aims for an April release so far only a prototype has been demonstrated. But since the GameStick is based mainly on existing hardware and devices it seems likely it will be released on schedule as well.
Though the GameStick has the least raw muscle power it should still be able to play most of the newest Android games well. So far PlayJam has identified 200 games from the Google Play store which will run smoothly on the GameStick. The Ouya will have no trouble running any Android game you throw at it. So you won’t get stunning 3D gaming like on your pc but great games like Dead Trigger will run well.
A bigger concern I have with the GameStick is that in fact it is nothing more or less than an Android SmartTV stick with a fancy controller. Like the iMito MX1 I reviewed recently it might have the same WiFi issues and even not play surround sound over HDMI. We’ll have to wait until the final version arrives to make sure if it managed to avoid those pitfalls.
This is clearly the strong point of the GameStick. Ideally you can just pop the stick into the controller and take it with you to play at a friends place. This will only work if your friend has got a TV that supports power over HDMI. Otherwise you’ll still be carrying around a power adapter.
When a new mobile OS is launched the first question asked is: Does it play Angry Birds? Nowadays every new Android device also has to answer one crucial question: Will it run XBMC?
Both Android game consoles will get XBMC support and obviously turns them into great media center devices. Again my earlier concerns about the WiFi and sound could completely spoil your XBMC experience with the GameStick (just like with the iMito MX1).
One big drawback of both devices is their lack Google Play support. That’s right. Both will most likely not get Google Play. This means you can’t use your already purchased games on these devices.
Also developers need to port their games and apps to the Ouya and GameStick game stores. Both teams have already name a list of development companies who will support them so there should be enough games available when the consoles are launched. But you can’t be sure all the latest and greatest Android games make it to your device.
Both devices are pretty interesting and hopefully the start of casual gaming on the big screen. It is way too soon to pick a winner and a lot depends on the actual look and feel of the two consoles. The controller of the Ouya looks more comfortable than the one that comes with the GameStick. But only a hands on test can prove if this is really the case.
At this moment my money is on the Ouya though. If you really want a portable device the GameStick might be appealing. Otherwise the better hardware, Ethernet port and stunning design of the Ouya make it the best choice at the moment and well worth spending the extra 20 dollars.
Another problem with the GameStick is the fact that it basically is an Android thumb drive that comes with a controller. Why not go for a MK802 or iMito MX1 which are already available? The hardware is identical and once rooted you can hook up a PS3 or XBOX controller. And unlike the GameStick these devices have full access to Google Play meaning you can play (almost) any Android game available.
Finally the amount and quality of available games will make or break these platforms. But since these are both Android consoles porting games should be easy so I expect all major developers to support both platforms. But lets hope we’ll also see some nice indie games coming to these console like the Ouya project intended.