There was a time when Nintendo and Sega dominated the console market. Sega dropped out, replaced instead by Sony and eventually Microsoft. For the last decade or so, these three have dominated the console race. However, as both recent developments and CES 2013 have shows us, other consoles are on the way.
The first contender, Ouya is a $99 console based on the Android OS (used in most mobile devices outside of Apple and Windows). The project, successfully funded through Kickstarter, is headed by industry veteran Julie Uhrman and has the support of several reputable developers, including Brian Fargo (The Bard’s Tale), Markus Persson (Minecraft), and Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia).
Software development is modeled after the mobile design, meaning it is open to virtually anyone (the kit can be downloaded right now). Games will work like apps, meaning they can be easily published and made available through a unified online store, although it remains to be seen whether these products can exceed mobile quality and compete with full-fledged consoles. All the games will include some free-to-try model and the console already has content lined up from Square Enix and Namco Bandai.
Ouya is expecting release in April 2013.
Easily fulfilling its promise as the most portable gaming console ever made, the $79 GameStick is the size of a thumb drive and easily fits into your television’s HDMI slot. Running on the Android system and also funded through Kickstarter, the GameStick comes with a Bluetooth controller and promises the ability for developers to easily create and publish their games for everyone to enjoy on the big screen.
Charles Huang, co-creator of Guitar Hero, defined GameStick as “the perfect product” to bring games to the big screen without having to rely on expensive consoles while Chris Lee from Media Molecule praises the console’s accessibility.
If there is a concern here, it is that CEO Anthony Johnson has emphasized his enthusiasm for working with developers that may not necessarily have the tools or resources to go “the direct console route.” While this does mean that a lot more people will get to develop games for televisions, it also implies that this is the console for people that can’t get published on the big three’s machines, which may be problematic for consumers expecting console-level quality.
The GameStick has already reached its Kickstarter goal before the campaign’s expiration date, so prospects for successful release are positive.
3. Sunflex Unu Tablet
A slightly different approach, the Sunflex Unu Tablet works as another touchscreen system for gaming, which is already fairly common. However, where the console differentiates itself is that the tablet can be connected with a wireless gaming controller for a more “hardcore” experience. It also comes with an air mouse, a keyboard, and a docking station to connect to an HDTV.
No release date or price has yet been confirmed.
The thing that should probably bring more sweat to the foreheads of the big three than anything else, Piston is a miniature computer developed by Xi3 and backed by Valve, the company behind the online PC game distribution service Steam. After weeks of rumors that Valve was interesting in developing a “Steam Box” to allow gamers to play their purchased PC games on a television, the company has revealed its stake in this this system that can literally fit in the palm of your hand.
The device will be optimized to run games on your television directly, meaning it will essentially work as a console. Piston is also upgradeable to accommodate newer PC games and will come with a built in storage of 1TB. According to Xi3 CEO Jason Sullivan, this will enable games for high definition television and “provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand.”
Pricing is yet to be announced, although the system it runs on normally costs $999.
5. Nvidia’s Project Shield
Proof that handheld gaming is finally going hardcore, NVIDIA’s Project Shield provides gamers with a complete console-based controller, proper HD graphics, Wi-Fi Technology, multi-touch display, integrated speakers, and runs on the powerful Tegra 4.
The system can play Android games and, more interestingly, can directly stream games from your GE Force GTX Powered PC, meaning you can play titles from Steam on this behemoth as well. The handheld has already unveiled games such as Assassin’s Creed III and Dishonored, both of which will wireless stream from your PC to this handheld.
Neither release date nor pricing has yet been confirmed.
Suddenly, the big boys of gaming don’t seem so dominating, do they?