Some Questions about Microconsoles

My very good friend Warren Bennett recently brought to my attention a series of articles about microconsoles that were written on the site What Games Are. The site talks about how 2013 seems to be the year of these microconsoles, and the various articles in the series examine the types of devices and what the supposed target audiences are.

The big one to attract a lot of attention earlier this year was the Ouya, an Android-powered home console that has an awful lot of promise to it. Nvidia’s Shield (released on July 31) has already hit the market, offering streaming of major PC titles as well as the ability to play Android games on a 720p Tegra-4 powered device.  Then, we have the planned Steam Box (targeted for a late-2013 release), the upcoming Steam OS, and the localization of the popular Japanese console PlayStation Vita TV.

For some reason, a lot of people like to claim that these devices are aimed at a more casually-focused gaming audience.  One article on What Games Are talks about games for gamers not wanting to make a serious commitment or “join a cult,” and how devices like these suit that need. Others say that there is no possible way for other companies to have a chance to encroach on markets established by giants like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

So, I have to wonder: Is it fair to write off these “other devices” so easily? Is it right to assume that they won’t ever amount to much more than an experimental fad?

First, I have to think that anyone that rules out the market for the Steam Box isn’t really thinking that one through. A lot of people like to play PC games, but a lot of people also like to play games on their TV with their friends. A device like this allows the best of both worlds without having to output stuff from your computer all the time. In this case, ease of use actually is the name of the game, but it sounds like something that’s actually a good idea!

The PlayStation Vita TV makes even more sense to me. The device will play Vita titles, cross-platform games, be able to stream PSP titles, PlayStation titles, PC Engine games, and do all of this in full 1080p while connected to your TV. And, supposedly, it will do all of this for just $100. Since a lot of my handheld gaming is actually done from the comfort of home anyway, this device makes perfect sense to me.

Still, this is something that probably deserves some discussion…what do you guys think?

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One thought on “Some Questions about Microconsoles

  1. I think you are right and that we shouldn’t just dismiss these new forms of game consoles as just a fab that will go away. I thought that DLC was a fab and now it’s a major part of gaming. Not all the new microconsoles are going to make in this cut throat race that is the gaming industry, but I do see some making the cut like the Vita TV and Nvidia shield. Both devices have enough stay power to become a regular part of any gamers living room and Loo respectively while we keep our consoles in our room and stream to them. The steam box is a bit to unknown at this point to say much about it but if I know valve and had to make an educated guess I’d say cheap prices and sales will be the winning point of that device. The Ouya seems to be dead in the water at this point as it was riddled with a sucky launch and not enough software backing, but what do I know, we’ll all have to wait and see that comes of it all.

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