Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Android Gaming Consoles

With Android picking up major steam in the last couple of years, it is taking all shapes and form factors.  We have incredible smartphones with amazing power.  There is a wide selection of tablets running Honeycomb and the new Ice Cream Sandwich in the next few weeks.  There are also iPod competitors in the form of the Galaxy Note.  However, there really is no major competitor in the form of a dedicated gaming device.  Sure, some ingenious individuals overseas have created a few handheld Android devices, but they aren’t mainstream to gain any real attention.  The only real attempt at such a step was the Sony Ericcson Xperia Play that was released mid-last year.  Is it time to introduce a device with Google backed Android that will provide gamers with a true gaming experience?

Sure, your current Android powered smartphone and tablet already provide a gaming experience, but perhaps it is time for someone to leap in.  To launch anything that would be taken serious, it would have to be either a handheld device, or a dedicated console.  However, why should it be just one or the other?  Why not be a hybrid device capable of being taken on the go with built in dedicated controls, and a bluetooth powered controller for playing the device when hooked up to a television?  If any company were to leap onto such a chance, it would probably take that course of action.  Give the user the best of both worlds.

Why would any such device be a good idea?  There is already a HUGE library of existing games that would provide a worthwhile gaming experience.  Many developers could be wooed in to take their franchises and offer control options to support dedicated hardware controls.  Take titles like Gamelofts Modern Combat and N.O.V.A. series.  These are popular titles that would translate just fine.  Then the popular emulation scene.  This would give the device a HUGE bump for the hardcore classic gamer scene.

The rundown of what would make such a device popular would need these basics…

  1. Standard D-Pad
  2. Dual Analog
  3. Four Face Buttons
  4. L/R shoulder buttons (x2 would be preferable)
  5. No less than a 5 inch screen
  6. Capacitive Multi-Touch
  7. Built in Stereo
  8. Bluetooth
  9. GPS
  10. WiFi
  11. HDMI
  12. USB
  13. Up to 64 gb HCSD support
  14. Minimum 8 gb internal memory
  15. Minimum 512 mb DDR2 RAM
  16. Gyroscope
  17. Android Market (Perhaps the most important feature here)
  18. A Dedicated Games Market to support fully compatible games (Could be a simple window display market that leads to the Android Market games page)

Without any of those features, the device would be an instant flop.  Graphics would have to be either a minimum Tegra 2 chipset, or Qualcomm’s hyped graphics chipset that hasn’t landed just yet.  Either way, we are talking about some serious gaming hardware that would help push detailed 3D graphics that would be able to compete with the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita, at minimum.  Expecting the device to push graphics on par with the PS3 and Xbox 360 would be a bit of a stretch at this time.  What version of Android should the device run?  Ice Cream Sandwich would be preferable, Gingerbread would probably suffice if need be, but only if a future update to ICS was in the works.

The additional push to sell such a device is the fact that it would have features expected from Google Android.  It would surf the web, have social capabilities thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  A nice twist would be having something like Gameloft Live, Heyzap, and OpenFient come pre-packed on the device to help bring in some true Social Gaming.

A device like this almost seems like a no brainer, but it still hasn’t arrived.  Is it that companies like Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG and Asus afraid to take on the “big boys of gaming” in the likes of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft?  Honestly, I do not expect to see anything like this from Sony seeing that on February 22nd, the PS Vita will hit US stores.  This device is going to be Sony’s bread and butter in the handheld gaming market.  Even though Nintendo is showing the problems from the 3DS not being a hit like the original DS when facing the onslaught of portable gaming provided from the likes of the iPhone and Android platforms.

If such a device were to show, it would have to be competitively priced to not only intrigue potential buyers, but to actually convince them to buy the device.  We are talking a price tag of no more than US$249.99 maximum.  Anything more would drive away mass consumers, even with a HUGE market of games that are anywhere from Free to $9.99.  Anything under US$199.99 to early would make buyers scramble to snatch one up, but not provide a strong profit for whomever decides to actually develop such a device, as there would be no licensing system to offset the cost of the device.

So, who would you want to see develop such a device?  I would say Google should push it directly with Motorola building it, especially since Google is about to own Motorola Mobility soon.

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