E3 has historically been a good place to debut new gaming platforms, at least in their final form, and 2013 was no different. And if you followed the news you’d think the only new consoles being shown off were Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Not so!
A tsunami of rambunctious upstarts powered by Google’s ubiquitous Android operating system were all over the show, giving editors and retail types alike a taste of what an open-source future might look like. There’s also the question whether there even is a future in this space, but that’s not stopping nearly everyone from giving it a go. Factor in that many of these devices were born from Kickstarter funding and you’ll see why few outside the enthusiast community takes them very seriously.
While there was no shortage of Android-powered gaming devices at the show but for clarity this piece will focus on dedicated gaming hardware only. So while fun projects like Nvidia’s Shield portable or Power A’s MOGA (or even GamePop’s mystery subscription machine) certainly represented the community our focus will solely be on MadCatz’s M.O.J.O., Sunflex’s unu, PlayJam’s GameStick, and the OUYA.
None of the following consoles presented a completely desirable scenario for gamers, as each attempted to do something slightly different in an untested market. Such is the nature of having to define a platform, and the open-source nature of Android seems to present as many problems as it does possibilities
Android, like iOS, is an ecosystem built from and currently thriving in the mobile sector, and the best games for it are designed around touchscreen controls and casual gameplay. That’s not to say hardcore games are underrepresented or don’t have their audience, but to artificially impose home console standards on the community seems shortsighted to me. Dismissing touchscreen controls for analog sticks and buttons won’t make Angry Birds or Rayman Jungle Run easier to play, and crassly appealing to ‘hardcore gamers’ instead of the mobile sector’s biggest audience probably won’t play as well as they’d like. It hasn’t for Sony’s struggling PS Vita, and they loaded that thing up with buttons.
As such, I can’t help but look at these upcoming consoles and see how each compliments one another, and how if they could just combine their strengths together, Voltron-style, we might have a real solution worth talking about.
So follow these handy links below for in-depth coverage from the four most intriguing Android-powered gaming consoles at E3 2013, each populated with as much official info and speculation as sanity allows.
Android-powered Gaming Consoles at E3 2013: