Is there room for another game console?
Yesterday, I read this blog post about the evolution of game consoles over the past 45 years.
I remember those heady days of the late 80s and early-mid 90s when every time you turned around there was a new console being announced. I had a friend who had the TurboGrafx 16 and Neo Geo consoles and I especially remember seeing infomercials for the Philips CD-i in the wee hours of the morning.
Although nothing in the article was new to me, it was the end of the article that got me thinking.
“Finally, the current generation of video game consoles only has room for three major competitors: XBox 360, Sony Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii”
True, this has been the case for a good, long time but there is something on the horizon. There are two highly anticipated platforms making their way to consumers in the near future which I think have a real chance of disrupting the Big Three.
Valve’s “Steam Box”
Valve is working on a set top console. They are not only the publisher of highly successful console/PC games (Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Counter-strike, Half-Life, Portal and Team Fortress) but they also have the Steam platform that allows users to play their games (and other publishers’ games) in a controlled environment, amongst others in the Steam community and along multiple devices (ie tablets and smartphones). The purpose of this “Steam Box” console will be to allow gamers to play their favorite PC games in their living room instead of on the PC. Since Steam is already a “virtual” console, it would be reasonable to think that if they were to release a physical console with Steam there would be a lot of people who would switch over to the console version play from their own living rooms. And, with Steam, they would be able to play their game on their smartphone, save it, and then pick it up again on their TV.
Of course, it remains to be seen exactly what this console will be like or how it would be interfaced, but it would most likely be some type of keyboard-like controller to allow for maximum customizing of actions available in-game (instead of a standard console controller which has a limited amount of buttons). There’s just not enough information out there at this time to get a good idea of how this will affect the next gen consoles but considering the following Valve already has on Steam, I would say it’s a pretty safe bet that this could be a big disruptor in the console arena.
The creators of the OUYA are looking to bring your favorite mobile platform games onto a TV via their console. OUYA runs on the Android OS and is an open source gaming console which will allow developers to develop games for it and not have to work with big name game publishers in order to have their games come to fruition. The concept of the OUYA was so well received that its Kickstarter campaign made over 9x the original funding goal (original goal was $950,000 and by the time the Kickstarter campaign finished, they raised almost $8.6 mil.). The OUYA is an entirely new concept in console gaming and a lot of people have taken notice.
OUYA is currently priced at $99 and is expected to have a large library of “free-to-play” games. Free-to-play games allows you to play games for free and, if you want to, you can unlock additional content (better weapons, etc…) by paying for them. These types of games are becoming very popular in the social and casual gaming circles because they don’t involve a large (or any) investment up front when trying them out but if you wish to get more heavily invested you can pay more on the back-end for additional content.
Even if the OUYA is not a mega-hit, it’s only $99. With the current price of consoles lingering in the $200-$300 range, a $99 console would almost feel like an impulse buy. At that price point there will surely be (at least) a few games on the OUYA to justify the cost.
I’m very excited at the prospect of both of these consoles (I’m still kicking myself for not getting in on the Kickstarter for OUYA when it was open). I believe these two new entries into the console arena will create a better competitive market and we might start seeing more innovation, lower price-points and a greater selection of game options become available (Microsoft recently released their free-to-play game “Happy Wars” onto the Xbox LIVE Arcade and – I feel – the game leaves something to be desired).
What do you think about OUYA or “Steam Box”? Do you think two upstarts could really compete against Microsoft, SONY or Nintendo for valuable time on your TV? Would you buy either of these new consoles, even if it was just to try something new?