We thought the Ouya was a novel idea when it was first announced. A cheap gaming console running on Android that could play high-end Android games? We were definitely interested. However, it’s been a year, and the same idea has since been adopted by many others, more-or-less flooding the market with upcoming Android-based gaming consoles. Here’s a look at some of these dedicated gaming devices that run on Google’s highly-malleable operating system.
First up is the Ouya, the first one of these Android-powered gaming consoles to be widely successful. The Ouya runs on a Tegra 3 chipset, which was Nvidia’s flagship mobile chip last year. With this and the 1GB of RAM, the Ouya has enough juice in it to play even hardcore high-end games. The Ouya costs $99 and comes with one controller. Extra controllers cost $49.99 each.
The Ouya is probably the most popular among these consoles
The games on the Ouya are going to be free-to-play, with many games using their own different ways to make money, including the use of ads and in-app purchases. Currently, the Ouya boasts 200 games on its game store. It is available through online retail channels like Amazon.
The GamePop has two variations: the regular one and a GamePop Mini. The developers have jokingly referred to the difference in size by comparing the regular GamePop to Vin Diesel’s fist, and the GamePop Mini being the size of a pack of bubble gum.
Instead of selling games, the GamePop has its own subscription-based service that essentially gives you access to its entire game library as long as you pay the subscription fee. The regular GamePop is currently available for free if you commit to a one-year subscription, but after Sunday, you’ll have to separately buy the console for $129. The monthly subscription costs $6.99. After Sunday, just paying the subscription fee will get you the GamePop Mini for free.
As big as Vin Diesel's fist
The GamePop Mini is said to be just as capable as the GamePop at playing games. However, it lacks some of the ports that the regular GamePop has and will not be compatible with all of the accessories that will eventually be released for the GamePop.
The GameStick focuses on portability above all else. The console itself is no bigger than a regular USB flash drive. It plugs into the HDMI port on any HDTV, and if the TV is MHL-compatible, it also draws power from the same port. For older TVs that aren’t compatible with MHL, the GameStick comes with a USB cable as well as a power adapter.
The GameStick, when not in use, can be put away snuggly in a compartment in the controller. The controller itself bears a striking resemblance to the old NES controllers of days gone by, albeit with analogue sticks.
Hardly bigger than a USB flash drive
PlayJam, the developers of GameStick, are working with many Android developers to bring games to the GameStick, as well as make them compatible with the GameStick’s controller. The console has 1GB of DDR3 RAM with 8GB of in-built storage, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n support, Bluetooth 4.0, support for mouse and keyboard setup and full 1080p HD video decoding.
The GameStick has a significant edge over its competitors owing to the $79 price tag.
Shield is Nvidia’s take on an Android-based dedicated gaming device. It is a handheld with a familiar DualShock-esque button layout. It has a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. Under the hood, it’s powered by the Tegra 4 chip, which is Nvidia’s latest competitor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chips. The Shield is set to hit stores in July and will cost $299 (Rs 18,120 approx).
Other than the fact that the Shield can run more-or-less any Android game under the sun, one of its most interesting features is the ability to "stream" the game you are playing on your PC on to the Shield. However, this requires an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 or higher on the computer. Nvidia has shown off this capability with games like Borderlands 2.
The Shield is a handheld system
It has been recently reported that Google is now working on its own version of an Android-based gaming console. Though not much is known about what the search giant is working on right now, it could be worth speculating a bit. The company will undoubtedly use top-of-the-line hardware for its hypothetical console, and it will no doubt run on the latest version of Android. It could even be based on the Nexus Q.
Google's console might end up being based on the Nexus Q, design-wise
That’s our roundup of the upcoming Android-based gaming consoles. Which one would you be interested in? Let us know in the comments below.