Microconsole

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For the OnLive hardware, see OnLive MicroConsole.
The Ouya is an inexpensive microconsole based on the Android-OS.

A microconsole is a type of video game console. Many of the devices that the term has been used to describe are low-cost Android-based devices that are designed to connect to televisions and play video games downloaded from an application store, such as Google Play.

Origins[edit]

In late 2010, cloud gaming startup OnLive released MicroConsole, a television adapter and wireless controller that connects the company's computer game streaming service to televisions.[1] VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi described the device as representing the company founder's "vision to turn the video game industry upside down" as an inexpensive console providing "high-end games on low-end hardware" that could eliminate the cycle of regular consumer hardware upgrades.[2][3] The MicroConsole TV adapter was produced at a loss.[3] OnLive's MicroConsole made the company an early leader in the nascent microconsole field.[4]

Amidst a "new war for TV" in the consumer electronics industry,[5] an inexpensive and simple Android-based video game console designed for televisions called Ouya was announced for crowdfunding in July 2012. The Ouya was an overnight success and raised $8.5 million.[6][7] Significant interest in low-cost Android console gaming followed Ouya's success,[8][9][10] spurred by the mobile games industry growth.[4][11] The industry began to refer to the resulting consoles as alternative consoles, or microconsoles.[12]

Polygon reported that Android "consoles" were best-in-show at the January 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, citing devices like the MOGA Pro, Green Throttle Games Atlas controller, Nvidia Shield, and news of Valve's Steam Machine, a non-Android console.[13][9][14] Following Ouya's success, other similar set-top Android gaming devices were announced as direct competitors, including the GameStick in early 2013,[15][16][17] GamePop in May 2013,[18] and Mad Catz's MOJO in June 2013.[19] Forbes's Daniel Nye Griffiths referred to Ouya and GameStick's close release dates as the microconsole field's first "showdown".[4] The GamePop and MOJO announcements in the early summer referred to the devices as "microconsoles".[20][21]

The PlayStation TV (known in Asia as the PlayStation Vita TV) is a microconsole announced in September 2013 at a Sony Computer Entertainment Japan presentation.[22][23][24] It was released in Japan on November 14, 2013 and in North America on October 14, 2014.

Reception[edit]

Gamasutra called Ouya, GameStick, and GamePop "console alternatives" that represent "a potential new market space for developers".[25] Tadhg Kelly, writing for Edge, called 2013 "the year of the microconsole", citing less consumer need for traditional console power, the low price of microconsole manufacture, increased system compatibility for easier game development, and more developer freedom from console business interests.[26] Microconsole promises of a less restrictive platform are expected to empower independent game developers.[14][27] Kelly referred to the "deliberately small" microconsoles as "the netbooks of the console world", not intended to compete with big video game consoles.[28] Other reviewers called the microconsoles competitors, though not a threat, and referred to a crowded "non-traditional console space" as a disadvantage.[10] Kelly added that Ouya is heavily focused on the early adopter audience and its interests, and that Ouya's "natural advantage" of price has not been communicated effectively.[28] Edge questioned possibilities of microconsole success due to competition within the field as well as from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft's new consoles.[29]

The pre-release Ouya was panned by early reviewers.[30] The Verge called it unfinished,[31] and in a later review, Eurogamer questioned why consumers would purchase a console that duplicated the functionality of smartphones they already had.[6]

The video game industry saw Apple's Apple TV digital media receiver as potential microconsole competition due to the company's experience in the mobile games market.[32][33][28] Polygon reported in January 2013 that the Apple TV "continue[d] to be dangerously close to upending the mobile gaming space" and speculated that an Apple TV App Store could spark "a rush of games to the television".[13]

Examples of microconsole specifications[edit]

Main article: List of microconsoles
Name Manufacturer Release date OS System-on-chip used CPU GPU Physical Media support Notes
Amazon Fire TV Amazon.com April 2, 2014 Fire OS Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T Quad-Core Qualcomm Krait 300 Qualcomm Adreno 320 No
GamePop BlueStacks TBA 2015 Android 4.2 Unreleased specs No Subscription-based
GameStick PlayJam October 29, 2013 Android 4.2 Amlogic 8726-MX ARM Cortex A9 Mali-400 MP GPU No
MOJO Mad Catz December 10, 2013 Android 4.2.2 Tegra 4 1.8 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A15 Nvidia 72-Core No
Nexus Player Google & Asus November 3, 2014 Android TV (Android 5.0-based) 1.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine No
FunBox ZTE 2014 Android 4.3 Tegra 4 1.8 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A15 Nvidia 72-Core No
Ouya Ouya Inc. (formerly Boxer8) June 25, 2013 Android 4.1 Tegra 3 1.7 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 Nvidia 12-Core 520 MHz No
PlayStation TV Sony Computer Entertainment November 14, 2013 PSVita OS Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore PowerVR SGX543MP4+ Yes, many physical Vita games are compatible[34] A home console version of PlayStation Vita
Pandora TV-Box 2013 Android 4.1.1 RK3066 1.6 GHz Dual-Core ARM Cortex-A9 Mali-400 MP4 No
Xtreamer Multi-Console Unicorn Information Systems January 2014 Android 4.2.2 RK3188 1.6 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 Mali-400 MP4 No
T2 TCL 2014 Android 4.2.2 A31 Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A7 PowerVR SGX544 MP2 No
TIMEBOX TIMEBOX October 28, 2014[35] Android 4.4[36] Amlogic M802[36] 1.6 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9[36] Mali-450 MP GPU 600 MHz 8-Core[36] No
G-BOX Geeya November 15, 2014[37] Android 4.4[38] RK3288[38] 1.6 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A17[38] Mali-T764[38] No
Forge TV Razer May 2015 Android TV (Android 5.0-based)[39] Qualcomm Snapdragon 805[39] Quad-Core Krait 450 CPU - 2.5GHz per core[39] Qualcomm Adreno 420 GPU[39] No
Shield Console Nvidia May 2015 Android TV (Android 5.0-based)[40] Tegra X1[40] ARMv8 ARM Cortex-A57 quad-core + ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core (64-bit) 256-core Nvidia Maxwell-based GPU[40] No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  18. ^ Pitcher, Jenna (June 2, 2013). "GamePop Android microconsole launching in winter for $129, free with subscription". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  19. ^ Sarkar, Samit (June 7, 2013). "Mad Catz working on Project M.O.J.O. Android micro-console, showing it at E3". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
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