Ouya. M.O.J.O. GameStick. Nvidia Shield. Those are just a handful of Android-based gaming consoles that have or will be shortly hitting the video game market, with more on the way. With Google rumored to be developing its own gaming device (Android is their baby, after all) and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX inching the company closer to its own reported gaming system, the Android gaming console scene is getting packed, and quickly. While many are heralding the mobile platform to be the future of gaming, there’s no denying that console developers are inching closer to the eighties, when a similar glut slammed the breaks on the video game industry and nearly killed it.
I’m very much a fan of the pioneering spirit that all these console manufactures have, as Android is a great gateway for more people to discover the joys of video games. The rise of machines like Ouya and GameStick are very interesting, as they challenge the historical console setup of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. I’ve long since been burned out on $60 games, and the Android marketplace offers a much more diverse array of prices and pricing models. While iOS is making similar breakthroughs, the more open nature of Android is garnering praise for being especially inclusive of all. Still, breaking down barriers won’t mean a thing if the market is inundated before it can even begin picking up steam.
As sound as this move might seem on paper, the reality is that there are at least five to six viable options for consumers with minimal advantages to buying any one over another. Without much to make any one console more distinct than its competitors, consumers are being presented with a host of devices that essentially all do the same thing. Some might argue that the situation is no different than the current wealth of similar Android tablets and smartphones existing in harmony, but that’s a disingenuous comparison at best. People buy phones and tablets for a wide range of reasons, whereas a console is purely to play games. A ton of overly analogue devices doesn’t present options to consumers, it creates confusion.
Intellivision, V Tech CreatiVision, Epoch Cassette Vision, Arcadia 2001, Atari 5200, Coleco Vision, and more besides were all available within the same window as one another and virtually did the exact same things. I’m not going to quibble over specific formats, features, and games available for each, because none of those things prevented the great crash that their makers ultimately caused. Everyone wants to be king of the hill, but sometimes the rush to the top can flatten it. The me-too mindset of the eighties is coming back in force with this new era of Android consoles, and today’s manufacturers should be much more cautious than the forefathers of the industry.
So good luck, Ouya, GameStick, and everyone else; the past is only as deadly as which parts you choose to forget.