Given that Google wants to get Android onto any machine with the potential to connect to the Internet or to a screen, it should come as no surprise that the company is reportedly building an Android game console. When Google unveiled Android OS in 2007, it showed its intention to get into not just mobile phones but also set-top boxes, TVs and household appliances. Google so far has put a check mark next to all the projects that it intended to finish.. almost. Although Google does not have any set-top boxes working with service providers, the company did get into streaming players with Google TV; Lenovo’s K91 Android TV was first showcased at CES 2012. Android powered appliances were found at CES 2013.
Google is not the first company building game consoles out of a mobile platform. Qualcomm leveraged its BREW platforms and partnered with Tectoy to build a 3G-supported game console, Zeebo, for developing markets where game console systems are a luxury. The intention was for Zeebo to help the company to sell more chips, and also provide game developers a new venue to repurpose their legendary games such as Tekken 2. However, it was discontinued 2-1/2 years after the first console went on sale in Brazil.
So, can Google’s Android game console succeed where Zeebo – and Google TV – could not? The answer may depend on whether casual gamers will follow Google from smartphones and tablets (which have taken over the mobile gaming market) to the TV.
Ever since the launch of the first Android-based smartphone in 2008, Android has been compared with iOS in the number of mobile apps available and downloads every month. Although Apple only had a 3-month lead time in establishing its app store, Google was still playing catch-up until July 2012. Although Google Play, Google’s app store, has hundreds of games available, most of the games are for casual gamers. For serious video game enthusiasts who look for superb graphic experience and motion interaction, the current games on Google Play would not cut it. If Google is planning on competing head-to-head with Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 this year, then leveraging its existing infrastructure is simply not enough. Instead, Google may be targeting casual gamers looking for a seamless experience from mobile phone to tablet to big screen TV. The result of targeting this segment could result in a different story.