Android gaming consoles are gradually starting to become a thing. Even though many Android devices can already double as gaming consoles, there really wasn’t a popular standalone console before Ouya. After Ouya’s super successful Kickstarter campaign, we’ve seen some other companies such as PlayJam come onto the scene with similar offerings. As great as I think this is, I worry that there just aren’t enough exclusive Android games around to warrant more app stores.
App store fragmentation is one of the biggest issues with standalone Android consoles. For years, people have been purchasing apps and games from Google Play (previously the Android Market). Games that were purchased three years ago from Google Play can still be downloaded onto the newest Android devices without any additional charge. That likely won’t be the case with Ouya, and the GameStick. Both of these consoles will use its own app store which will have no knowledge of your Google Play history. This opens the door to even more fragmentation that Android just can’t handle. Customers will have to choose which app store they’re going to support. Worse still, both stores will offer some of the same games.
Think about it. How many times are you willing to re-purchase and replay Shadowgun and Canabalt in your lifetime? Is it really worth spending another $2-$3 just to play the exact same game only on a different kind of Android device? Android console makers need exclusivity for their devices to shine. They need to be able to say no other device can offer what it has. Ouya has done this to some extent by grabbing an exclusive deal with Robotoki to bring the prequel to Human Element to its platform. The question is whether or not Android game developers will think it’s worth it to limit themselves to a small subsection of the Android ecosystem as opposed to being a part of the ecosystem as a whole.
Without exclusive games to separate these consoles from each other, they will need to fall back on something else. Fortunately for Ouya, its potential can be realized in many ways once it’s hacked. Who knows, maybe it can become what the Nexus Q failed to be. At the very least, it can be a cool looking media device.
Consoles like Ouya and the GameStick have every chance at being successful devices for many reasons, but the jury is still out on their ability to carry on as gaming consoles. This may be a case of Android being too open for non-Google Play gaming app stores to be successful.