PlayJam brought Android console Gamestick to an offsite event at GDC last week. If you've ever wanted to play your favorite smartphone games in your living room, this may just be the device for you. Stephany Nunneley reports.
No bigger than a flash drive, and maybe even lighter than most, GameStick plugs directly into your television via a cable and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.0 to up to four controllers. You're able to download games onto it through your WiFi. Plus, you can unplug it and take it to your buddies house for some gaming-on-the-go if the mood strikes you.
Simple, really, and the controller has your standard game controller buttons and sticks. No extra bells or whistles. Nothing fancy. Just a square-ish sort of box. It may look clunky but it felt OK in my hands, and reminded me of game controllers of yesteryear - only decidedly larger.
However, I must note that the actual GameStick controllers weren't working models. Instead, the games were being played using a third-party offering that resembled an Xbox 360 controller on dev units.
But how do the games, built for your smartphone and its small screen, look played on a 52-inch flatscreen? Lovely, actually: all the games support 1080 HD. Everything's been reconfigured to play on large screens by the developers themselves, and it all seemed to run smoothly. While I really couldn't compare how the games worked on the TV screen compared to my own Android device - because I don't really play mobile games - I didn't notice any technical issues.
Finding something to play was easy. The main UI was simple, and allowed for easy access to local titles or the GameStick store. Finding Netflix was just as straightforward.
I spoke with PlayJam games relations manager Oliver Heathcote. If you have an Android game you'd like included in the GameStick library, this is the man you want to speak with.
According to Heathcote, the games will run you the standard Android price - there's no extra charge for the upgrade. You can expect games to cost anywhere from 99 cents to $5.99, just as they do on Google Play or Amazon. If you already own a title that is available for GameStick, you will have to purchase it again as it doesn't allow for porting. Mobile games are inexpensive, so this shouldn't be a deal breaker.
All the games are stored on the 8Gb flash drive. There's a 32Gb Micro SD upgrade slot if you need more room.
Some 20 games were on hand at last week's event, but, from what I gathered, there'll be around 30 available when GameStick ships to Kickstarter backers next month. There are some 200 titles the firm considers potential inclusions, and the developer program currently has over 500 participants, so expect the likes of Riptide, R-Type, Ski Safari, Meganoid, Ground Effect, Gunslugs, AfterMath and more at launch.
For those interested in more than gaming, GameStick will also support XBMC at launch, and Shadowgun and Smash Cops will come pre-installed on the system thanks to a partnership with GameStop.
At release, GameStick will cost $79. I walked away impressed with the looks of it, but I may hold off purchasing one until more games are available. Plus, I've yet to get my hands on its main competitor, Ouya.