Amazon’s new Fire TV looks like the first really big attempt at what people have been speculating on for a while now — a transference of the existing mobile operating system market to the living room. Whether or not it actually gets off the ground, much less have an effect on the game industry, remains to be seen.
Mobile is of course the new course for mobile computing, and is tearing apart the traditional gaming handheld market. It’s been long speculated that Apple or Google could do something similar to living room computing and gaming. I think the Fire TV is the first real push for this.
The difference between the Fire TV and the Ouya and Roku is, well, Amazon. The Fire TV looks like it’s going to have a library of software that is both robust and structured. It’ll probably grow bigger than the Roku store and be better curated than Ouya’s store. The launch software lineup is proof enough how much strength the existing Android ecosystem gives Fire TV. You can already cheaply play games like Sonic The Hedgehog, NBA 2K14, and Deus Ex: The Fall on this thing. Not to mention the backing of big game publishers and the brand cloud of Amazon. This is similar to what people have been thinking Apple was bound to do with the Apple TV.
Of course the future of Fire TV depends on one thing — software support. Will the likes of EA, Ubisoft, SEGA, and Square Enix stay the course on it? Will mobile developers come to support it? What kind of difference will Amazon’s first party studios make (with guys like Clint Hocking on board)?
I’m not necessarily saying mobile games will instantly transfer to the TV, or that the people who play them will even want to do that on a TV. What’s possible however is that either big publishers might crack that market, or mobile publishers might start thinking about living room-oriented games for the mass audience that might choose a $99 box over a $400 console.
Make no mistake — if you already own that $400 console or a $1000 PC and are willing to pay $60 for games, you probably don’t need any of these little media boxes. What I’m talking about is the casual audience that could, in time, get sucked away from PlayStation and Xbox.
It could be as simple as someone deciding to pay $8 to play NBA 2K14 on the Fire TV instead of paying $60 to play it on the PS4 if they don’t care about the graphical differences. What if a developer lands a killer app with the exposure of Candy Crush but also the family gaming appeal of Wii Sports? What if Fire TV eventually get’s a free-to-play Mario Kart clone, or better yet the existing Android version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed?
That’s all purely speculation of course and likely a long way into the future. It could occur that living room gaming isn’t for the mass market at all outside a handful of popular console games. On the other hand, people are still waiting for Apple and Google to enter this arena. In the nearer term, it at least looks like Fire TV might be the final nail in Ouya’s coffin and a very good competitor to the Roku.
- Oh, and Microsoft just announced it’s bringing basically the whole Windows app store to Xbox One. That’s kinda big.