We’ve talked a good bit about the Android-powered Ouya the past few days, but interestingly, not much of our discussion has focused on Google. Google is, of course, the company that owns and actively develops Android. Up until now, the company has been content on mobile devices and, outside of Google TV, hasn’t made a strong charge at getting into homes.
That may change, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Google has plans to create a game console based on Android. And when you look at the current state of Android penetration and the gaming market as a whole, it makes a lot of sense for Google to move in this direction.
Android is the most used smartphone operating system in the world and there are a lot of great games available on that OS. And while smartphones and tablets make for great portable gaming devices, game consoles handle the act of couch gaming a lot better. It just feels more comfortable when you can lean back and play — not to mention, putting games on a TV makes it easier to engage in multiplayer fun.
There’s an opportunity for disruption at that home console level, too. The big three — Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo — are installed in many living rooms, but none of these systems let you leave the couch and take your gaming with you. Both Nintendo and Sony have dedicated handheld gaming devices, but you can’t transport Assassin’s Creed 3 from your Wii U or PS3 and play it on your 3DS or Vita. Microsoft has passed on handheld gaming entirely. The chance is there for Google — or another company — to break down the wall between home and portable gaming, using the cloud as a way to keep progress synced.
(To be fair, the PlayStation 4 will have a remote play option that works with your Vita, allowing you to stream and play your PS4 games on your handheld. It’ll require an Internet connection, though.)
What Google may really be thinking, though, is that a game console is the perfect Trojan horse to get Android into the living room. A game console is the path of least resistance if you want your product sitting next to the TV. A lot of people own multiple game systems but few will plunk down the cash for an Apple TV, a Roku and a Google streaming box all together. And once you’re in, the apps that extend your device’s media capabilities can follow — look at what the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have done.
And some may wonder — what could Google do differently than the Ouya, which has received some pretty poor reviews? The answer is quite a bit. Google has a lot of money to sink into the project (no Kickstarters), it’ll have the actual Android team available to see the project through, and it already has the marketplace infrastructure built thanks to its Google Play store. And, should it need to, the company can advertise its new system on the most popular website in the entire world.
With rumors floating around that Apple also plans on entering this market — rumors solidified by its controller support in iOS 7 — it’ll be interesting to see who makes the jump first. But whether it’s Google or whether it’s Apple, the console gaming industry could be in for a change. We’ll just have to wait and see how big that change is. I think it’s pretty clear though that a move toward console gaming for Google is one that will get the company into more living rooms than Google TV ever could.