In the past, the video game world was dominated by 3 higher powers. In this era, gamers were divided by these factions. However, a fourth faction has arisen from the shadows, mobile gaming. The advancement of Apple and Android gaming has had a significant impact on the power on the 3 faction. In the wake of the upset, the 3 factions have dedicated themselves to attempting to replicate the techniques of the 4th faction, to no avail. Now, in this heated 4-way battle for supremacy, a new generation of developers have arisen to bring the battle to the boiling point. What was once a gigantic 4-way clash, will turn into an 8-way fight on a scale of the original clash that led to the formation of the Big 3.
The first of the challengers was one of a stealthy origin. PC gaming has a level of power, but is commonly seen as irrelevant in the eyes of the other powers. Valve, the developer of the popular PC portal Steam, have decided to take their format to the big screen with the Steam Box. The Steam Box is a 2-part entry into the battle. The first part is codenamed “Bigfoot”. This will be the main console/PC format that will not have mobile capabilities. This will be available in 3 versions: good, better, and best. The difference between the versions is how close they edge towards functioning like a full PC. The Bigfoot is using the new design for gaming PCs, the Piston. This 4 inch console will be easy to transport, if that was even necessary. Besides the ability to play the 1,860+ games already on the media format, the device has 1 unique feature. The Steam Box has the ability to connect to multiple screens at the same time. Given the PC-like nature of the console, any user can use one Steam Box to play 2+ games on different screens with different controllers. As a result, family gaming would be revolutionized. This multi-functional PC gaming console will be available late-2013/2014.
The next three consoles share a similar beginning. The Android brand from Google has become Apple’s greatest threat in the mobile market. Offering more open user modifications and full integration to the company’s other options, the only thing keeping the company from full domination is Apple’s fame as a company. These three consoles utilize the operating system in a brand new way. This operating system is a JellyBean meant for three.
The next great threat to the gaming nexus comes at the size of a coffee mug. This console seeks to be a beacon calling out the collective creative minds of Earth to a format they can all inhabit. This creation is the Ouya(pronounced ooo-yah). This console was funded on KickStarter, a website where people can pledge money to a variety of projects. During its run on the site, it has managed to rake in over 8.5 million dollars, over 900% of its goal. These donors were not scammed because the console has made some excellent progress. Running on a customized version of Android Jelly Bean, this $99 dollar console is fully open to creativity. Whereas the other factions have strict rules with modifying the console, as seen with Sony and Microsoft, the Ouya can be perfectly customized without voiding the warranty, a benefit for modders. For consumers, the big thing that people have to deal with is paying $60 for a single game. Luckily, every game for the console has to be free to play in some way. However, what would a new console be without games to support it? With the Ouya, you are the gamer and the developer. Every new console has the ability to create games for the system, something that originally, could only be done by developers that can afford an expensive developer kit. Recently, the company started their own Game Jam campaign to bring more games to the console. With a grand prize of $20,000, developers from across the reaches of the Earth gathered to create 166 games for the new console. The average Joe is not the only person making games for the console. Square Enix, the company famously known for the Final Fantasy franchise, has made a deal with Boxer8, to release new games for the console. Every developer, big and small, now have a console they call home. Will you be the next Ouya developer? You can pick up your Ouya and the 480 confirmed games at most major retailers in June.
One of the key features that these new upstarts possess is size. When any new device is large, it becomes a pain to carry around. This issue was apparent with Apple’s iPad and, as a result, devices have been constantly decreasing in size. The gold standard for tablet size has decreased to a slim 7 inch frame. Consoles from Sony have offered slim options as alternatives, but are still tedious to transport. Luckily, this next generation sets the gold standard in console size. This next console redefines the limits of size. The Game Stick is exactly as the name describes. The entire console is the size of a flash drive that effortlessly fits inside the controller. Developed by PlayJam, this console is ambitious in its quest to compete with the Ouya. Coming in at $20 cheaper, the console boasts a strong user base and a large support group. At its public unveiling, PlayJam has stated that 250 developers are already ready to create games for the system. The console has gone another step beyond the Ouya, peripherals. With a dock that is already in development, you can store all add-on devices for the go. The Game Stick will also sport its own version of the Jelly Bean interface. However, this console does not come with the creative features of the Ouya. Can the Game Stick beat the system with the power to create?
Whereas console sales continue to flourish, handheld consoles are suffering in sells. The 3DS, Nintendo’s newest entry into the handheld business, only survived from a drastic price drop. On the other end of the spectrum, Sony’s Playstation Vita is continuing to fall. In the age of cell phones with quality gaming potential, is there really any need to purchase a handheld?
Nvidia seeks to answer that question with a “yes”. As a famous developer of graphics chips for other companies, nobody could expect them to come out with their own creation, the Shield. This venture into the tough world of gaming has piqued the interest of onlookers searching for the next best thing. The design can be seen as a “TV on a controller”. The controller part is identical to a Playstation controller with extra buttons for volume and the interface. The screen is a full retina display with touch support. The Shield also promises excellent speaker quality, a first for portable devices. Lastly, and probably the most important feature is the fact that it is running on Nvidia’s most powerful mobile graphics chip, the Tegra 4. This will bring full console quality gaming to the handheld with next to no lag. On the software side, running on Jelly Bean, Nvidia’s Shield is fully compatible with its own online store and two other sources. The first and most prominent source is your own PC. As PC gaming expands, more games are adding gamepad support. The Shield’s ability to stream games from your PC will allow Nvidia to harness this element for their own device. Recently, the Shield was shown to play Borderlands 2 with a better response time than the 360. This game is actually difficult to run unless you have a high-end gaming PC. This display of sheer power is definitely something to write home about. The system can also run the Steam interface, increasing its library of games. Offering a near-perfect gaming experience,, it would be tough to get gamers back to the computer screen.
In this ferocious battle, Sony and Microsoft are not going to let these new upstarts dominate the market. After the Playstation Vita’s failures, Sony needs a new powerhouse to reclaim the sales lost after the PS2 era. Microsoft, being the weakest of the Big 3, needs to bring quality gaming to the masses after making users pay for online play and the Kinect. Can these upstarts defeat the power of established user bases? That is an answer left for the consumer to decide.