Official website: gamestick.tv
Background: Like the Ouya, the GameStick came into view thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. The funding wasn't as explosive as Ouya's, but Playjam, the company behind GameStick, still handily blew past the device's $100,000 funding goal to hit nearly $650,000. GameStick differentiates itself with a controller-based shove-in-your-pocket form factor. Players take the "stick" out of the controller, plug it into their TV's HDMI slot, and start playing. Playjam has been working in the Smart TV category for a few years, and Android tech has given them a promising new business. Playjam deems GameStick "The Big Screen Micro Games Console."
Availability: Releasing this month to early Kickstarter backers, then retail orders become the focus.
The low price. At $79, GameStick is $20 less than the already-cheap Ouya. GameStick is a console priced for disruption, and could be poised for strong uptake from consumers. Of course, that means -- theoretically -- a broader customer base to sell your game to.
Unique form factor. The GameStick is a controller and a stick that you plug into your HDMI slot. The mobility of this is a great marketing bulletpoint to have, alongside the $79 sticker. Again, it's potentially appealing for the mass market.
Customers can buy games from the storefront. A nice feature for impulse buys, this is an advantage GameStick currently has over Ouya, which requires players to download a game, then buy it through the game itself.
It's open-ish. Like Ouya, there is a basic, straightforward submission process for GameStick, so it's not a complete free-for-all.
Mobile touchscreen support. One of the neat things about GameStick is that Playjam will release an app that allows players to use a touchscreen iOS or Android mobile device as a controller. That opens up possibilities for game designers who want to implement touch and accelerometers.
Mature distribution network. Playjam has been working in the Smart TV sector and has pocketed millions in venture capital over the last few years. Its experience in game distribution could equate to a low-hassle experience for game developers.
The "Dock": Playjam will release a peripheral called the "Dock" that will have three USB ports for more possible game design possibilities (microphone or dancepad, anyone?) and expandable memory for storing more content. (Notably, the GameStick itself also has an expandable SD slot.)
It's not out yet. It was supposed to launch in April this year, but GameStick was hit with delays. However, early backers should be receiving units this month, with those orders expected to be fulfilled through September. Playjam plans on focusing on retail orders after that -- GameStop and Amazon will carry GameStick, so the device should have decent reach. (GameStop actually has a stake in the company.)
The developer just gives the MAC address of his or her retail GameStick to developer support. The address is then used to send the development version of the firmware, "within 15 minutes," GameStick tells us. This firmware update provides a suite of tools that lets developers upload, test and submit games to the company's internal QA team before the game heads to the storefront.
The GameStick developer site is still ramping up, but you can get started here: http://gamestick.tv/dev/
GameStick is Android-based, but it is not the publish-and-go Wild West of the Google Play store. There are basic requirements that games need to follow in order for them to be approved by Playjam, such as aspect ratios, graphical standards (e.g., games must maintain 25 frames per second), and menu and controller guidelines.
See the specifics here: http://gamestick.tv/documentation/ui_guidelines.htm
GameStick does not require (but does allow, if you like) a free component to your games, and all business models are welcome (premium, freemium, advertising, subscription, etc). Customers can also buy games directly from GameStick's custom storefront, which helps to make buying games faster and simpler.
70/30 (Game dev/GameStick)
Processor - Amlogic 8726-MX
Memory - 1GB DDR3 / 8GB FLASH
Content Download Manager w/ cloud storage for games.
WiFi - 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth - LE 4.0
Full 1080p HD video decoding
Support for XBMC & DLNA from Sept via optional firmware update.
Bluetooth, 3 mode controller: gamepad, mouse and keyboard with support for up to 4 controllers.
Support for iOS and Android mobile devices to be used as controllers
Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)