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$6M invested in start-up turning your smartphone into a home console
$6M invested in start-up turning your smartphone into a home console
December 4, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi

December 4, 2012 | By Frank Cifaldi
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    29 comments
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing



Investors are betting big on Green Throttle, a Santa Clara start-up that believes mobile phones could one day replace traditional game consoles in the living room.

The company announced on Tuesday that it has received $6 million in Series A funding from a combination of two early stage VC firms, Trinity Ventures and DCM, to help launch a series of products that essentially turn Android smartphones (or tablets) into instant game consoles.

Green Throttle's approach is threefold. It is planning on selling hardware in the form of its Atlas wireless game controllers and television adapters, it's creating a TV friendly dashboard in the form of a mobile app, and it's publishing compatible games created in-house and by external developers.

It's a lot like what Ouya is doing, with one key exception: Green Throttle isn't making the console itself. Instead, it's using the phones and tablets that players already own, allowing players to play the same game on their television and on the go.

Green Throttle was co-founded by RedOctane co-founder (and Guitar Hero co-creator) Charles Huang, mobile executive Matt Crowley, and CTO Karl Townsend, formerly of Palm and Nokia.


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Comments


R. Hunter Gough
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isn't that the Gravatar logo?

Soren Nowak
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Just a bit :)

http://blog.ericlamb.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/center_gravat
ar.jpg

Brian Tsukerman
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Intriguing. An app paired with a tv adapter and a controller, with the smartphone doing the processing. I can see it allowing people to watch streaming videos pretty easily too. I like it!

Ian Fisch
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So when you buy the controllers and TV adapter, it's almost like you're buying a perma-console. Upgrade your phone, and use the same equipment.

Very cool.

Ian Fisch
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I wonder how much android devs will have to pay in order to make use of the gamepad.

I wonder how long until a competitor comes out that doesn't charge a license fee.

Joe Wreschnig
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I don't see anything one way or another about a license fee on their site, but you can download the preview SDK (which has no license attached anywhere I can see).

It works by running a bindable service, I don't see how you'd charge a fee for using that (except developer keys and always-online requirements for DRM, which, I really hope no one is seriously considering that).

Ian Fisch
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Joe,

Either they charge a licensing fee, or only allow games that are sold on their store to work with the controller.

They have to make money somehow.

Joe Wreschnig
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"They have to make money somehow."

Uh, how about by selling the controllers and adapters?

I realize a simple exchange of some cash for a thing is not the cool new F2P decentralized whale-driven pay-what-you-want crowd-sourced IAP ad-based monetization model, but surprisingly enough, it works.

Michael Rooney
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The problem with a licensing fee would be that somebody just makes a bluetooth controller and TV adapter without one and undercuts you. Really there's no shortage of cell phone->tv adapters or controller standards.

Too hard to keep locked down imo.

Michael Rooney
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double post woopsies.

Ian Fisch
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If they simply planned to make money off the hardware, they wouldn't be spending the money developing the green throttle arena app. It's clearly an app store. Just look at their website.

Taking a cut on games is how the console market works. It's the only way they'll be able to afford the marketing expenses necessary to get the widespread adoption of a standard.

Michael Rooney
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@Ian: I really don't think that's what the app is. It seems much more geared at promoting games that support their platform than selling the games and providing a good interface for TV use rather than touch use.

Considering their website doesn't even hint at their app distributing anything (including their own games), I really doubt they are trying to push their own app store.

Luis Guimaraes
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@Michael

Like TegraZone then.

Merc Hoffner
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Hum, uh, anyone else see the Hardware problem here? You connect the phone to the tv by the cable and suddenly it's not a mobile phone anymore. It's a landline. The convenience goes out the window if you have to connect/disconnect your phone to a lead out the back of your tv all the time. That's WHY we invented AirPlay. Then there's the cabling issue. Standards? All over the place. Even USB ports to their custom video unit are far from standard. Want to do it wireless? Then unless you've got hardware level control of the video encoding process (and a lot of spare power) latency breaks all games that might actually need a twitch response controller in the first place.

The premise is that the system in your pocket has most of what you need to play games, thus the cost comes down vs "expensive consoles". But knock down consoles have been providing commoditization level entertainment for a while and it's been pretty successful. This and Ouya face a tough time when you can buy an established PStwo slim, or even the new Wii for knockdown prices with libraries of comparatively deep games in the bargain bin. Then the argument becomes about power, but we're not talking about power gamers or power games here, and so it all becomes a bit moot. It takes more than a tv connection to make a console platform.

But I do wish them luck as the 'multiplayer in the same room' aspect of gaming is sorely lacking with the 'wave of domination of the mobile devices' gaming space. This I feel is the strongest aspect of this platform.

Ian Fisch
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I think they realize that you won't be able to hold your phone in your hand while it's being used as a console.

If you really need to answer the call that minute, and you don't want to use speakerphone, you simply unplug it from the tv. Not a big deal dude.

Merc Hoffner
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Bigger than you think. The people invented the remote control, so we wouldn't have to get up. The people invented the mobile phone so we wouldn't have to walk to a phone.

Any bit of inconvenience built into a platform based on convenience is, you know, inconvenient. A deal breaker for some. And is increasingly a backward step in a wireless world. Now if you could plug it in to ANY wall socket, as you annoyingly still have to to charge, and somehow it used power line networking to connect to your TV with low latency, THEN you might be onto something seamless and magical.

Brad Borne
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To me, the Wii U does the 'tablet elevated to TV' gaming far, far better than any rigged together system could.

This really doesn't make any sense, seems like someone just though, 'hey, phones can play some sort of games, have bluetooth, and can plug into a TV, why not turn that into a product?'

Yet, anyone who actually wants to can already pull this off with any phone, and anyone who wants an experience that's actually tailored to such a setup should, well, buy a console.

ian stansbury
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Great, another thing dependent on my sometimes wonky phone. Plus, now if I lose it I can no longer make phone calls/text/facebook/take pictures/listen to music/ AND play games till the replacement arrives. Kinda makes me wanna buy a better case for it too.

This one nice thing about this is that we may see some neat indie games come to a console style setting since its relatively easy to get into the android app store.

Russ Menapace
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I'm guessing they'll be nearly destroyed by trying to support all the devices and OS versions, and then finished off by piracy.

Johnathon Swift
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It's a great idea, just a few years ahead of its time I feel.

In 5 years, when 802.11 AC and Miracast is in every phone/tablet and hooked up to every TV so wireless video streaming is common and easy, and a tablet has solidly more horsepower than today's consoles (and starting to approach the upcoming 720/PS4) then, then I can see this being popular.

But there's going to need to be changes. Android for one needs serious changes to get it to a really solid, high level gaming experience.

Tom Baird
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I'm sort of hoping the future phones work a little bit differently.

Instead of buying an expensive phone with a large touchscreen and phone capabilities, why not take an idea like the Ouya or Raspberry Pi, and allow a sort of pluggable touchscreen/3G (though with a better form factor so it ends up looking like a phone).

That way I can take my little mobile device, and have it hooked up to a small touchscreen for mobility, large touchscreen to watch movies on the bus/car, tv to play games/watch tv. I can use NFC to transfer between little devices regardless of what it's used for, and I can turn just about any tv or monitor I can find into a singular, super-portable device.

And if I want to upgrade I can make it run faster or have a larger screen separately.
This idea feels backward since a huge portion of the price of the smartphone(Touch Sensors, Screens, 3G Antennas, Accelerometer, Microphone, etc...) are going to sit there in an unusable state to play games on your tv with the design they propose.

As-is, the system the propose seems like a sort of Frankenstein of parts and electronic components to make a single workable unit.

Also,
"Instead, it's using the phones and tablets that players already own, allowing players to play the same game on their television and on the go."
This says to me that they aren't particular familiar with mobile game design. I've yet to see a game with solid touch controls that translate properly to a game pad or vice versa (Virtual thumbsticks are an awful design substitute for a controller that have 0 feedback, and obscure the screen).

Johnathon Swift
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That's a rather good point, very neat. I wonder if it would work for phones, though I suppose an ultra thin touchscreen bluetoothed or something to an ultra slim mini pc thing still in your pocket would work.

A big change in business model though, there's a sort of trajectory going on, integrated screen/computers make a lot of money. Maybe someone will be brave enough to try it at least.

Ian Uniacke
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I totally agree Tom. It seems so silly to repurchase things like the 3g connection every time you buy a phone.

Andrew Chen
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Tom, have you chacked out the Asus Padphone... somewhat similar to your concept in that a phone can be turned into a tablet or "laptop" with conparatively cheaper hardware extensions. Still not thenost elegant solution, but we may be getting there.

TC Weidner
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if im sitting in front of my giant screen and the works, why would i skimp and play a game on phone hardware, and not a console with 10x more power/speed/graphics etc? Makes little sense to me.

And as other have pointed out, phone touch games just do not translate well to giant screen, game pad experiences and vice versa.

Ian Fisch
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And why would I drive a honda civic when I can just drive a lamborghini gallardo? Why am I eating this mac & cheese when I could be eating lobster?

Andrew Chen
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I get your point first point, but about the second, who decided "phone games dont translate well to the giant screen"?
Mobile game development is a broad broad industry, and to my eye plenty of developers target exactly the type of experiences that more "serious gamers" ask for on their more traditional gaming devices...and despite some inspired efforts, many of those games would still work better if they had physical controls.

I dont know if Green Throttle can solve this riddle, but their idea is something that can be great for a lot of mobile games (especially ifey can tap the iOS market)

Roberto Dillon
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Sounds good but I'm not that optimistic: people are lazy and start connecting your phone to the TV, power supply (or the battery will drain in an instant) etc. will be considered troublesome. Then you start playing and someone calls you...

Jeremie Sinic
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They seem to emphasize multiplayer games, but there aren't that many multiplayer games on mobile yet (at least synchronous multiplayer games on a single device).
Not to say this is not interesting but they will need to convince developers to make those real-time multiplayer games first before selling the concept to customers imho.
Also, some touch-friendly controller could come in handy. Although there are many games (using virtual pads) that would benefit from such a pad, Infinity Blade was made for a touchscreen and would not be as fun with a traditional controller.


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