Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 20, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 20, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

How PlayJam plans to shake up the microconsole market Exclusive
How PlayJam plans to shake up the microconsole market
September 12, 2013 | By Mike Rose

September 12, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

"I don't think this battle of the microconsoles is going to be won in a quarter, right? It's going to take a long time for this trend... we're just part of a set of cogs that are rotating."

Gamasutra can today reveal that the upcoming GameStick microconsole will be released worldwide on October 29 through GameStop and Game stores, as well as through Amazon, and the console's creator PlayJam directly for $79.99 / £79.99.

We've also got the first glimpse at the full launch and launch window lineup for the GameStick -- but before we get to that, let's jump straight into the more exciting stuff.

See, GameStick isn't the be-all and end-all in the UK-based PlayJam's microconsole plans. While other companies might be looking at how best to raise their own hardware above the competition, PlayJam CEO Jasper Smith has broader plans.

"The core expertise in PlayJam is as a games network and operator that works with the developer community," he tells me. "GameStick is an essential part of our strategy - it's key for in terms of how we make money."

"But ultimately, what we want to do is plug GameStick's network into as many other TV-relevant devices as possible because, for our developer network to get value out of what we're doing, we need to be serving tens of millions of devices - and however successful we are with selling GameStick, we're unlikely to sell tens of millions of them in the next few years."

And PlayJam is already in the process of making this a reality. Although the details are under NDA, the company has made a notable deal with a rather large company that plans to enter the microconsole market soon, by which PlayJam will be able to offer publishing at a better rate than the aforementioned company themselves.

"If you go direct with [the company], you might get 70 percent [revenue share]," Smith notes. "If you go direct with us, you will get at least the same, in addition to also getting on GameStick and Smart TVs."

This is PlayJam's microconsole domination plan -- rather than just focusing on getting GameStick into as many hands as possible, PlayJam aims to be on as many microconsoles as possible within the next five years. This means that developers can come straight to PlayJam and publish across all microconsoles, rather than messing around multiple companies within a fragmented market.

"If you look at the revolution coming to the living room through Android devices, on aggregate, there probably will be tens of millions of devices sold," notes the PlayJam CEO. "So what we're trying to do is get our developer community's games onto as many devices as possible."

"Looking ahead five years, we would expect to see GameStick very much a part of the fabric of these microconsoles, and we'd hope to have a big marketshare in that," he adds. "But we'd also hope to see multiple of our developers' games being published through PlayJam on multiple other devices. Really, it's the only way a company entering this space can create sufficient traction for developers to be really motivated. Otherwise, you just end up with your own sales."

gamestick 1.jpgAnd just to prove that he isn't all talk, Smith mentioned another notable deal that PlayJam already has in place with another major company too -- again, the details are unfortunately under NDA, but the implications are massive. Smith hints that an announcement may be on the cards soon.

The hare and the tortoise

With the various delays that the GameStick has seen -- it was originally penned in for a June release, and then a September launch -- you could argue that this has left the PlayJam team is a favorable position.

Since the Ouya has already been out for a few months now, Smith and co. have been able to watch what the Ouya team has done right and wrong, and learn some valuable lessons before the GameStick is even released.

"You never want to be first, right?" Smith laughs. "There are learnings to take from people who have launched before us. Some of the things we may have done differently - I think we took a different route with the controller. We used a completely open-standard rather than proprietary standard. We used different paradigms around navigation and how you get into and out of games."

Essentially, watching Ouya go first has given GameStick plenty to think about. "There's a lot to be said for letting others go first and learning from it. I think you always set out to create the best product you can, right? I'm quietly confident."

Of course, the delays have also meant that PlayJam has caught a glimpse of Sony's own microconsole, the PS Vita TV, before GameStick's launch.

"I'm intrigued by it," Smith says of the PS Vita TV. "I think it's just indicative of a trend that we saw some time ago.

"I'd love to say it's Sony reacting to what we and others have done," he continues. "I suspect it's not! I suspect what they've seen is there's a sweet spot for really low-cost, good gaming in the living room. I think the difficulty it will have is that, as far as we're aware, the cost of games will still be relatively high, and I don't think it's a completely open ecosystem - I don't think they've used Android, it's still the Vita OS. I think ultimately, they can't compete with a completely open mobile ecosystem that has become Android.

That being said, Smith is excited to see how the PS Vita TV shakes up the microconsole space. "There are mutliple box solutions that are going to go into people's living rooms, and what we're trying to do is create something that's even more portable than a box - the stick approach," he says. "I think the battle of the boxes will be the battle of the boxes, and we'll see what the battle of the sticks is like!"

What about developers then?

So let's say PlayJam can get you the wide microconsole audience you're looking for -- what exactly is the company doing to get developers on-board?

"Our approach is to be very hands-on with developers," Smith answers. "We're out talking to developers on a regular basis, and we're trying to encourage them to look at the living room opportunity, and I think our key message to them is that we're very unlike most of the other solutions that are coming to market."

This, he says, is because PlayJam's core business revolves around a games network that is on 80 million TVs today, with PlayJam network licensing agreements with multiple device vendors.

GameStick launch titles

"So what we're really trying to do to, and GameStick is an essential part of that - what we're really trying to do is build a games network for TV that developers really want to join, because it takes all the friction out of them having to go and negotiate with Samsung, LG, Panasonic and all these guys."

"We take a very personal approach to [speaking with devs]," he ads. "We like to have direct conversations, know people, talk to people, so the games we're getting through our pipeline are very high-quality. Part of what we're trying to do is not have millions of games on the platform, but have games that perform really well and are fun to play."

Part of getting the message out to developers involves heading out to locations and shows around the world, spreading the word as much as possible.

"The main thing we're doing is going to every trade show that we can shake a stick at, and talking to developers," Smith notes. "We have developer nights, and we reach out through every mechanism that we can reach them through. We're doing an event with Unity, one with ARM, we've got some GameStick nighs coming up, we did events at E3 and GDC, we're doing one in GDC China, we did one in South Africa..."

PlayJam is a relatively small business with just 40 people at the helm, and five of those people are constantly on the road, talking PlayJam and the GameStick up. "Our ambition is to grow that team so that the thing that PlayJam does better than anyone else is just really manage a developer community, so that the community feels like its getting value from us."

"Any console is made or broken by the quality of the games they've got," Smith says. "I think we've got a pretty good lineup, and we're working on making that lineup stronger as we go forward."

Related Jobs

Wicked Loot
Wicked Loot — Mountain View, California, United States

3D Artist & Animator
Vicarious Visions / Activision
Vicarious Visions / Activision — Albany, New York, United States

Human Resources Manager
Monochrome LLC
Monochrome LLC — Aptos, California, United States

Senior Programmer
Digital Extremes
Digital Extremes — London, Ontario, Canada

Character Artist


Kujel s
profile image
While I doubt the gamestick itself will go very far playjam's strategy of getting their network on as many devices as possible may prove successful for them, we will see.

Harry Fields
profile image
I find myself asking myself why the current fascination is with going backwards? I love the power afforded by the new consoles.... Surely I am not the only one? If I want to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush or whatever FotM nickel and dime you to death android game, I'll play it on my phone. To those pursuing this market, good luck... the only ones who will make *any* money are the platform/storefront creaters.

I find it funny that the little guy has to give up 30%, right off the top to be on a microconsole... That is not the best way to incentivize development on your platform... especially if your install base is in the thousands or low million range.

Ian Fisch
profile image
Having great developer relations doesn't amount to squat if you don't have the install base. This is the reality that Ouya is facing right now and why few people are developing for it.

As far as I can tell, the ONLY way to get that big install base is with tons and tons of money. You have to pay for tons of marketing and pay for exclusive games. I don't see any other way.

Playjam's answer to this is to have their hardware pre-installed on smart TVs, but that's a completely unproven market.

Mike Gwald
profile image
I was comparing Ouya's SDK (ODK) and gamestick's SDK.
Gamestick's SDK looks more mature to me.
It's better documented and supports native C++ (ODK not officially!) and has support for generic blue tooth controllers support.. while BT on Ouya (from others experiences) looks hacky at best.

Also gamestick SDK has social (leaderboard/Achievements) & analytics in it's framework, which to my knowledge ouya does not. That alone is great for devs!

Another plus for gamestick, the controller has start and select buttons!!
(Ouya being an emulation device really miss-stepped there!)

What worried me was XMBC support on gamestick, but there are reports it will be supported.

And finally, free the funds fiasco:

“…we’ll understand if the game you can’t afford to make isn’t on OUYA.”
Can most indie devs afford to make games in general??
We do it in our spear time and live on savings to do it.. so this is a huge slap in the face for me!
Whoever wrote that, needs to be fired ASAP!

So, all in all.. sadly, I'm not interested in ouya anymore.
Mostly due to the lack of C++ native and limited API.

Michael Joseph
profile image
Perhaps emotionally, plugging a gamestick into a TV feels like upgrading that TV. It's as if rather than using the TV to facilitate the use of a gaming device (as with a normal console) the gamestick is unleashing the gaming potential already inside the TV. Like an old cartridge system. Anyway, I'm not saying it's a real distinction, just an emotional one.

I wonder how many of these devices will get accidentally left behind plugged into TVs in hotel rooms.

They could give away these devices to hotels. The hotel clerks can hand'em out with the room key and make sure they are returned on checkout. Allow the hotels to get a cut of games rented in room. Maybe they are already doing this?