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gdc 2012

Hands On With The Game Stick

by Ben Reeves on Mar 27, 2013 at 06:59 PM

If you’re convinced you want to get Android games on your TV, then the Ouya isn’t the only option. Game Stick could give the Ouya a run for its money. I got my hands on the system during a recent GDC event and I think the system has potential, but I wonder if the little device has staying power.

One of the system’s big selling points is its $79 price. One of the most worrisome problems with the system is its controller (pictured). While I appreciated the Game Stick’s unique modern design, I found it uncomfortable, and I’m sure that players will get hand cramps after using the boxy thing for a few hours.

The stick itself is a little larger than a USB thumbdrive and plugs into one of your TVs HDMI ports via a detachable remote dongle. While the system runs Android 4.0, not every game on Google’s Play store will work for the system, since many games on the store require a touch screen. However, Game Stick has done a good job of working with developers and curating its store to include some great gaming options. I played games like Vector and Towelfight 2 on the Game Stick and was impressed with how well both games played using a controller. Netflix is also supported on the system if you don’t already have one of the 14,543 devices that already support Netflix.

The Game Stick’s UI is fairly simple with cross bars that show Featured games as well as new titles just like you’re familiar with in most online stores these days (check out the UI trailer above). Players will be able to create a profile page that tracks their achievements and friends as well. Still, for my money, I’d rather spend $20 more on the Ouya and get a controller that doesn’t require a hand massage after a night of gaming.

One of my biggest annoyances with the system is the fact that any purchase you’ve already made on Google Play will not transfer over to the Game Stick. This system features a separate store, so you’ll have to buy all of the games you’ve already purchased all over again. However, if you do have a game on your phone that you’d like to play on your TV, the Game Stick offers the opportunity to wirelessly stream that game from your phone onto your TV through the Game Stick, so maybe you won’t need to purchase those titles again. Still, it would be nice if you could share save data between all your Android devices.

The problem that the Game Stick (and the Ouya) face is how heavily developers will support controller based gaming on Android. I love the fact that the Game Stick is only $79 and therefore isn’t a big commitment, but I have trouble imaging a world where these types of machines overtake Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo’s offerings. If there is space in the market for both Android consoles and other AAA platforms like the PS3, 360, and Wii U, we’ll have to wait until late April when the Game Stick launches to find out.