google nexus q
So it looks a lot like Google is releasing a games console soon. Yes, Ouya and GameStick, you heard right: the Android gaming platform is going to be a crowded one.
But it's not the homebrew Android crowd that Mountain View is likely to be targeting: it's Apple. After introducing iOS 7's new Game Controller API Apple is now in an even stronger position to take over your living room gaming shelf.
The thing is, Google already has some fantastic gaming hardware. It just doesn't play games yet. The ill-fated Nexus Q music streamer, launched at Google I/O in 2012, ran Android 4.0, had an HDMI socket around the back and sported the internals of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – a 720p-screened gaming powerhouse in its own right.
Coincidentally, it just so happens that the Nexus Q is also rumoured to be in for a revamp. Could Google be leveraging its stunning spherical design as the basis of its own gaming assault on the living room? We reckon so, and with the upgrades, accessories and apps below, it could be one hell of a machine.
Power: 4K Snapdragon 800 internals
Now that the likes of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor are on the scene (and arriving in a new generation of super phones soon), Android games can deliver graphics on a par with the Xbox 360 and PS3. And, crucially, silicon like this offers Android hardware a head-and-shoulders advantage over Apple's current range of processor offerings.
The Snapdragon 800 is able to output video in 4K with 7.1 Dolby DTS surround sound and is benchmarked as the most powerful mobile GPU processor – even battering Nvidia's Tegra 4 (the driving force behind the Nvidia Shield). Since the Ouya has a frankly outdated Tegra 3, and Apple's current processors don't even come close, it seems like a logical move for Google to use the Snapdragon 800 – or at least a chip with similar graphical capabilities.
While no mobile processor may be able to handle 4K gaming right now, cloud gaming – that uses servers to crunch graphical processes – could make it possible. Sony has already said it will use cloud servers to play legacy games on the PS4. So with Google's mighty servers you may find yourself playing super-hi-res games while Google does the work on its myriad servers. And Google Fiber offers gigabit speeds, so when gaming quality is measured by bandwidth to those servers – rather than processor power – this will help set the big G apart from the likes of Apple, who is at the mercy of broadband companies.
Controller: analogue is mandatory
The thing that makes an Android console better than a tablet or mobile is the controller. GameStick goes for portability over functionality – making it better than touch screens but nothing compared to the PlayStation or Xbox console controllers. Ouya already has a well-designed Bluetooth controller that sports D-pad, analogue sticks and even a trackpad – shame about the console's power though. But as we know from the PlayStation and Xbox controller showdown, pads are a really divisive subject that comes down to the user.
So, perhaps, Google could do something new and make different sized controllers to suit everyone. And put all the mod-cons of every other controller in there too. Oh, and make the battery life ridiculously long. Easy then. Presuming Apple doesn't get there first – with the Apple Store and a games controller API now available, an Apple TV coupled with a physical controller might be all it takes for Apple to win the race for the mobile OS gaming crown.
Software: open to all
When it comes to a clean, easy-to-use OS, with potential voice controls, Google has a head start. Not only could this be a console, but a complete media hub: synced to Google's cloud services, your Android phone and its contents, streaming to your TV and audio systems, working with a synced keyboard and mouse, even capable of controlling your house and accessing your TV like the Xbox One. It could be like putting Google search smarts at the front access to everything in your home, online and in storage for easy use and sharing.
Of course Apple could simply do the same with some form of Apple TV – theoretically even with its current hardware. The much talked about and fabled Apple Television would get the fruit giant in lounges the world over, leaving Google in a tough position if it wants to compete.
To buy or not to buy
razer edge pro
While Android gaming might not be a threat to next-gen powerhouses like the Sony PS4, Xbox One and Steam Box right now, in the future Google could make use of its cloud server power and Google Fiber to make its console a real contender. And in the meantime, it'll become your lounge hub for everything TV and hi-fi related.
So if you’re thinking of buying an Ouya, GameStick, Nvidia Shield or Razer Edge Pro, we’d advise you wait and see just what Google has up its sleeves – it could be a game-changer. Quite literally.