BlueStacks, the company that makes software that lets you run Android apps on Macs and Windows PCs or tablets, is getting into its own hardware with an Android-based video game console called GamePop.
The concept is very similar to Ouya, another Android-based video game console that got a lot of attention after raising more than $8.5 million on Kickstarter.
But BlueStacks has a different approach. It’s giving away the GamePop console for free and will instead charge you a subscription that lets you play unlimited Android games from its online library.
The company says it will have about 500 games when the device launches in June, and you can pre-order the console now. GamePop says its service costs $6.99 per month, but you’re actually required to pay for a full year up front, meaning it’ll cost you almost $84 to get the console.
GamePop hasn’t released a list of all its game titles, but in an interview, BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma said his company is working with Google to add the Google Play Android app store console to the device, which would allow you to download just about any game. (That could be a bit of a challenge though, since developers have to follow a certain set of guidelines if they want to add Play to their devices. Google typically only allows Play to run on smartphones and tablets that can access other Google services like Google Maps.)
But GamePop does have partnerships with some recognisable Android game developers like Glu Mobile, which makes the popular “Gun Bros.” games, and Intellijoy, which makes children’s apps. The company will announce more titles and developer partners before the console launches.
Overall, GamePop is an interesting approach. There’s definitely an opening to bring casual mobile gaming to the living room, especially since many of those games have resolutions so high that they look great on big-screen HD TVs. (Watch the video below to see that for yourself.) And moving forward, Sharma said he’d like to make it so you can play a game on the console and pick up where you left off on your smartphone. That’s the ultimate dream, but we’re still a long way off from it.
The whole concept is in its infancy, and no one has truly nailed it yet. GamePop is a big bet that people will want to pay a subscription fee for a limited selection of games instead of paying for individual titles.
GamePop’s biggest competitor Ouya has gotten a lot of negative reviews for having poor build quality and the fact that most Android games aren’t built for regular video game console controllers. GamePop will have such a controller, but you’ll also be able to download an Android or iPhone app if you want to control the action with your phone.
As it stands now, it feels like GamePop is a bit too ahead of the game, especially considering you won’t be able to download any game you want. It’s going to be a challenge to get game developers interested in an unproven product, and it’s going to be a tough to get people to buy the console if it doesn’t have a good selection of hot titles they want to play.