Sony and Microsoft’s vast console empires have made it difficult for them to innovate and capitalise on the rise in low cost indie games, says Playjam CMO Anthony Johnson.
Playjam will release GameStick this summer for $79 in the US and £79.99 in the UK, where it will retail exclusively at Game. It is targeting casual and ‘mid-core’ games players – the kind that play low-cost mobile games but aren’t likely to pay a premium for a traditional, high-end games console.
“The issue is that as we all know, elephants can’t jump,” Playjam CMO Anthony Johnson told us. “[Sony and Microsoft] have built an extraordinary successful market which they have dominated for years, but times are changing and the underlying models employed by these manufacturers will make it extremely difficult for them to innovate. A model built around huge hardware subsidies and Hollywood-type budgets for content will only ever serve a relatively niche segment of the market.”
Johnson says that GameStick was conceived as a reaction to the ‘old’ marketplace, and it reached its $100,000 Kickstarter target with ease. It currently has $647,658 in funding – a not inconsequential sum, but one that’s dwarfed by the $8.5 million raised thus far by fellow microconsole Ouya.
“Ouya got to Kickstarter first and ran a legendary campaign,” says Johnson. “We would probably see them as our closest competition today although we have chosen to go down a different route in terms of form factor that we think offers players more. I know that this sounds canned but competition is good. We are looking to define a new market and realistically this is going to take a number of players to achieve.”
Its pitch to developers is to offer an easy way of getting games onto the big screen, but with competing tech on its way, fragmentation could threaten this new marketplace. ”If new hardware manufacturers insist on throwing up barriers by asking developers to follow proprietary key mapping technologies then we will see fatigue from the developer community hit pretty quickly,” says Johnson. “GameStick has decided to employ open standards to ensure as much cross compatibility between devices and content as possible. Developers are far more likely to support platforms which require the least effort to port to.”
Johnson says that GameStick is courting indies and large publishers, and tells us that “500 developers have signed up so far.”
“If your game runs on an Android device and would make sense on TV it will work on our platform with either minimal or no tweaking,” he says.
One million units sold is the benchmark for Playjam, at which point it would consider GameStick to be a viable platform in the long term. And Johnson doesn’t believe that the arrival of PS4 will dilute demand for GameStick in any meaningful way.
“I think Sony made a couple of neat innovations around the integration of social media within the platform but these will take time for developers to integrate, whereas the games we are targeting are inherently social given that they originated on mobile platforms,” he adds. “Their underlying model has not changed. Until it does, devices such as GameStick will legitimately be able to claim to be truly disruptive to the industry as a whole.”