Author: Michael Venables

It’s the size of a USB stick, and is the world’s smallest gaming console. There was nothing small about the strong debut of PlayJam’s Gamestick console offering on Kickstarter on Wednesday. Gamestick has emerged as the new, pocket-sized competitor to Ouya, and is designed to fit the new player model of “portable-to-the-extreme” gaming. The two-inch Gamestick is the new, complete plug-and-play gaming experience. The PlayJam development team selected Amlogic’s 8726-MX processor because of its Mali 400 GPU, which tested well with Android games and had low power consumption. The Mali 400 GPU has other powerful deployment options in mobile user interfaces, smartbooks, HDTV and mobile gaming platforms. But how does Gamestick work? PlayJam’s goal in the polarized mobile vs. console TV gaming ecosystem is to disrupt the model entirely. GamesStick’s hardware is engineered from the ground up to have the power to run the console quality games consumers want. But PlayJam’s new gaming paradigm is ultra-portability. Simply remove the Gamestick from the controller’s integrated, front storage slot. Plug the Gamestick into the HDMI port on the back of your TV. Access the Gamestick store directly on your TV, download games and game on! The controller has full-featured Bluetooth functionality (and the console supports up to four controllers). Gamers the world over will appreciate that PlayJam has also decided to support third-party controllers, inter-device usability that suits the openness of PlayJam’s Android development network.

Oh, wait, another smallish, minimalist console, but what does it do for me? Well, the value of PlayJam’s new entry in the console market is not simply it’s portability and the convenience of its diminutive size (hence, “Gamestick”). PlayJam is creating an enormous open source development platform, that counts on drawing in the support of developers, who will have access to PlayJam’s content network without having the restrictions of proprietary coding and billing systems, and a development ecosystem across mobile, tablet and now PCs. And consumers have access to 700,000+ games in the Android development universe. The development market for this kind of open development network: 1.5 billion smart TV devices predicted on the consumer market by 2015. PlayJam’s move to have an open source Android development platform is not new, but adding the freedom of access to its existing Smart TV content and strategic partnerships around the world (Disney, smartclip, Miniclip, Vestel, GameHouse, First Star Software, Philips, Western Digital, Slingo and Panasonic to name a few), all market relationships that PlayJam has been developing for the past three years. The Gamestick Kickstarter’s goal to raise 100,000 towards development costs was relatively modest by corporate fundraising standards. But the ongoing efforts of the PlayJam team and it’s PR efforts have paid off enormously. PlayJam’s Gamestick project briskly reached its $20,000 milestone with over 20 percent funded within the first 4 hours. The funding very quickly took off in the first 10 hours, reaching $50,000, nearly 50 percent of the overall Kickstarter funding goal. Funding continued to pour in, with Gamestickgathering $70,000 in funding in less than 24 hours! And the funding goal of $100,000 was reached in a little over 31 hours! Support for the project has stacked up almost 2,500 backers and has reached a fundraising total of $238,596. Gamestick has far surpassed its initial funding goals. This will translate as additional funds available to implement specific stretch goals for the project. According to a recent response by Anthony Johnson to backer comments, the stretch goals for the project will be announced on Wednesday. PlayJam’s aggressive production plans for the console will continue with prototype testing, UI integration and the necessary evils of debugging on Jan. 13. Pre-production planning with the company’s Korean hardware R&D partner and the initial commercial production run with the company’s Chinese manufacturing partners are both scheduled to be completed from Feb 13 to Mar 13. The projected delivery date of the personal gaming console to customers is April 2013. Early support within the gaming industry for the Gamestick project is impressive. Corporate advisors include Chris Lee, Media Molecule founder, and Charles Huang, Greenthrottle CEO. Andrew Eades, CEO of Relentless Software (creators of the Buzz game franchise) summed up the buzz around this disruptive personal console that is stacked against its larger console competitors. In a recent interview, he mused,

…this is the device that allows us to do that [develop games for the family market] on a much broader scale than the PlayStation 3 — it gives us access to the “big TV” with all our new games…

Accessibility and affordability are the market goals for the Gamestick console. It’s a personal gaming console, whose open development environment empowers developers to make it their own gaming development platform, free of the design limitations of branded hardware. And at long last, it’s what we most needed — a portable game console that the (wo)man in the street can buy, and have much-needed pocket change left over in these challenging times. And take any where they go, in their front anorak pocket. It seems that a new David has arrived in the forest of console giants. How will his lean form factor disrupt the gaming world?