Following the success of Kickstarter projects like Ouya and Gamestick, yet another company is trying to bring mobile gaming to the living room TV. BlueStacks is hoping to set its GamePop console apart with a subscription-based all-you-can-play model covering a curated selection of 500 titles.
BlueStacks began taking preorders for the new console today ahead of a planned winter launch, but it isn't actually selling the hardware yet. Instead, users who commit to a year's subscription at $6.99 a month will get the console and controller for free. After the preorder period expires this month, users will have to actually pay for the hardware, which BlueStacks Senior VP of Marketing John Gargiulo told Ars Technica will cost around $100.
That subscription will get users Netflix-style all-you-can-play access to the full versions of 500 mobile games curated by the BlueStacks team. A full list of available titles isn't available yet, but BlueStacks is highlighting partnerships with companies like Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride developers Halfbrick,Gun Bros. Maker Glu Mobile, Trials Extreme maker Deemedya, and Talking Tom developer Outfit7, with more partner announcements to come.
"We think content is most important," Gargiulo said. "Think about Windows 8 or Blackberry: cool UI, great tech, but if there are no apps, there are no games, people don't want to use it. We're really focused on getting the best content."
This isn't BlueStacks' first attempt to bring mobile games to non-mobile hardware: the BlueStacks app lets users run 750,000 mobile apps on their Mac or PC and has attracted over 5 million downloads so far. But for GamePop, Gargiulo says BlueStacks is focusing on a more targeted list of universally popular games rather than glutting the platform with a large selection of shovelware. Unpopular games will routinely cycle out of availability in favor of new ones, Gargiulo said.
"There are other competitors in the space that have announced thousands of apps... We're not into that. We really feel like the launch titles need to be quality for people to want to buy it," said Gargiulo. "If you think about it, on Google Play, if you find 500 games you'd really love to use or that universally people love to use, you'd fill it eventually, but there'd probably be some pretty iffy apps at the end there. We're focused on quality with this thing."
The GamePop strategy was inspired by efforts like Japan's au Smart Pass, which has attracted millions of users by offering a selection of 500 Android games for ¥390 a month (about $4.17). Gargiulo puts the value of the initial lineup of GamePop titles at over $200 if purchased individually on phones.
While BlueStacks isn't discussing precisely what hardware is inside the GamePop, Gargiulo said that the Android 4.2-based system will be "plenty fast for all top games" and capable of running high-end 3D mobile games like Dead Trigger. Players will be able to control those games using their phones through a companion app, letting them use touch and tilt functions as well as the ability to speak into the microphone for games like Talking Tom. Games will also work with an included standard button controller—and eventually with any Bluetooth controller through an "open controller" framework.
Developers don't have to put in any porting work to get a game working on the GamePop, Gargiulo said—that's all handled by the BlueStacks team. Developers whose titles are selected will split 50 percent of the subscription fees, apportioned by the actual player usage, so popular games will get a bigger revenue share than unpopular ones. GamePop developers will also be able to make money from in-app purchases directly through the Google Play store, he said.
While the idea of porting mobile games to the TV is not that new anymore, the focus on an all-you-can-play subscription model has the potential to really shake up the way people think about buying console games. We can only hope this effort succeeds and inspires console makers like Microsoft and Sony to try something similar for their next generation of consoles.