Cut-price Android gaming will still need premium games to succeed

Cut-price Android gaming will still needs premium games to succeed
OUYA - a fascinating new direction

From Super Mario Bros on the NES to Halo on the Xbox to Wii Sports on the Wii, games consoles are made not by their hardware but by their killer titles.

We got our hands on the much-vaunted OUYA this week and, with Nvidia's Project Shield, GameStick and phone manufacturers like Samsung focusing more heavily on gaming, nobody can deny that Android is the platform to watch if you like to play.

Cut-price gaming is an obvious angle - why pay a fortune for high-end games console when you can snap up, say, OUYA for $99 or £99?

The answer right now is because when you fork out a sizable chunk of change for a big-name console like Xbox 720 or PS4 you are getting a guarantee of massive games titles, and an expectation of quality and performance.

Title challenge

Android will, of course, have plenty of titles to choose from - and it may even benefit from some of the big name players getting involved - but it needs something beyond 'it's cheap' to really become a competitor.

Fist of Awesome plays around with the retro idea

Fist of Awesome plays around with the retro idea

Naturally, no one is under any illusion that there will be limitations with cheap hardware, although what we consider low-end these days passed for pretty darn good just a few years back.

Retro gaming will be an easy avenue - one that is successfully being plundered on our mobile phones as we speak - but an Android device that puts gaming as its main selling point needs to look beyond the cheap wins.

Already swiping its way through the 'casual' gaming tag, gaming on mobile devices can afford to be a little less forward-thinking. People's expectation of games on their phones and tablets tend to be lower.

But will hardcore gamers be prepared to pay for a pared-down, diet version of their favourite game on an Android gaming platform just because their initial outlay is less?

Some impressive signs - but is it enough?

Some impressive signs - but is it enough?

People are pragmatic, of course, but they will also quickly become nonplussed if Android gaming feels a bit like Angry Birds Plus rather than Call of Duty minus a patina of quality.

The interest in OUYA has been huge and encouraging but will that interest be sustained to the point where the gaming audience choose to buy one rather than plump for the traditional big players?

Will the non-hardcore gamers be willing to pay out for a games console that is offering up cheaper retro offerings? And will the big game developers be prepared to invest in Android as a platform for high-end games before the market has been proven? These questions all remain to be answered.

Streaming it in

There is a giant codicil to this thinking, of course, OUYA's partnership with OnLive - and the potential of streamed gaming - could mean that, for a subscription, you can have your cheap cake and still eat your fancy icing.

But, with the rise and rise of smart TVs and a host of other connected devices that are likely to offer a low cost path into your living room, why would you buy a separate gaming device at all if you go down this route?

It's unlikely that Android gaming will ever get its Halo or Gran Turismo - an exclusive classic that can define the entire platform. But it definitely needs some top quality titles if it is truly likely to become a familiar sight in the mainstream gaming world.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.