Google to enter the console business? And other related musings.

Hey all! Time for me to finally write another article! I’m going to place this one under “Brushing off the Dust” because not only will this be news, but I’m going to dig back a bit and talk about similar stories to the one I’m about to report on.

Yeti

So.. BIG NEWS folks, or that’s how everyone is spinning it. Google seems to have plans to release a console. The codename as of now? YETI. ( you can find info about this at The Information , but beware it is subscription based. Unlike a website that Yours Truly may be typing on.) I guess I shouldn’t say they intend to release a console for sure, more just that it seems very likely. What the report really spells out is that Google for sure appears to be gearing up to offer a game-streaming service that when all up and running will be accessible on at least the Google Chromecast device. That seems to leave room for there also being a more dedicated item just for the gaming, but we’ll have to see.

What does this mean? Well, it could mean anything or it could mean nothing. My personal thought is that this plan will go the same way Nvidia’s Shield platform did. Though Google recently hired Phil Harrison of Sony fame, so there might be bright glimmer on the horizon? Who’s to say? All we know right now is its supposed to be a cloud-computing based gaming service that will offer top notch content without a lot of hassle. Sound familiar? Microsoft’s Xbox division touted much the same type of technology for their dedicated Xbox One console when it first launched.

I though then back in 2013 and still do today that the infrastructure we have for the internet now just can’t support any kind of gaming experience via cloud computing that could come close to what dedicated set-top boxes and PC’s can do locally. Google does have something Microsoft can’t claim though… Google Fiber. If they somehow find a way to get gigabit connections pushed out to a wide enough audience, then I could see this working. For now… we’ll just have to wait and see.

BUT…

Hearing this gave me a swirl of memories. I remember multiple times over the past decade or so hearing apparently unlikely new contenders were going to enter the gaming market. I say apparently because for some companies looking to get in, it makes sense. What company with billions of dollars at their disposal and numerous other lucrative branches couldn’t support at least an attempt to emulate Microsoft or Sony or Nintendo?

I want to take a look back at some of the more notable examples of possible consoles coming up in the past. Let’s take a walk.

|SNAKE OIL|

snakeoil

So there are 3 consoles that deserve real shame I felt I should mention first. They are as listed in my image above: The Coleco Chameleon, The Madcatz Mojo, and the Ouya.

An in depth story of these isn’t really necessary, I just want to make my opinion heard. If there’s any company out there looking to compete in the gaming hardware industry, do NOT follow the example these devices (if you can call them that) set.

We’ve firstly got the Coleco which was about as aptly described by the term snake oil as you could get because it was discovered to be a fake cash grab from very early on. Say a bunch to mine that nostalgia hard on that so many people have these days and the money rolls in. Or at least that’s what the proprietors of this idea must have thought. They weren’t very good at keeping their intentions hidden, however. There was an early mockup (or as they called it “prototype” ) that was literally just this transparent Atari Jaguar shell with Coleco Chameleon written on it and a damn HD capture card as the supposed circuitry that powered this thing. Visible to everyone. Fail.

cc1

The other two devices I’m bringing up here aren’t really in the same camp, but ended up having similar issues. Both the Madcatz and Ouya were android powered consoles that would supposedly, per their purveyors, capture the market by storm. They were predicted to usher in a massive drove of developers that had way more freedom due to the software setup the consoles offered.

Yeah, I’m a fan-boy of both… aren’t we all? Wait, no, none of us are! Or at least I hope. Neither of this consoles became much of anything. The Ouya was low build-quality trash that had no games of much note other than say maybe Towerfall.

The Madcatz was much the same but it also had the issue of being overpriced at 250 dollars at launch with a crap rendition of Android as its OS. I suppose you could root it but it really doesn’t really surprise me that Madcatz is dead.

Moving on…

|Apple Whatever|

apple tv

So this is something I’ve had trouble digging up information on due to it being just rumors at the time but hear me out.

Prior to the 2010’s I used to read Game Informer. I remember vividly reading an article in that magazine about a supposed Apple produced competitor to the then big consoles at that time, the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the Wii. Now I didn’t have internet at my household back then because rural nowhere-ville was my home so I couldn’t do much more research beyond that.

This was one of those things I heard and forgot about after a while until the news about Yeti. I’m not surprised Apple never came out with an actual console because they don’t really market to the lower end consumers anyway. I think with the image they were trying to keep at the time, it was just an idea that didn’t make sense internally.

Then it hits me as I’m writing this up..Apple does have a console of sorts they made. I’m not referring to our friend Pippin either. Whatever ideas Apple had about making an actual gaming device I think just found their way into the Apple TV. Very similar idea as what has been done with the Ouya and Madcatz Mojo, but with Apples execution and presentation.

Its never reviewed as a gaming device, but that’s by design I’m sure. It can play games, but why would that be the focus of advertising by the likes of Apple? The TV is actually close in power to the Wii, but not as powerful as the Wii U. They set up a streaming device that could also be a casual gaming system… and if it had taken off with a cult following for that reason I’m sure they’d have been happy, but never really rolled all their eggs into that basket. So I guess you could say they successfully did what Google is hoping to do but they did it without actually…doing it?

|Other Obscurities|

At the risk of droning on for too long about what was at first just a little bit of news, I’ll try to make my next entries a little more brief. I’m going to cover 2 obscure consoles that had neat ideas with little or no show.

First up, we have the Atari Cosmos!

cosmos

I’m covering this because it was Carl Sagan’s favorite console. Okay, not really. It would have had to have released for that to have been possible. Really I’m covering this because I am an avid handheld console fan. The concept of this little machine is pretty cool.

Atari isn’t an unknown or anything, but the killer feature this thing was told have was just about unheard of at the time. The Cosmos was supposed to be a fully 3D holographic  gaming handheld. This was back in 1981. Such a thing would have created a hole in space-time if it had been possible then. Unfortunately or fortunately, no such event occurred. The Cosmos was just an amalgamation of tech that was available at the time with a cleverly angled screen that only displayed via some red LEDs in rows. Much like a lot of other machines during that period. But, I suppose eventually Nintendo dabbled in the same technology for real with their 3DS, so we got something close these days.

Up next and last, the Infinium Labs Phantom!

phantom

This console had a fitting name. It was never released and exist only as a ghost of an idea. The name was supposed to be fitting for other reasons based on what Infinium Labs had in mind though.

So all the way back in 2004 this was talked about as an online connected gaming console that could play all the PC games you could throw at it. It was going to be completely digital. So, Steam PC before Steam right? Nope. So not only could this have not worked well back then but it was pretty much a pipe dream from the start. It was said retail price for the Phantom was going to be 399$ and it would have a Netflix style subscription service for the games that you’d pay 9.95$ or so a month for. Crazy. But that’s not what made this impossible. That came down to the company being managed terribly. The founder of Phantom Entertainment was investigated by the SEC and allegedly was caught unloading thousands of dollars of stock after forcing the share price to increase. So, nothing too surprising.

I think the Phantom is a fitting place to end this. Kind of full circle. It was going to be a proto-ancestor to the Yeti if it had released. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes of Google’s machinations, but if history is any indicator…

One Comment

  1. I remember wanting the Phantom to release. That was at a time where “couch gaming” on a PC was not really a thing. They actually did release the Phantom Lapboard at one point in time, to mediocre reviews.

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