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E3 2013: It's not about the controller. It's about the games, says GameStick

CMO Johnson is looking towards a new generation

E3 2013: It's not about the controller. It's about the games, says GameStick
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For me, E3 2013 wasn't about the consoles.

I don't think they - or that business model - exists anymore.

Now, it's all about unconsoles, and that's why my first appointment at the show was with GameStick.

Stick it to win it

The UK-based outfit has been around for years in the form of PlayJam, which delivers games to smart TVs.

GameStick is merely the current consumer-facing element of that infrastructure, which thanks to Kickstarter, has demonstrated there's a market - at least 10,000 - for its Android-based unconsole plus controller system.

Yet CMO Anthony Johnson isn't hung up about the controller part of the play.

"I don't think it's the controller that's going to be selling these systems. It's the content," he says.

This ties into GameStick's approach that any Bluetooth controller will work with its HDMI ARM-based (Mali 400 GPU) hardware.

The company already has a deal with Green Throttle for its Atlas controller, but taking an open-platform attitude means it should work with most companies in this space.

"We need to build a community," Johnson says.

Refering to Ouya - a similar Android-based unconsole - he says, "On one level, we're competing but on another this is a brand new category. We need to explain what it's all about in terms of a mass-market retail audience. The whole sector is untested."

It's a good point, especially with Ouya hitting US stores at the end of June, and GameStick coming to the US and UK (respectively with GameStop and GAME) in July.

Two makes more

But demonstrating the fast-moving aspect of the industry, it's pretty clear that the original GameStick is a version 1.0.

Johnson says a eight-core GPU version of the unconsole stick could be available in 2014; in that context decoupling the console and the controller makes perfect sense.

The $79 price point could easily be sub-$50 delivered without a controller, making an annual update cycle a much stronger retail proposition.

The company will also be launching a free app to enable touchscreen devices to be used as controllers for its games.

Yet despite talking about hardware specs, Johnson is quick to point out that GameStick is not a hardcore gaming solution.

"That's not our audience," he says.

"The mobile revolution has made gamers out of a new generation. That's who we're looking towards."

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Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.