PlayJam turns to Kickstarter to fund Android TV console

Company needs $100,000 to fund full production for April delivery

TV games company PlayJam is looking to fund an Android games console via Kickstarter and deliver final hardware to consumers as soon as April this year.

The project, known as GameStick, is already in closed beta with working prototypes. PlayJam is asking for $100,000 to push the hardware - which comes with its own Bluetooth controller - into full production.

"Ouya ran a fantastic campaign but it would be premature to assume that they will own the market with their offering"

Jasper Smith, PlayJam

Asked by GamesIndustry International why PlayJam needed to crowd fund the manufacturing costs, Jasper Smith, CEO of PlayJam, said that while the company already has the backend infrastructure in place it lacks the funding to complete the final 10 per cent of the project.

"To get to the next step genuinely requires additional, outside support," he said.

"We need the capital to get GameStick to market and the way in which projects are funded by Kickstarter gives us the freedom to make this happen."

The Gamestick isn't the first Android powered console to use Kickstarter, with the Ouya hardware raising over $8.5 million via the service and due to launch in March.

"Ouya ran a fantastic campaign but it would be premature to assume that they will own the market with their offering," commented Smith. "PlayJam has years of experience in bringing games to TV and has a working, powerful back-end platform already in place to support a games proposition on TV.

"Competition is good and we're the proof. In the short time that Android games consoles have started to come through, we have been able to push the manufacturing boundaries further than before to create a powerful yet more affordable solution at a fraction of the size, capable of supporting hundreds if not thousands of games.

"We are hoping that people will back the idea behind GameStick as much as the device itself," he added. "We want to make publishing affordable games to TV as easy as it is on mobile."

PlayJam intends to sell the GameStick for $79 and a number of developers and games are on board with the project, including Madfinger's Shadowgun, Hungry Shark from Future Games of London, Relentless Software's Blue Toad Murder Files and Smash Cops from Hutch Games.

GameStick runs on Android's Jelly Bean OS and Amlogic's 8726-MX processor. Developers will be given a free SDK for the system which supports monetisation and social features including tournaments, leader boards and analytics.

High-profile company's are turning to Kickstarter to fund experimental projects, and Smith is mindful that there's a perception by some that those already successful businesses are looking to take advantage of a crowd funding boom instead of investing their own money into a project.

"We understand there is a risk that PlayJam's success in building out a network across Smart TV will translate in people's minds to a high revenue business asking for yet more money, but anyone working in this sector will appreciate the truth is somewhat different.

"We have absolute faith that this sector will become central within the games industry but it is a long hard road to get there and we, like others, need the support and backing from those who understand and share our vision.

He added: "If Kickstarter does not work for us, we will need to assess out options and go from there. For now, we are thinking positive an trust that the community will see huge value in having more than one solution out there to drive innovation and ultimately the best deal for both the development community and the consumer."

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Latest comments (19)

Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham9 years ago
It looks like these cheap Android consoles are going to really take off next year. This can only be a good thing for Android as a platform.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
These guys received a $5 million investment in late 2011, have funded the first 90% of this project and are turning to Kickstarter for the final 10%? The entire project is then $1 million. Either they are very poor at managing their funds or their credit rating is currently frowned upon and they are using Kickstarter to obtain an interest free $100,000 injection of capital rather than hit up their bank.

By the way, is that their official controller design?
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee9 years ago
This could be a great thing but I'm worried about how closed the services could and will be on many of these devices. I have an Ouya on the way but there are worries about the game service...
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Show all comments (19)
Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 9 years ago
I don't understand why people think that making inferior games for inferior platforms can be a profitable business. Why would someone play an android device on their tv when they can play on their PC, xbox, wii or playstation? The android devices provide no additional function or benefit to users over the machines they likely already own. Then there's the rampant piracy already prevalent on android devices. I'm surprised no one's brought up the Dreamcast.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Patrick Williams on 2nd January 2013 2:14pm

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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 9 years ago
I'm with Jim on this one. Where the hell did 5 million disappear to? That should have covered this whole thing easily. The hardware is already on the shelves for creating an android powered device and presumably the games are fed from servers so how the frak did they run out of money. Even the controller design is pretty bog standard.

I'm guessing someone will fund this but, it's a dangerous game they are playing.
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Paul Shirley Programmers 9 years ago
A couple of weeks ago it was claimed market research shows almost none of the owners of SmartTV actually use the 'Smart' functions and most of that is things like iPlayer. Given the typical crapware quality of content that's hardly surprising. Easy to see why PlayJam can't afford to build this hardware.

What puzzles me is why they think it's worth shipping at all. The cost of building the games needed to justify a dedicated console far exceeds this $100k but if they ship with just the existing software it will sink without trace. Seems to me they gambled big on a market that hasn't developed and left finding an exit strategy too late. Services like OnLive will eat their business at one end, casual players don't need either the console or TV support.

If there's a market here to win at all they don't seem likely to be the winners.
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Remi Van Loenen Lead Game Designer, Grendel Games9 years ago
In an ideal world, i'd hook up my smartphone to any tv wirelessly and play my x720/ps4-quality-game from my cloud based library. Better yet have friends join in from wherever they are (online from their home, or just next to me on the couch, with their own phone). The GameStick seems close to that ideal, but not close enough... it lacks the best feature from today's consoles: Good. Old. Game. Controllers. (imagine playing AS3 or gears of war with just a touchscreen..ugh)

Just some daydreaming here, but I would like:
-An xbox/ps style controller with movement detection like the iPhone(gyro/accel), that hooks up to my TV's HDMI port, wirelessly.
-A slot in that controller to fit in my smartphone, carrying the actual cpu/gpu and can access my cloud's game library (via WiFi). Size is an issue of course, but I think the WiiU pad proved that controllers can be wide enough to fit most phone sizes.
-To be a millionaire just to fiddle around with this an build actual prototypes :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Remi Van Loenen on 2nd January 2013 4:44pm

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John Cook Senior Partner, Bad Management9 years ago
Good luck to these guys, but I found some of the pitch video irritating, particularly @2.53 - "For the first time you can create and own your own intellectual property......" And who are they pitching to: Devs or Consumers? If the former, what's the business model, if the latter, why mention this at all?
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I just dont see how games developed to be played on small screens, and therefore limited UI and so forth, translate well to living rooms with 40+ inch screens.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic9 years ago
Games designed to be played on a 10" tablet 2 feet away from the face take up the same viewing angle on a 40" TV that's 8' away from the face (I.e. 4 times larger but 4 times further away). That's a non-issue. As for the target market, I'm a PC gamer who would never consider paying over $150 for a second gaming platform (I.e. a console or tablet), but sometimes I get bored of sitting in the office type chair in my study with my hands on a mouse and keyboard, and would prefer to sit on the sofa in the living room and pass a second controller to a friend for a quick 30 minutes of some easy to pick up and play game that didn't break the bank to buy. I guess I am the target market. Having said all that, I've put money towards an OUYA already, so am not interesting in putting money towards this as well.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Edward Buffery on 2nd January 2013 8:58pm

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Will the first part of 2013 be marked by a crowd of game development KS campaigns that hope to slip under the 'disclosure' rules that will be implemented in the coming months!

Look if you received $5m - tell us where it went and what is left - the problem is if the investors demand their money back they could also take the KS percentage with them (being at the front of the cue)!

I know that some feel uncomfortable with the rash of developers turning to KS - some embarrassment that there may be more scrutiny of investment in conventional game pitches!
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Shaun Farol Studying Computer Information Systems, California Polytechnic State University9 years ago
I don't know why you would pay $79 to a questionable company for an inferior version of an established product that you could have for $20 more. It is a direct competetor to the Ouya so its hard NOT to compare the two. That being said I hear they are developing an XMBC for the device and with a Tegra 3 on board it would make a mean HTPC, would buy it just for that, might replace my Roku in the living room for media cosnumption.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee9 years ago
@Todd Weidner

I disagree to some extent. I think there are plenty of mobile games that would be great on a TV at 720p or even 1080p. That said, I don't think the idea of Android consoles (in the grand scheme) is just to put smart-phone games on a TV. All throughout the Ouya campaign the emphasis was on making games for the console not simply porting everything. Though ports are inevitable given the architecture and underlying OS. I think this company have indeed put more emphasis on tapping the current market of Android games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 3rd January 2013 9:24am

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
So this will have slightly better rendering capabilities over the first generation iPad but with about 2.6 times as many pixels to push (786,432 for iPad vs 2,073,600 for TV).

I don't expect many of the 'higher end' mobile games will run very well on this device.

I'm also very curious what the mobile developer to consumer ratio is for backers on this project. I suspect it's very lopsided.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
@ Jim Webb

Mobile Android devices are already up to 1080p, the same as traditional consoles.
Several 5 inch 1080p phones are just about to be announced at CES.
And Nvidia will be releasing Tegra 4 next year, this will be a huge step up for mobile graphics.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Bruce, are we talking about the rendering capabilities of as yet unannounced phones coming up next year or PlayJam's GameStick device?

Because I'm pretty sure I was talking about PlayJam's device. Specifically how the Amlogic 8726-MX processor and Mali-400 GPU will do for those looking to play games on their TV. Those are not exactly powerhouse mobile processors.
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Tim Hull Co-Founder, Stuntpigs Ltd.9 years ago
I agree with Jim on the power, and a better controller has got to go way up on the priority list.

But I really hope it goes well for this and other similarly outreaching inclusive products as it surely helps pave the way for yet more ways to build, distribute and get games out to more people.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises9 years ago
Phone games don't scale well at all. If Tiny Tower and Tiki Towers are painful to look at on my 4.7" Nexus 4 screen, then they're going to be even worse on my 120" projector screen.

But for $79... I've bought a lot of things that are stupider and more expensive than that.
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