It’s not every day that we witness the birth attempt of a brand new Category video game hardware. But it looks like that’s what we’re seeing this month with the announcement of the Logitech G Cloud and Razer Edge 5G portable gaming systems.
While these devices (and somewhat similar emulation-focused handhelds like the AYN Odin) have their differences, they share Qualcomm SnapDragon internals, an Android-based operating system, and loosely-defined hardware designs. similar to Switch. And while these devices can natively run games designed for Android phones (for all that’s worth), the main focus seems to be on streaming handheld versions of high-end console and PC games through various game providers in cloud or home streaming options.
It’s too early to tell how well these handhelds will serve their stated purpose, or what the real market demand is for dedicated handheld devices that primarily play games hosted on remote servers or platforms. Still, we can’t help but compare and contrast this new trend in hardware design with the last major (failed) attempt to create a new category of gaming hardware: the microconsole.
If you weren’t paying close attention to the video game market in the early 2010s, you may have totally missed the microconsole boom that swept through a specific corner of the industry. It started in 2012 with the crowdfunding success of the Ouya and spread from there as established brands like Sony, Nvidia, Mad Catz, Apple and Amazon all jumped into the market in some form or another one.
The pitch, in each case, was similar: why buy a $400 console when a $100-$200 microconsole could play “pretty good” versions of some of the same games on your TV for less upfront cost. . The problem with this pitch, it turns out, was largely with the some part of the “some of the same games.”
The usual mix of microconsole software from years-old, rehashed legacy titles and a handful of indie ports hasn’t really drawn many gamers away from the big-name exclusives and big-budget third-party experiences on PlayStation and Xbox. . (which also featured a huge range of indie gems). It turns out that the vast majority of gamers were willing to pay a little more to have the most powerful console hardware with the most in-demand games.
Similarities to the current portable streaming trend are hard to avoid. Once again, some less traditional gaming hardware companies are developing new, cheaper hardware based on Android and the latest cheap system-on-chip technology. Again, the pitch implies that the hardware will deliver “good enough” versions of some of the same games available on more powerful hardware. Again, the hardware itself is essentially an interchangeable product, without any of the interesting first-party exclusives that might convince skeptical gamers to take the plunge.
Is the history of the game repeating itself here?