The console space isn't just about "the big three" any more -- besides Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, there are a significant number of other players in town.
One area which seems to be trying desperately for growth but which is presently struggling for mainstream appeal is that of Android-powered devices specifically designed with gaming and entertainment in mind. Whether a microconsole like the Ouya or a handheld device like Nvidia's Shield, these consoles are often a good idea in principle, but in reality the practicalities of them are yet to be refined to make them palatable to the masses.
Retail giant Amazon is the next to step into this currently ill-defined market, according to sources who spoke with our friends at VG247. The device, which is aiming for a sub-$300 price point, is an Android-powered console that will offer both streaming and downloadable games, music, movies and TV content. The base unit's prototype is reportedly similar in size and form factor to the newer model PSones, though that may well change as the device gets closer to an official launch.
It makes a certain amount of sense for Amazon to pursue this angle, since it already has a substantial digital marketplace that offers a variety of digital content ranging from music to Android apps and e-books. The company has seen some success with its Kindle and Kindle Fire portable devices, which are specifically designed to leverage Amazon's digital infrastructure and encourage users to primarily get their content from Amazon and its partners.
According to job listings, Amazon is also actively recruiting for positions in its games development team. While Amazon's own games to date have primarily been throwaway, forgettable mobile fare, some of the job listings suggest that the studio is aiming to step its game up a little with more high-quality games spanning "real-time next-gen graphics to pre-rendered assets" in terms of visuals.
The difficulty Amazon will face is in convincing people that an Android microconsole hooked up to their TV is a worthwhile investment -- something which platforms such as Ouya and Gamestick have so far failed to do. And although a sub-$300 price tag will make whatever Amazon has planned competitive price-wise when compared to the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U, it'll need to offer a hell of a lot more than upscaled mobile games to justify that cost. It remains to be seen whether or not this works out well for Amazon -- the company certainly has a huge existing customer base to attempt to leverage, but a microconsole is still a much harder sell than the inherently more portable nature of tablets and e-readers.