At CES 2015 today, hardware manufacturer Razer decided to show off its entry into the crowded Android microconsole marketplace. The device is called the Razer Forge TV and like most other microconsoles, it's a box that you plug into your HDTV. The Forge TV runs Android TV, much like Google's own Nexus Player, bringing the best of the Android mobile operating system to your home entertainment center.
The black box is powered by Qualcomm's 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with an Adreno 420 GPU. It also sports 2 GM of RAM, 16 GB of storage, USB 3.0 and HDMI ports, Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11ac WiFi connectivity, and an Ethernet port if you're the wired sort. Pretty standard hardware offering here.
For the $99 asking price, the Forge TV doesn't even come with a standalone remote; instead, Razer expect you to download their mobile app to control the device. The price beyond that quickly starts to balloon upwards. Bump the price up to $149.99 and you get Razer's Serval Bluetooth controller, which sports an Xbox-inspired layout. Additional Serval controllers will cost a whopping $79.99, but the controller remembers four different Bluetooth pairings so you can switch between the Forge TV and other devices. If you're looking for a mouse and keyboard, Razer also offers the Turret lapboard (with bundled 3500 DPI mouse) for $129.99. If you have a PC hooked to your television already, the Turret represents a keen form factor, allowing you to fold the lapboard and drop it in a charging dock when not in use.
The Forge TV is light on storage, because like other recent Android microconsoles, Razer expects you to be streaming most of your content. You can download games just like your favorite Android smartphone or tablet, but when it comes time to watch video, you'll be streaming through services like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. You can even stream gameplay from your desktop PC via Razer Cortex Stream. Nvidia offers a similar feature for its Shield line of devices, but Razer's version will cost you $39.99 if you don't pick up the Serval controller or Turret lapboard. Things add up.
As I said back in October, this entire form factor has been dead on arrival so far. The Ouya, Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, and GameStick were all thrown out into a market that has responded with a collective shrug. Yes, the Roku has seen solid success and Apple TV has trudged along, but owners of those devices don't seem to be moving to these new boxes. Sony's PlayStation TV is a complete dud. Google's Chromecast found a worthwhile niche with an interesting form factor and cheap price, whereas Razer seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
These microconsoles make sense for Google and Amazon, who want to find a footprint in your home entertainment center, but what's the compelling case for other manufacturers? They don't own the store. Most people don't even seem to care about playing Android games on their televisions. They'll play mobile games on mobile platforms and switch to their consoles when they come home; some keep playing games on mobile platforms even on the couch. Alternate form factors have potential - Sony is building Android TV into its 2015 lineup of televisions - but the idea of the microconsole just hasn't taken off in an appreciable manner.
"Razer Forge TV is a device that is able to bring together the most popular elements of an entertainment center," says Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan in the press release. "It powers popular music and movie apps and plays Android TV games that an entire family can enjoy. For the hardcore gaming audience, it will bring PC gaming to the couch. Razer Forge TV is what we see as the future of consoles."
That all sounds great, but no one is asking if that's something consumers even want. So far, the resounding answer has been, "Nope."