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The Android console race begins today with Green Throttle's launch
With the ability to add an Xbox 360-like pad to an Android tablet, Green Throttle has a lot of appeal -- but is today's release, now available on Amazon, really ready? Gamasutra talks to its execs.
Green Throttle's Xbox 360-like game controller for Android devices started shipping Tuesday. The controller syncs with Android tablets -- right now, just the Kindle Fire HD, but more will come -- via Bluetooth to provide console-like controls for mobile games, in concert with the company's "Arena" app, a free download that adds a console-like interface to the device, while also adding the software that lets the controllers offer in-person multi-controller multiplayer and analog control. Can it work? Can it stand up to dedicated Android consoles like the Ouya? Gamasutra sat down with CEO Charles Huang and COO Matt Crowley to find out how their business -- and their device -- can compete. Using Green Throttle's free SDK, developers can quickly integrate a game developed under Marmalade, Corona, Unity, and other engines popular with mobile developers -- according to Huang and Crowley. "That plugin will handle a lot of the integration with the game," says Huang. "Actually, a lot of the work is not in the technical aspects of making the controller work with the game. It's actually designing the menus." In other words, the work lies in creating "the console experience," says Crowley. The Arena app is not a game store; if you decide to buy a game from within it, the system will launch whatever store the device uses by default, and Green Throttle will not take a cut of that sale. The company's got a three-part business model. Step one is to sell the controllers -- and it has plans to offer more types of pads than just the initial 360-esque controllers in the long run. Green Throttle has already begun to develop its own first-party games. Finally, and probably most significantly, it will offer app discovery and advertising options for developers that use Arena. But much of this is in the "check back later" department. The initial first party games are little more than tech demos to showcase controller integration; the discovery engine is in its earliest stages of implementation, and no functional biz model for it exists just yet.
The Arena home screen.
The good news is that you, the developer, don't have to choose between supporting Green Throttle and Ouya or GameStick.
"In fact, I encourage most of the developers that I talk to that if they're going to support one controller, they should support all of them simply because it doesn't take that much more work to support two or four," says Huang.
Crystal Swarm, an overly simplistic twin-stick shooter and Green Throttle first-party title.
In fact, too much of the Green Throttle's strategy is forward-looking at present: its initial slate of first party games aren't ready for prime time. It isn't on any other Android devices than the Kindle Fire. It hasn't hit retail yet -- just Amazon and its own site -- though it does plan to. And its recommendation engine isn't up and running just yet.
But what Green Throttle is attempting might make more sense than the Ouya or other dedicated consoles. By taking the device you already own, which is attractive in its own right, and making it into a functional game console, you aren't tied to a $99 brick that's not good for anything else. And by not charging game developers for implementation -- it even sends out the controllers for free, at least so far -- it's got a low barrier to entry on the developer end, too.
As it slips into the wild, Green Throttle is one to watch. Just call this the beta.