Interview

On February 1st this year the GameStick Kickstarter successfully reached its funding goal. Described by PlayJam as the most portable TV console ever created, the Android-based GameStick fits neatly inside its own pocket-sized controller. Launching this August at £79.99, PlayJam are targeting a more casual gaming audience with App store-style games and pricing. With a background in games for Sky TV, PlayJam have already proved they are comfortable in the living room.

Anthony Johnson, CMO Playjam.

Anthony Johnson, CMO Playjam.

GameStick Kickstarter was clearly a huge success, raising nearly 650% of your initial target. Were you surprised by this level of support?

Its a hard question to answer. We were following a pretty tough act from Ouya so were unsure of any remaining appetite within the Kickstarter community for support for another Android-based console. Thankfully our concerns were unfounded and we did pretty well in the end. More than the amount raised though, we were really unprepared for the amount of feedback that the process gave us that we were able to feed into the final design – this was priceless.

 Your target was quite modest when compared to that of the Ouya but the GameStick seems like it could be the more versatile of the two devices. Did your funding level allow you to achieve all your goals for the project?

Our goal was to raise enough cash to fund the prototype build and get to production, which we succeeded, in doing. As it turns out, we received a huge amount of interest from retail that meant we had to step up in terms of the production process to support a significantly wider roll-out of the product. The support we received meant that the project very quickly graduated from our skunkworks team to our core team.

Do you see the portability of the GameStick being its main selling point?

Portability and price are certainly key differentiators. The key advantage that we have is our experience in this sector. PlayJam has operated TV games platforms for some time. We cut our teeth on OTT gaming via pay TV networks worldwide and currently operate the largest causal games platform on Smart TV which is live in over 80 million homes today. These projects give us a working insight into delivering affordable gaming services to the home and a built-for-TV games platform that has delivered over 1billion downloads to date. The result will be a retail-ready product that should resonate well with families looking for a simple, yet feature-rich gaming experience.

 Gamestick controller

How would you compare the GameStick’s media delivery capabilities to a more closed platform such as the AppleTV?

First & foremost, GameStick is a games console however we recognize that any TV-connected device will be more attractive with additional VOD services included. We are working with a raft of such service providers to bring this functionality within a media section on the UI. We are also working hand in hand with Pivos – one of the companies behind XBMC to bring an optimized version of that service to GameStick. We think this will be a very popular addition and expand GameStick’s capability significantly.

How open to home brewed software is the GameStick environment? Will game and app developers have access to ‘sideload’ applications for testing or will a separate development system be required?

Developing for GameStick is very simple. We will provide developers with specific firmware for their device that in conjunction with our free to use SDK will enable them to upload and test their games directly on the device.

GameStick DockWith the launch just a few weeks away what are you most excited about? What do you think the public will be most impressed by?

We’re very clear about who we are going after with GameStick. We are targeting casual to mid-core gamers who have discovered or rediscovered their love of play through online and smart-phone devices. This is not primarily an audience of hackers but a group of people who expect a polished service that does what it says on the tin – this has been the guiding principal in our design effort for both the hardware and the software. The more technical crowd will be able to hack the hardware very simply and we are excited to see what they can do with it but the real test of scale will be how the device is received by our target market. Perhaps the most exciting prospect is the chance to work with the developer community to create affordable games specifically for the big screen – there is a huge amount of talent out there – many thousands of Indies with highly experienced developers that have come from the traditional console environment  – these are the guys we think will create the next big thing. GameStick is a highly effective tool to facilitate this  – something we’re really proud of.