GameStick Interview with Anthony Johnson
After the great success of their Kickstarter campaign, Playjam are now in the process of creating the GameStick ready for launch in April this year.
We got the chance to ask Anthony Johnson, CMO Playjam, a few questions about the project – the design process, competition and of course the future of the product after release.
For more information of the GameStick and how you can pre-order, please head to their website.
What was it that made you decide that a Kickstarter was the right way to go about raising funds for your project?
We started thinking about bringing our own hardware out about 12 months ago. GameStick back then was very much a Skunkworks project with just a small group of people knocking around ideas. These were then passed on to an R&D house with which we had worked in the past whocreated the technical drawings, bringing us to a pre-production phase. The move to production is always a big one, in terms of cost and commitment – it would mean the idea graduating from a pet project.
We went with Kickstarter firstly because we needed to raise sufficient funds to launch the project but also on the basis that if the idea flew, we would have a pretty good idea that we were on to something. What we also got – which we were not expecting – was a wealth of feedback of suggestions and requests which kept us on our toes through the campaign and helped to shape the final product.
Where did you draw your inspiration from for the Gamestick?
We have always been about bringing great games to the TV. We currently operate the largest free-to-play games network across Smart TV but we wanted to see what we could achieve if we owned the hardware thereby removing the fragmentation issues that comes with operating across multiple platforms. We have worked with large cross section of the developer community to date from Indies to console devs all of whom felt there should be an easier way to target the big screen.
Rather than the top down approach taken by the traditional console manufacturers who sell heavily subsidized hardware to support games that have huge Hollywood-style budgets attached, we wanted to provide an affordable route to TV for both the developer community and the gamer community. By leveraging the Android eco-system, we are able to achieve this.
How did you decide on the styling, and the way in which the Gamestick fits into the controller?
We’re all gadget geeks, so the concept and design had to be appealing. We started with a set top box idea but quickly moved to a more portable form factor in line with the gaming market we were targeting – essentially casual to mid-core gamers who for the most part had discovered or re-discovered their love of gaming on their mobile devices.
We thought it would be cool if we could maintain portability while leveraging the big screen game-play that TV affords. Fitting the stick inside the controller seemed like a logical step. In the future, we doubt there will be a stick – it will come down to choosing a controller and choosing a screen.
Could you tell us a bit about the technology behind the Gamestick Dock?
The Dock wasn’t even conceived prior to the Kickstarter campaign. We came up with it in response to requests for us to support peripheral hardware from gaming accessories such as mics and dance mats to keyboards, mice and cameras for those that wanted to hack the stick turn it into a media center.
The technology is essentially a box that expands the capability of GameStick with a number of neat features such as wireless charging for the controller, a housing for the stick for those with wall mounted TVs and a bunch of ports.
Does having smashed your target have any negative effects? Extra pressure to succeed/more ideas etc.
Not at all – there is pressure for sure but there would have been had we stopped at our target of $100K. Its success has meant we received a phenomenal amount of press coverage which in turn has opened doors to the big retailers. Its all good!
Yes – we have partnered closely with Amlogic and ARM and plan to upgrade in line with their SOC roadmap. First and foremost though, we want to make sure that we have a viable business model and that means making a profit on the hardware – this we think will be very important to convincing developers that we have a strong future. Quad core is very much on our radar.
With the new consoles now being revealed what is it about the Gamestick that will keep the consumer interested and your product competitive in this cut throat market?
We will continue to innovate on the hardware front and of course content will play a huge part. We have remained tight-lipped on progress here to date but will have some big announcements around GDC so stay tuned.
How do you view the competition from smartphones? Do you even see them as a competitor, or a completely different market?
Smart phones and the Android eco-system have made this market possible so there will always be synergy between mobile and GameStick. We do not therefore see smartphones as competition.
Are you hoping developers will decide to create games with solely the Gamestick in mind?
Yes – we are sure of it. It will take time and we have a lot to prove but we will get there.
Right now we are continuing to take pre-orders via www.gamestick.tv and demand remains strong with over $100K taken since launching the store just under 2 weeks ago. Those that pre-order will be the first to get their hand on GameStick. From there, it is all about retail and we have some very exciting conversations happening in the background.