Chris Ulm, CEO of Appy Entertainment, looks ahead to the transition of App Store-style, bite-sized entertainment consumption to the living room.
App TV: The Everything Box
The living room right now is a no-man’s land of standards and cables, universally poor and inconsistent user interfaces, huge numbers of channels, multiple boxes of hardware, hated cable companies, and multiple video game systems, each with its own proprietary hardware and expensive software. TV needs a revolution, exactly the same way that smart phones did — and it’s gonna happen beginning this year. But let’s start this off with a trip to the future.
It’s 2014. After a hard day at work, you stagger over to your couch and plop down for some gaming on your App TV. You flick on the tube using your home tablet remote app and browse through your library of games. Some of them reside on the internal storage of your App TV, some of them reside completely in the Cloud, and some have functions that are buried in both. You really don’t care how it all works, so long as you can easily browse, search and discover what you want to experience.
Tonight, you feel like playing a new game, so you check your personal recommendation list and select a game that the App TV thinks you might like (based on a complex algorithm that takes into account your downloading habits, your media and social network). You enable ads so that the game is free — you never buy anything without trying it first. Someday you might spring for the monthly game service subscription fee, but it doesn’t seem worth it yet. You’d rather rent all of your games ala cart. Besides, with over 250,000 games available on the system, you feel very little urgency to “own” anything.
While you’re playing the game, a video call from your best friend comes through and you patch him into the game so he can play with you from his Android tablet. You play for awhile then the system alerts you that the basketball game has started, so you switch apps with a gesture, knowing the game will be waiting for you on your TV, phone or tablet when you want to get back to it.
App Gaming – Disrupt The Console Industry? Really?
Today app gaming is still well in its infancy and largely relegated to one platform — Apple’s mobile iOS. Even with Apple’s dramatic success with the App store, in 2009 app games made up less than 5% of the total revenue for the US game industry. Most of the products have small budget productions with shallow game play, low production values and are stuffed with lowbrow ads. Even with small budgets and multiple monetization approaches, it is difficult to justify longer development cycles based on the likely ROI. I know this from first-hand experience as CEO of Appy Entertainment, a start-up company that I co-founded with fellow console game developers.
Our team has deep roots in the console industry, having built High Moon Studios (now an Activision-Blizzard studio). We’ve developed on console systems from the Atari 2600 (yes, really) and we’ve built everything from character based adventure games like “Abe’s Oddysee,” to fighting games like “Ready2Rumble” boxing, multi-player first person shooters like “Darkwatch” and third person action games such as “The Bourne Conspiracy.” We “get” console games, and with 4.5 million downloads across our three apps, “FaceFighter,” “Zombie Pizza” and “Tune Runner,” we know a bit about the App Store as well.
So what is App TV and how (and why) will it disrupt the console industry?
Currently, there have been many attempts to consolidate the living room under one platform, from set top boxes, to satellite providers to console boxes like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
“App TV” is the catch-all term I am using to describe the “bottom up” transfer of touch based, internet savvy mobile operating systems with App Stores to a living room platform. Currently, Apple is by far the market leader in the mobile app space, but the Android platform is catching up fast. In addition to Apple and Google, this space is hotly contested with five major competitors (Nokia, Research In Motion, Microsoft, Palm/HP and Samsung) who all have their own mobile platforms and have or are in the process of launching App Stores.
In terms of a frontal assault on the Living Room, Google has fired the first shot in moving Android to TV. Announced in May of 2010, Google TV uses a variant of the Android operating system to allow users to browse the internet, listen to music, search for content and most importantly, to download and play Android games.