Forget the PlayStation 4. If Nintendo should get nervous about a competing platform, look to the mobile space because Green Throttle Games and its new Arena app for Android is about to drink the Wii U’s milkshake.
Oh, not right away, and not until it gets a few kinks worked out. But Green Throttle, the company co-founded by Guitar Hero creator Charles Huang, will come out of the gate with a new mobile-gaming system that holds several significant advantages over every new game console due this year. It even has a legitimate shot at crossover appeal between the casual and hardcore markets — something that frequently eluded Nintendo on the software front.
“Games on mobile platforms started with a very casual bent and moved up to mid-core and eventually hardcore,” says Huang. “I suspect we’ll see a similar trend.”
Arena centers on an Android app that combines a homepage with its own store, showcasing games, videos, demos, and staff picks. That rolls out today on Amazon’s Kindle Fire but will rapidly transition to other Android tablets and phones. Plug those devices into your flat-screen television with a common Micro HDMI cable, and the image scales up to a clean HD image. While games featured on Arena function with touch controls — sometimes in a simpler, streamlined way — they’re optimized for Green Throttle’s $40 Atlas controller. It looks and feels a lot like what you use on your Xbox.
“This is the QWERTY keyboard of game controllers,” jokes co-founder Matt Crowley, a veteran of the mobile industry.
Generic? A bit, yes, but it completes the system. Now your Android device is the game console. The Kindle Fire might be first, but Huang and Crowley talked about moving to the LG Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy 4, and Galaxy Tab smartphones next.
By design, Arena accommodates both casual touch-screen players — often with dynamic touch controls that activate wherever your fingers land — and hardcore, controller-busting gamers who demand precision. And unlike the Wii U’s GamePad, you’re completely untethered from your television. Take it anywhere, play it on the way, and plug it into any TV with an HDMI port when you arrive.
Of course, the initial six offerings on Arena won’t actually topple Nintendo or anyone else anytime soon. Most are rehashes of old-school classics — off-brand Space Invaders and Robotron 2084 “homages” — and/or simple side-scrollers that feel like last-second homework turned in by design-school students. But those are really for casual users, and as Huang’s projected trend suggests, the mix of game types should evolve quickly.
Free Range Games will bring its highly popular third-person, class-based multiplayer shooter Freefall Tournament to Arena. nWay Games plans to port over its face-punching Facebook hit ChronoBlade. Arcade shooter Expendable Rearmed from U.K. developer Retrobomb won’t be far behind.
And that’s another big advantage Green Throttle can talk about: genuine third-party support.