Google isn’t ceding the television to Apple, Amazon, and others. The company has its own plans to conquer the living room, and it involves gaming.
At its annual Google I/O developer event today in San Francisco, the company announced Android TV, which is a platform that it’s building to work specifically with TV sets that runs on its open-source operating system. Unlike Amazon’s Fire TV box, Android TV isn’t itself a consumer product. It is a platform. Google will work with a variety of vendors to integrate the this directly into TV sets from companies like Sony as well as set-top boxes from Asus, Razer, and others. Android TV will enable people to run apps on their TVs, and that of course includes mobile games — joining a host of other boxes (none of which have gained a significant foothold) that play Android games in the living room.
Google said that Android TV will start rolling out with devices later this year.
This isn’t the first platform to bring mobile games to the living room, of course. Microconsoles like Ouya, Amazon’s Fire TV, and more all do something similar. Most microconsoles even run on Android, and those devices haven’t necessarily found a massive audience waiting for them. We’ll see if that changes with Google’s efforts.
Android TV works with a variety of input devices. This includes dedicated remotes, game controllers, and smartphones. Google did not say whether it would create its own game controller, but doing would make sense as it acquired Android-controller manufacturer Green Throttle Games in March. During a stage demo, however, Google Android engineering director Dave Burke showed off a game while he played with what looked like a Sony PlayStation DualShock controller. Burke referred to it simply as a “gamepad.”
In another demonstration, Burke fired up arcade basketball game NBA Jam. He played with the controller while another person played head-to-head against him, using a tablet to control the action. The game even displayed simultaneously on the TV and the tablet.
Android TV is an evolution of the Google TV service that the company started a few years ago. That too integrated into TVs and set-top boxes to offer Android in the living room. This time around, Google is hoping Android TV will catch on by offering up a simple interface and apps built specifically for a big display while users interact from the couch. Google TV also didn’t enable gaming on the big screen, so that might help Android TV.