Weboolu hopes to throw the traditional game console business for a loop with something it calls a Virtual Entertainment Console. All the tech needs is a web browser and a smartphone that doubles as a touchscreen controller.
The so-called “console” is an alternative way to play games for someone with just a smartphone and a PC, Smart TV, or any kind of web-connected display. Gur Zeevi, chief executive and co-founder of Weboolu, claimed in an interview with GamesBeat that this method is a clever way to put both games and web videos in places where they were never intended to be played. This just the latest in a trend of games spreading to just about any screen imaginable.
“We can use the hardware that you already have and turn it into a game machine,” Zeevi said.
You can initiate the Virtual Entertainment Console within any web browser and control it with a web-enabled mobile device. It supports multiplayer experiences where users can simultaneously connect to a single virtual console and engage in the same game. The tech supports iPhones, iPod Touches, and Android devices as touchscreen controllers. The company is showing the system at the Casual Connect game conference in Seattle this week.
Founded in February 2011, the company has just six employees. Weboolu is still in beta testing and Zeevi (pictured right) hopes to launch this summer.
Itay Gur, co-founder and vice president of business development, said that web-enabled screens are emerging everywhere. They’re available on mobile devices, Smart TVs, tablets, and other machines. These can all display casual entertainment such as simple games or YouTube videos, Zeevi said.
Launching the Virtual Entertainment Console is a simple progress of going to a website and logging in. The site then loads the control system into your browser. Once you do that, your mobile device will connect with the screen via Wi-Fi, allowing you to control a game on the display with virtual touchscreen inputs. You don’t have to download games individually from an app store; you just need the web link for what you want to play.
Touchscreens on tablet devices are becoming increasingly popular in gaming. Microsoft is launching its Surface tablet with Windows 8 and its SmartGlass technology that syncs with an Xbox 360 console. Sony is using the touch-enabled PlayStation Vita as a controller for the PlayStation 3. And Nintendo will be launching its Wii U, a new console with a tablet-style controller, this fall.
In this context, Gur said that Weboolu won’t replace a hardcore game console. Rather, it will allow people to play simple games using web browsers connected to smartphone touchscreens. This could be particularly attractive as Smart TVs take off. People will likely want to run entertainment apps (videos or games) on the Smart TVs, and using the smartphones that they likely already as controllers have will feel natural.
“We feel the Smart TV domain is now like the mobile domain was six years ago,” Zeevi said. “We think there will be a revolution in content for these devices.”
For developers, this means that they can create a game in a format such as HTML5 (the lingua franca of the web) or Adobe Flash and have it run across mutliple platforms. That reduces the cost of spreading games across devices.
With the smartphone and a Smart TV, you can use your television display publicly and your smartphone privately, which enables you to enter in a credit card number that you don’t want everyone else in the room to see. Developers can use the screen of the smartphone as a kind of app store. A user can log into the cloud-based Weboolu system and get access to their library of games or virtual coins.
Weboolu has created a few games, such as Jewel Hunt, a match-three game, to show off how the system works. Another demo is Band Tube, a Guitar Hero-style game where you can play rock songs with a smartphone controller. The system is expected to be available at the end of the summer. Ten titles are available on the system, including six made by third-party developers.
Zeevi said the company plans to work with carriers to integrate the service into various app experiences. Zeevi said the company is raising a round of funding.