Sunday, March 16, 2014

Amazon’s game controller emerges: Now where’s the game console itself?

Amazon gamepad controller, top

The first thing you’ll notice about the Amazon gamepad is that, well… it’s a bit of a beast. It looks like someone took an Xbox 360 gamepad and then intentionally made the nicely rounded, ergonomic edges square. At first glance, the Amazon gamepad looks like it would be incredibly uncomfortable — but really, when it comes to ergonomics, we really shouldn’t judge something by some leaked photos. It actually looks quite a lot like the OnLive gamepad (pictured below), which was generally well received, ergonomics-wise.

Amazon gamepad, sideAmazon gamepad, bottomAmazon gamepad, back edge, shoulders, triggers

The Amazon gamepad’s specs are as follows: Two concave analog sticks, four buttons (A/B/X/Y), a d-pad, two triggers, two shoulder buttons, four buttons in the middle of the pad, three media playback buttons on the bottom edge, and six LED lights. According to the Brazilian FCC docs, the gamepad connects via Bluetooth. The gamepad is powered by two AA batteries. The block of four LEDs are probably used to signify battery level and (in a multiplayer setup) which gamepad you’re holding. We’re not sure what the two left-hand LEDs will be used for.

The three buttons in the middle of the gamepad, which resemble the same buttons that you’d find on an Android device, are probably for interacting with Android-style apps on Amazon’s set-top box. There’s also the possibility that the Amazon gamepad will work with the Kindle Fire tablets; and there, it would obviously help to have those Android buttons. The fourth button on the front of the controller, which kind of looks like a beach ball or nuclear hazard symbol, is probably the main start/select/menu button.

The OnLive gamepad: Look familiar?
The OnLive gamepad: Look familiar?

With the controller out of the bag, our attention turns to the set-top box itself, which we still know very little hard data about. The usual industry sources say that it’s basically going to be an Androidy box that provides some mix of games playing and media streaming – think Apple TV, but with access to Amazon’s rather large selection of Android games. Another more recent leak suggests that the Amazon console won’t come with the gamepad as standard, either; it’ll be an add-on that you have to buy.

Following the rather lackluster showing put in by Ouya and other Android game consoles, we can’t say that we’re particularly optimistic about Amazon’s offering. Still, at the very least, the Amazon set-top box will be great for people who have bought into the Amazon ecosystem — much like the Apple TV is a no-brainer if you have an Apple household.

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