At CES this year, Snail, a Chinese gaming company, demoed a new console it is working to release early this year called the OBox. The device is essentially a modular — their word — computer that runs Android games.
I tinkered with the thing earlier today when it was attached to a large television, playing games in 3D. Snail declined to detail the price of the device, which was reasonable given that it will sell the device in various forms, and thus, presumably, price points.
Building and selling the device in various hardware setups is interesting, given that consoles from Microsoft and Sony tend to leave little to the user in terms of potential customization. However, Snail wants to sell into the United States, and into the Chinese market. To do so it will likely want to provide lower-cost devices so that all income groups can afford them.
Here’s the OBox’s controller:
All that is well and good, but what I liked most about their technology is its 3D component. The OBox can take games, and render their graphics into 3D, without having the developer of the title do extra work, according to the firm. The game that I tested in 3D was a bit choppy, but more than functional.
The OBox is cool tech provided that it can effectively tap into the Android ecosystem that will provide the backbone of its content. However, its advantage is Android’s catalog of titles, which I would argue could also be its disadvantage. If Android titles don’t convert well, and better over time, to larger screens, the OBox could find itself at a content deficit to the PC gaming ecosystem.
Snail, its creator, is also a software firm that has a number of titles in the market, which could provide a bulwark to that potential issue.
The company wants to take the physical, and digital sides of gaming in a new direction. It’s a large wager.