Mad Catz MOJO Will Change Next-Gen

Ever since the OUYA’s Kickstarter exceeded expectations, there has been an increased interest in Android-based consoles. After the OUYA, there was the Game Stick and now Mad Catz is entering the fray with MOJO. The system will ship with their CTRL controller and will play anything on the Google Play store. Since the system lacks any touch capabilities, a mouse can be used in place of it or you can use an analog stick in place of a mouse if you’d prefer.  The microconsole itself looks a lot like the OnLive system, and will have 16 GB of on-board storage with micro-SD expansion possible.

IGN was given the exclusive reveal of the system itself in prototype form and it’s definitely an exciting system. The CTRL pad appears to be quite comfortable as well, and if the d-pad is better than the 360’s, then that would give it an edge over the OUYA, which is quite hampered by its d-pad. No hardware details are known other than it will run a version of the Tegra processor – if they’ve got a Tegra 4 in there, that will make it more powerful than the OUYA and give people another reason to skip over the system and just wait for this.

MOJO is expected to launch in Q4, which means that the OUYA will have at least a four month head start to convince people that Android gaming isn’t just for mobile devices. Comparing the concept of MOJO versus what the OUYA is now makes me fearful for the OUYA’s long-term prospects. Mad Catz is an established name, and while they’ve never made a gaming console before, their accessories are known for being reasonably well-made. Their embracing of the pro gamer community has also given them a bit of credibility over this past generation as well. Retailers also know what to expect from Mad Catz and will be more likely to stock their system without any hassle.

The use of the Google Play store is a huge advantage for MOJO as well. Right now, the OUYA-only store gives you access to over 100 games and while that isn’t a paltry amount given that the system isn’t even officially released, it does pale in comparison to the thousands of titles available on the Play store. Going with Play also means that you won’t need to re-buy something for the system – if you’ve got the license for it from your phone, you can just connect your account with the MOJO and re-download the game. That’s far more convenient than the OUYA’s side-loading method that also involves hoping the game support’s the system’s controller and runs well on the Tegra 3 processor.

No price is known yet, but even if the system launches at $200, I can see people flocking to it. While the OUYA does only cost $100, that doesn’t factor in the cost of re-buying games. If people have extensive Google Play game libraries, the theoretical “extra” $100 may be easily justifiable due to getting more devices to use the games on and not having to buy something again to play it on a TV. The Q4 launch window is also perfectly timed because not only will there be time for folks to get used to the idea of TV-based Android gaming, but there will also be a ton of people unable to either afford an Xbox One or PS4, but people wanting something shiny and new amid all the hoopla.

MadCatzMOJO

If there are system shortages, that makes things even better since people may feel like they’ve got to spend money and want something right then and there. Let’s say someone wants a PS4 but Best Buy and all other local and online retailers are out, ebay prices are insane, and due to the recent Xbox One DRM announcement, they don’t want to support that system. In that case, someone is in the market for something new, has some extra money to spend, and sees the MOJO on a shelf. It’s only $200, supports a bunch of games they already have, but has a better processor than their current phone so it actually plays better-looking stuff, then it’s very easy to see someone impulse-buying it. $200 may be a bit high for that under normal circumstances, but under “I want something new” or a more severe “Little Jimmy/Kimmy want a new system for Christmas” circumstances, people will spend more for the convenience of hopefully resolving a future problem.

The system will be shown off by Mad Catz at E3 where there will hopefully be more information known about it. Getting out a final price point then would be wise since the system could then be easily included in post-show hardware articles and videos from the press. Plus, the company can trumpet its features vs. other Android-based consoles either on the market now or those that are coming soon. If they release it at $150, they can pretty much seal the fate of the OUYA and GameStick fairly soon after their launch since they’re doing basically the same thing from a consumer perspective, only offering up more value if you’ve got an Android phone and relegating those devices to more niche products focused on indie developers.

Ideally, the system could act as a gateway of sorts for people to grow accustomed to the idea of Android gaming, but I doubt that a fairly unproven market like that could viably support three different systems right now. The OUYA’s low price, open development, and future expandability should help it to some degree, while nothing has been announced in that regard with the GameStick. It’s amazing to see just how the mobile gaming marketplace has changed even the console side of gaming now.

With portables, everyone was just worried about folks being used to playing games on the go for a few dollars, and while that is an issue, it does seem like people are still willing to pay a decent amount of money to play portables games – as the 3DS’s sales rebound shows. While the 3DS is the exception to the rule, the Vita seems to be proving it, as that system struggles to find any niche in part due to a sparse release schedule that looks even worse when you don’t factor in cross-buy games. With portable sales still on shaky ground in part due to mobile devices, the marketplace for consoles could also see a shift with people growing to expect even cheaper gaming on their TVs.

The last generation’s use of download-only games showed that people were willing to spend money to not own a physical version of a product, while the succeeding 7+ years saw the scope of those games go from bite-sized games good in short bursts to full-fledged experiences on par with boxed fare while still staying in the sub-$20 range. App store games rarely hit that price point, and usually go for $1 to around $15, with people expecting about the same level of value as a PSN/XBLA purchase. Games on those marketplaces have become not just some of the best downloadable products, but some of the industry’s best games period.  Now, with an entire sub-genre of gaming consoles revolving around that business model, there’s a system in place to allow people who just want to enjoy download-only experiences to do so without having to worry about spend $50 or $60 a pop to get a gaming fix.

The next generation of home consoles was already set to be intriguing with the Wii U’s struggle to find it feet, the Xbox One’s DRM leading to a lot of moral and anti-consumer concerns that haven’t been a problem in the industry’s previous three decades, and Sony appearing to have the most consumer and developer-friendly system set for release after a generation of hits and misses that saw them go from a backlash at launch to being revered for releasing exclusives like Flower and Journey that expanded what people thought games could be as the generation’s end draws near.

It will be a generation that allows people from pretty much any income level to enjoy gaming – with $100 being a baseline with the OUYA, a bit more for the GameStick, $250-$300 for a Wii U, and whatever the prices points wind up being for the MOJO, PS4, and Xbox One – likely around $400. Free to play is also becoming more than just a novelty, with the PS3 innovating that idea on home consoles while Microsoft has dipped a pinky toe in the water from time to time, and Nintendo avoids that market, but has become more value-conscious with Virtual Console sales for the Wii U. The past generation was a sea change for the industry, and the coming one looks to offer up even more changes from the norm that may scare some, but may also further the industry as a whole.