Thinking of rounding out your entertainment center's arsenal with an Android-based game console? You've certainly got options: Ouya, GameStick and Project Shield are all vying for a spot on your couch. On the other hand, you might already have a perfectly serviceable Android device just waiting to be converted into a makeshift games console -- that's where Green Throttle Games comes in. By pairing a dual-stick gamepad with a console-like game launcher, Green Throttle aims to turn any Android device into a gaming platform. We spent some time with a developer build of the setup late last year, but today the company officially launched the Green Throttle Arena and its companion Atlas controller. We popped in to the firm's Santa Clara office to see what changed.
Green Throttle's consumer debut is much cleaner than the developer software we saw back in November -- the Arena app now features large, attractive menu tiles reminiscent of Windows 8's start screen, dividing its home screen into sections for recently played titles, featured games and advertisements. Headlining the billboard of squares are four self-explanatory menu options: home, my games, recommended and settings. Green Throttle's Matt Crowley told us the app soft launched to Google Play over the weekend, and showed us how it can be used as a simple touchscreen launcher for Green Throttle supported titles. On its own, the Arena app is aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn't really come to life until it's paired with an Atlas controller.
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Crowley paired a Kindle Fire HD with a gamepad and plopped us down in front of an HDMI-connected display. Under the Atlas controller's thumbsticks, the Arena app did an admirable job of emulating a console environment, giving the gamepad full control of all its features. We didn't need to touch the tablet's screen once -- a nice change from trying to use a gamepad on most Android devices. The ease of use is by design, of course: games compatible with Green Throttle's Arena app have to not only play nice with its gamepad, but need to be fully usable by controller alone. It seems like a nitpicky detail, but it allows the company to present gamers with a unified experience. Toggling the Green Throttle "G" button, for instance, universally returns users to the Arena menu. Multiplayer games will even detect when a second player controller is connected, prompting the user to choose one player or two. Overall, the system does a decent job of emulating a home console environment.
We were a little disappointed to find that the Atlas controller hasn't changed much since we last saw it. The familiar Xbox 360 gamepad layout is as comfortable as ever, but the controller's shoulder buttons feel a little stiff, responding with loud clicks when toggled. The Atlas' thumbsticks and face buttons have plenty of spring to them, however, and its d-pad is certainly no worse than the Xbox controller's mushy affair. The controller's selling point isn't form, though -- it's function. Using proprietary drivers, Green Throttle's Arena app can recognize up to four Atlas controllers at once, opening the door to local multiplayer on an Android device. It's a neat trick, but it comes at a price: the Atlas controller will only work on Green Throttle enabled games.
Unfortunately, Green Throttle's console experience falters when it comes to software. The suite's small collection of launch titles just doesn't offer much depth when it comes to gameplay. They serve their purpose of course, demonstrating key features like local multiplayer and gamepad support, but Space Invaders clones like Green Throttle's own Coral Combat aren't going to sell Atlas controllers. Luckily, Crowley told us more games are on the way, including ChronoBlade, a side scrolling beat 'em up, and Freefall Tournament, a multiplayer 3rd person shooter. Moreover, we're told that more than 1,000 Atlas controllers have been sent to developers, adding more promise to the suite's budding game library. The app is officially live in Google Play and the Amazon App store as of today, and users can purchase Atlas controllers from the Arena interface. If Green Throttle can catch the attention of more developers, it could grow into a strong gaming ecosystem, and could even give Ouya a run for its money -- but without software support, it might wind up as a lesson in lost potential. Care to make a wager? Read on for Green Throttle's official press release and place your bets in the comments.
GREEN THROTTLE™ GAMES ANNOUNCES CONSUMER AVAILABILITY OF ATLAS CONTROLLERS AND DEMO GAMES FOR FREE ARENA APP
Consumers Can Now Get a Console-Like Gaming Experience at the Low Cost and Portability of Mobile Gaming
Santa Clara, CA – March 5, 2013 – Green Throttle™ Games, creator of the Atlas wireless game controller, developer of the Arena app and publisher of mobile games, announced today consumer availability of the Atlas Controller and Green Throttle Arena app (Kindle Fire HD Edition), with support for other Android devices coming soon. Together, the Arena app and Atlas controller turn a Kindle Fire HD into a gaming console so you can enjoy mobile games from the couch on a big screen TV without making an investment in new hardware. Priced at $39.95, the Atlas seamlessly pairs with Kindle Fire HD via the Arena app, and the device connects to the TV with a micro HDMI cable.
Along with the Atlas controller, the first games are now available through Green Throttle's Arena app as a free download from the Amazon App store. The Arena app serves as a central location for consumers to access all Green Throttle supported games, control settings to pair their Atlas controller(s), and helps developers with app discovery by making their games noticeable and easy to find.
The Arena app features four main sections:
? Home Screen: Shows games recently played for quick access, features other Green Throttle compatible games, and highlights upcoming games and promotions
? My Games: Lists all downloaded games
? Recommended: Editorial section that allows consumers to discover other Green Throttle compatible games and watch game trailers
? Settings: Connect new controllers, view connected controllers, and check for updates
Games Now Available
With games releasing weekly, the following games are now available in the Arena app and can be played using the Atlas controller:
? Crystal Swarm (FREE) – A throwback to twin stick shooters, 60 waves of fast-paced, chaotic 2D-shooting action as astronauts on Mars encounter giant alien bugs while mining for red crystals. Developed in house at Green Throttle for 1 or 2 players and is also touch-enabled.
? Fish Tails (FREE)– Race to cross the finish line or see how fast you can collect coins while guiding your Koi down the mighty Mississippi in this free demo game developed in house at Green Throttle. Play in solo mode with touch on a mobile phone or tablet, or use the Atlas controllers for a 2-player experience on the big screen.
? Coral Combat (FREE) – Fend off sea creatures attacking your coral habitat in this free to play classic arcade-style game for 1 or 2 players, developed in house at Green Throttle.
? APO Snow ($1.99) – Developed by FreeRange Games, the ultimate freeskiing and snowboarding 3-D, multiplayer game. Multiplayer will offer split screen 2-player competitive mode. Can be played with Atlas controllers or touch mode.
? Blocks Party (FREE) - Roll, run, jump and smash your way through a series of unique and in-depth realms to save your imprisoned buddies in this must-have game for the whole family. Developed by Free Range Games, its "balls vs blocks" in this addictive game with simple controls and an adorable cast of characters. Offers 2-player split screen with Atlas controllers, or single player with touch mode.
Within the week, two additional games that have been extremely popular amongst the core gaming crowd, will also become available in the Green Throttle Arena:
? ChronoBlade (FREE) - Developed by nWay, a single-player demo of the upcoming action-RPG will be playable only with Atlas controllers. Aurok, a fully 3-D rendered character and fearless Norse warrior with supernatural strength, will battle endless waves of foes from the invading Cronarch army in a survival-mode arena.
? Freefall Tournament (FREE) – Developed by FreeRange Games, this intense, fast-paced 3rd person shooter is playable with the Atlas controllers in network-style team combat play. You can have it all as a super human space marine - jetpacks, armor, hammers, swords, guns, bombs - in melee, ranged and aerial combat modes.
Green Throttle Games was co-founded by Charles Huang, co-creator of the legendary Guitar Hero video game franchise, and mobile industry veterans Matt Crowley, former Palm and Nokia product lead, and Karl Townsend, lead engineer for the first two generations of the Palm Pilot.
"The global video game market is poised for the next round of innovation. With the Atlas Controller and Arena platform, we're bringing the convenience and a next level gaming experience to consumers in an inexpensive and thoughtful way," said Charles Huang, co-founder and CEO of Green Throttle Games.
Creating an Open Platform
Green Throttle is striving to create an open platform in order to push the industry forward and regain the creativity that was evident with games in the 1980's. Green Throttle is already working with other "unconsole" makers such as GameStick to ensure the products work together, and the company is looking to develop more strategic partnerships in the coming year.
According to Ted Pollak, Senior Gaming Analyst at Jon Peddie Research: "Mobile game processing and development is advancing at a blistering pace, and new generations of mobile devices can easily render casual games on HD TVs. This could expand into more complex genre's very soon, which could both expand the total market, and possibly disrupt incumbents. Touch screens have limited application in video games and a good controller is needed for the best experience. Green Throttle is ahead of the curve in this department and providing a simple, affordable, and standardized solution."
Pricing and Availability
Consumers may purchase the Atlas controller for $39.95 at Green Throttle's online store (http://www.store.greenthrottle.com) or the 2-player bundle for $89.99 and receive a $10 Amazon gift card for a limited time only. Atlas controllers are also available on Amazon.com. The Arena app is a free download from the Amazon App Store.