In an effort to outdo itself, BlueStacks is announcing the GamePop Mini for the cube-averse. The biggest difference between the Mini (seen above on the left) and the cube (the... uh... cube above) isn't the form factor; it's in pricing. Where the regular GamePop is $129 (unless you act soon) the Mini is "free" after a 12-month subscription of $7 per-month, or $84 total. At this price, it costs less than an OUYA, but slightly more than a GameStick. "If you keep it more than 12 months, you keep it forever," BlueStacks' Head of Marketing and Business Development John Gargiulo told us. Of course, there's not much to do with the Mini without a subscription. "It'd be like if Netflix did it this way and had hardware -- the unit would be useless without the subscription," he added. Additionally, if you return the Mini inside of 12 months, there's a $25 restocking fee.
The subscription gives users access to a plethora of games from 500 "popular mobile game partners." Those partners include the teams behind Jetpack Joyride and Fieldrunners. "Getting the kind of developer support we've gotten, it sets us apart," Gargiulo said. "We saw what happened with the Dreamcast and we saw what happened with the Wii U. You need to have good launch titles; there needs to be games everyone recognizes and wants to play."
To make GamePop more enticing to developers, BlueStacks created Looking Glass -- proprietary tech allowing iOS-only apps to run on its Android-4.2-based console. When an iOS app makes calls to Apple's hardware, Looking Glass interprets those calls and translates them to the GamePop Mini's hardware. Of course, a few changes within the code are necessary. "[Porting is] not easy, but I would submit it's not hard, relatively speaking," Gargiulo said.
BlueStacks isn't ready to divulge the list of currently iOS-only developers it's courting, but those it's working with are allegedly impressed. "I've had many developers call our engineer or chief tech officer because they haven't built their games to run fullscreen on big screens without pixelation or loss of quality." According to Gargiulo, no custom work is needed for the games to look how they do on a TV.
"If you're a developer and you've built your app and put it on iOS, it's your app. You built it, you own the bits and you own all the intellectual property. If you apply Looking Glass' layer, you can put [your app] on a TV with us," he said.
Perhaps what sets the GamePop Mini apart from its Android-console competition the most is its target demographic: kids. "We have 7-year-olds in our office that know every single title that we're bringing onboard, but couldn't care less about Call of Duty, Shadowgun or that kind of stuff." However, Gargiulo is quick to add that there's no reason preventing BlueStacks from putting games like that on its console. "It's not that we're only going to have Wii-styled kids titles, but that's definitely a demographic we're focusing on because they play a lot of games."
Kids are also why BlueStacks is choosing its business model. Gargiulo posits that paying a lump sum up front for a console and then paying X amount of dollars per game isn't how kids experience games anymore. "They have 150 games on their phones. If they paid $10 each for those, they wouldn't be so psyched [about gaming]. We want to give all-you-can-eat access to all the best games for a small monthly fee," Gargiulo said. We'll see how the company's strategy fares "this winter" when it's slated to launch.
GamePop Launches 'Forever Free' GamePop Mini
First ever free hardware with subscription; GamePop service to be available across multiple form factors
Palo Alto, CA June 28, 2013 – Mobile company BlueStacks has announced a second vehicle to deliver its new GamePop mobile gaming service, the GamePop Mini. Like the recently announced $129 GamePop, the new device will also run Jelly Bean 4.2, connect to TV via a supplied HDMI cable and include a curated group of 500 popular mobile game partners. Announced partners include HalfBrick (Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride), Glu (Blood Brothers), #1 Kids app developer Intellijoy and more. BlueStacks says the 6.99/month subscription will include access to over $200 in paid games for free.
"We have always planned on having a free console option," said BlueStacks CEO, Rosen Sharma. "The biggest value of the GamePop service is its content – not the box. Hardware costs have come down so fast that we're able to undercut the rest of the market. With the free promotion we've been doing in June we're already seeing a ton of adoption. That volume then attracts more developers and therefore more and better content. It's building momentum."
In addition to announcing a lineup of several popular Google Top Developers, BlueStacks also came out with its "Looking Glass" technology earlier this month. Looking Glass will allow iOS-only developers to easily launch on GamePop. Titles such as iOS's first major franchise the Fieldrunners series will be able to come to TVs this way.
"We want to make things as easy as possible for app developers to come on board," said Ben Armstrong of the company's developer relations team. "There is a virtuous circle between great content and volume that we're having a lot of early success jumpstarting that so far. The launch titles a service comes with are critical." Pre-orders went on sale May 9 for GamePop at Gamepop.tv and while not releasing specific numbers, the company reports they are stronger than expected. The free promotion for the GamePop console will end June 30, when it will go back to its regular price of $129. The GamePop Mini will be available for pre-order July 1. It is slated to ship this winter.