GameStick, flush with Kickstarter cash, revamps its controller

GameStick, a tiny Android-based game console and companion controller, is sporting a fresh design as its Kickstarter campaign winds down.

The $79 GameStick is under development by PlayJam, and aims to be a complete home game console that's easy to carry around. The actual stick plugs into televisions via HDMI, and is small enough to be stowed away inside the companion game controller. GameStick's software is based on Android, but will have its own app store.

With the new design, the game controller now seems a lot more usable. Whereas the original design was a fairly simple plastic slab, the final product will have extended grips on each side and rubberized finishes on the bottom deck, a home button, a directional pad and thumbsticks. Those thumbsticks are now raised off the surface of the gamepad, with support for 45-degree tilt angles.

Also, the lettering on the controller's face buttons have changed from P-L-A-Y to X-B-Y-A, mimicking the layout of Microsoft's Xbox 360 controller. GameStick says this will help developers port their games over to its own store.

The most interesting change, however, has to do with the storage slot for the actual GameStick. The slot has moved from the front of the controller to the back, but not just because it's less intrusive. In a post on Kickstarter, PlayJam chief executive Jasper Smith said the ultimate goal is to have the controller provide power to the stick, so users can stream games to their television using Miracast. Moving the stick to the back of the controller allows it to more easily accept power and dissipate heat.

“It is too early to go in to a lot of detail about this (but we will as soon as we can), suffice to say that we believe that in the future all of the components to run a game can and will be stored directly in the controller,” Smith wrote. “You will then simply decide which screen you want to stream your games to.”

GameStick debuted on Kickstarter on January 1, and quickly reached its $100,000 funding goal. As of this writing, the project has raised more than $515,000 with 69 hours left in its funding drive.

At this level of funding, GameStick has reached a couple of “stretch goals.” All GameSticks will include a MicroSD slot for added storage, and backers can purchase a controller dock for $20 that adds support for USB peripherals such as external keyboards and microphones.

GameStick is planning to ship the finished product to Kickstarter backers in April. Ouya, another Android-based game console, will ship around the same time, setting the stage for a very interesting facet of the home console wars.

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