GameDock is a peripheral for the iPhone and iPad that will hook portable devices up to any television via HDMI and connect up to 2 USB game controllers. The Portland-based indie game developer Cascadia Games have put together a very simple little iOS peripheral that could prove to be a neat alternative to the touch screen. So far they have raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter to get it launched.
Some games are admittedly just not made for touch controls. This is one of the biggest problems I’ve had with many iOS and Android games in the past: my thumbs and fingers take up too much of the screen’s real estate, I can’t seen a good portion of the screen I’m playing on. When it comes to games with heavy-handed control schemes, take the iOS versions of GTA for instance, it gets very difficult to manage. There’s these little clear buttons mapped everywhere and using them just gets in the way. GameDock could be one of the best solutions to these touch controllers I’ve seen since those suction cup joysticks went on the market. GameDock wants to turn your iPhone into a full-fledged game console.
It seems like the world is ready for another game console these days, Cascadia Games thinks you already have that sort of power sitting right in your pocket. That’s actually pretty fair, considering that the soon-to-be kickstarted OUYA will have raised nearly $6 million with hardware that isn’t too different from many tablets. GameDock is a much more down-to-earth strategy, however, there aren’t any Yves Behar designs or custom controllers, its just an iOS port, HDMI and 2 USB ports. The creators of the GameDock believe that with everyone already having the power of a game console in their pockets, they could easily play games on one TV and bring it over to a friends house to play on another, a lot like the days when kids would bring their favorite game cartridge over to their neighbors to play together. Its no accident that the dock has a top-loading feed like the classic SNES console.
Like a lot of other Kickstarter projects, this one has been a work-in-progress. Many Kickstarter projects recently have been more like straight pre-orders, but one of the great things about the website leading up to its recent exposure was having supporters work directly in the project and give feedback and creative criticism. The GameDock project has been a great project to watch with this mindset. Nearly a month into its Kickstarter round and the creators have realized that many people would love to have SNES controllers instead of NES controllers, so they’ve added this as a stretch goal. I personally voiced, along with some others, that I’d like to see the Xbox 360 or PS3 controller, so this has been added as a stretch goal too. Its a work-in-progress, as seeing the device up-close showed me, even the cover in the video was just a prototype. The important part about this peripheral is that it interfaces your mobile device with HDMI and USB, there’s a lot of possibilities just in that.
Chris Jorgensen and Andi Greisel are spearheading the project in their spare time right now. I talked with Andi about the project, where he had the peripheral hooked up to his wall-mounted TV. No cover, just a circuit board with a retro, NES-style controller plugged in. Andi says this isn’t the first idea the two have had, this is just the first one in hardware form. The two are both experienced programmers, Andi who works for CBS Interactive and Chris who has designed a handful of mobile indie games. “We’re just 2 guys with an idea,” says Andi, “not a development shop.” But as for why they decided to turn to Kickstarter: “Well, I had a lot of guys come over and play with it, and they thought it was really cool…but we should probably do something with this thing. We can’t keep self-funding it.”
Much of the money from the Kickstarter will be used to fund the first iteration of the device, each of them will likely cost very near what they are asking for on pre-orders. A lot of the fun is in watching how the device may evolve with time. One of the things I asked about possibly getting was Android support, which I knew would be difficult due to all of the potential form-factors and inputs, but Andi said they were very open to it. One of the biggest issues the GameDock has had so far is with Apple’s proprietary inputs. The dock currently needs an entire Apple AV adapter, which is a good $30-$40 out of the gate. If they can get a full-fledged Apple developer license, the cost will go far down. I can’t truly fault them on designing with iOS in mind, however, because the majority of good mobile games exist on that platform versus a tepid pool of games on Android.
With many more obstacles to overcome and a Kickstarter that will be ending in over 2 weeks, the GameDock could be a great new interface device for this mobile generation. Although this project has already met its $50,0000 goal, more will be needed to support other controllers and give Chris and Andi some more breathing room on production.
Currently the project is asking for $125 for a dock and 2 retro USB controllers and an HDMI adapter. With $150 they will also throw in a bundle of Chris’ games that will be ready-to-play with the dock.