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There are a lot of new (micro) consoles with Android inside coming soon or already there (OUYA for example).

My question is: why use Android and not another OS as base for these consoles?

I assume that there are pragmatic answers to this but I can't see any clear killer feature. For example, one can assume that any stable Linux distribution would work (like Valve seem to think). Android is primarily targetted at mobile platforms which mean it is built around the idea of being interrupted which goes against a lot of what console devs needs in new hardware - but is not killing Android as a platform for gamedev either as it's just a constraint.

Why not another OS? What's the Android killer features that make micro-console builder using it instead of Linux or anything else?

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1) It's available, 2) people know how to develop for it, 3) there are already a number of games released for it. It seems like you've have to ask the creators of each console to learn the specifics of why they chose what they did. –  Byte56 Jun 29 '13 at 15:46
    
@Byte56 All your points are the same for several other platforms possible, including Linux. Why is that they all choose the same platform? It's certainly not because of an isolated decision specific to the consoles but because of something more important and global to all consoles. –  Klaim Jun 29 '13 at 16:20
    
You'd have to think about the general audience as well. Far more people are familiar with Android than Linux. There's more games and more people that develop for Android than Linux. It's just more popular. But again, if you want to know why they choose it instead of why I think they choose it, you'd have to ask them. –  Byte56 Jun 29 '13 at 17:55
    
@Byte56 This makes no sense: users will not see the difference between Android or whatever once on the console. Devs will not have any big difference in making their games for any of those. Again the question is why do they all do this, not why one choose it in particular. –  Klaim Jun 29 '13 at 18:21
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3 downvotes? Is it so political? –  Karl Jun 30 '13 at 7:29
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1 Answer

I'm not a professional in the console world, but I have some theories on why a company might choose Android over a different OS or creating a new OS for their console.

  • Name Brand recognition. Consumers with no knowledge of OSes will be confident that the device they're buying is running on something that's popular enough to be on their smartphone and millions of others.
  • Developing an entirely new OS would add significant upfront and sustaining costs to the development of the console. Developing a new OS like Android is something very large companies with loads of cash do, like Google, Sony or Microsoft. Getting into the console market isn't easy or cheap. Using existing technology where available is an excellent way to reduce costs.
  • Android is a platform that many developers are familiar with already. No one is going to buy a console if there aren't any games for it. While mainstream consoles like XBox and Playstation have large companies developing games for them, the future of the micro console appears to be the indie developer. Indie developers run on shoestring budgets and tight timelines. They don't have time to learn entirely new OSes. The console developers need the developers as much as the developers need a platform for their games. Using Android gives both a way to make that relationship easier to start.

  • Android is linux already. Or a special version of it. So what are the alternatives? Microsoft or Apple would both cost far too much. Creating an entirely new OS is extremely expensive. So the alternative is to create another branch of Linux to use specifically for that console.

So what's the Android killer features that make it the OS of choice? Because it's there and it works. If it's not broken, don't fix it. If Android was placing significant restrictions on the developers to deploy the platform they want to deploy, then they'd use something else, so far, that doesn't seem to be the case.

(Valve would likely look at alternatives or creating their own to increase compatibility with their existing library of games).

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I believe the main motivation behind OUYA (and others) is to fill a gap in the console market quickly and efficiently. By using Android, you basically get a console with thousands of cheap games (some of them with HD graphics). Apple would never sell a license to anyone, but they might come with their own console as well. –  sm4 Jun 30 '13 at 8:14
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