BlueStacks is hoping to take the clear early consumer interest in a home gaming console built with mobile technologies and make that into big business, and today it’s announcing what could become a huge advantage for its GamePop console over other similar offerings. GamePop will support iPhone and iPad apps at launch, in addition to Android titles, making the first such device to tap into Apple’s rich app ecosystem.
As part of this expansion, GamePop is also announcing its first partner on the iOS side today: Subatomic Studios. Subatomic is the studio behind Fieldrunners, the tower defense game that was one of the iPhone’s first true defining hits. Fieldrunners has since expanded to a number of different platforms, including the PlayStation Store, Android and more, but BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma explained in an interview that in the case where a title is available on both Android and iOS, GamePop will offer the version which is considered the flagship for the title.
And while Subatomic is just the first announced partner bringing iOS software to the GamePop, there are many more partnerships in the works And all of the iOS titles will be included free with the cost of the $6.99 per month subscription, alongside Android titles, to make up the 500 titles BlueStacks is aiming to provide to subscribers as part of their package. Like with Android titles, BlueStacks will be looking to procure high-quality iOS games, and Sharma points to Fieldrunners as a perfect example, since it’s a $2.99 game at regular price when purchased through the App Store. Any iOS titles will also be able to bring in-app purchases to the GamePop, though they’ll be handled through one of leading third-party in-app purchase API providers on Android rather than through Apple.
To get iOS games running on the GamePop, the use a new proprietary technology pioneered by BlueStacks called “Looking Glass,” which is somewhat similar to the type of virtualization that the company does when bringing Android titles to Windows 8, for instance, but with some crucial differences.. But Rosen also notes that this isn’t something that’s using Apple APIs or is in any way in danger of running afoul of that company’s rules regarding iOS software.
“From a technology perspective, it uses virtualitzation, but it’s a different kind of virtualization than what we use for example for our PC products,” he said. “This is more API-level virtualization. We don’t use any of Apple’s bits – the developer just gives us the app and we make sure that it’ll run on GamePop.”
Nor does GamePop’s method of bringing mobile software designed for Apple devices result in any kind of sacrifices when it comes to performance or quality of experience. Since the virtualization happens at a very basic level, the GamePop is essentially doing the same heavy lifting as the iPhone or iPad hardware, but doesn’t need to do any additional work, the way it would if it were virtualizing in the same way that Parallels does with Windows on an OS X computer, for instance.
“In iOS the app makes a call and says, for example, ‘draw a menu for me,’ and in GamePop the app would make the same call and we’d be drawing the menu for them,” he said. “At this point, iOS and Android are so similar from an API perspective that it’s feasible to do this. So there’s no difference in terms of performance, and in fact developers on iOS follow such good guidelines that getting them on GamePop is relatively straightforward.”
The change to GamePop not only gives it access to a broader library of software from which to choose its core group of titles, but it also means that GamePop isn’t just another Android-based home gaming console in the tradition of OUYA and GameStick. Now, it’s a different beast entirely, and one with a crucial competitive advantage over and above its subscription-based revenue model. GamePop is currently on sale for the introductory price of ‘free’ through June, with the $6.99 per month subscription, and will retail for $129 after that.