Mobile virtualization startup BlueStacks only recently revealed the GamePop, its mobile home gaming console that offers all-you-can play gaming for a flat monthly fee, but it’s already expanding the line. Today, the company is announcing GamePop Mini, a version of the GamePop that offers completely free hardware with a standard $6.99 monthly GamePop service subscription, with smaller hardware that’s yours to keep after 12 months even if you decide to cancel your GamePop account.
The GamePop Mini also runs Jelly Bean 4.2, and connects to your TV via an included HDMI cable. Just like its big brother the GamePop, it will provide access to the service’s curated list of 500 games (from both Android and iOS sources) each month, with titles from studios like HalfBrick (makers of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride) that are normally available only with a one-off purchase. The key difference between the GamePop and the GamePop Mini will be in terms of specs, which BlueStacks aren’t quite ready to reveal.
The $129 GamePop is currently available free to pre-order customers, but reverts to full price as of June 30. The GamePop Mini will become available as of July 1 for pre-order, and BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma told me in an interview that it will ship at or around the same time as the GamePop some time this winter. Sharma said a free console was always something that it wanted to do, and that the GamePop Mini is the first of a line of “forever free” options it plans to provide to gamers seeking to access its services.
“We were always planning this, because we think of GamePop as a service,” he said. “Just like when you think of when Netflix came out, they used to send you a Wii disc so you could run it on the Wii, and then you could run it on the PlayStation. And our goal is that you can run it on a number of different devices, and some of them will be from us, and some of them will be from other people.”
GamePop becoming a platform agnostic service would be a considerable departure from other mobile gaming consoles out there, like OUYA and the upcoming GameStick. It would open the door to integration in smart TVs, Windows computers, embedded devices and various other places. Once that happens, the value prospect of a subscription service with true portability increases dramatically; GamePop truly does become the Netflix of mobile gaming.
“It is in part to show how good the market is out there, and I would call it a showcase, but the pre-orders have also inundated us,” Sharma said. “So it’s not just a showcase. The direct channel is a very strong business, and one we plan to continue, but having it run everywhere is our vision.”
Sharma also talked about GamePop’s potential to eventually bring in media titles, as well as interactive experiences that aren’t strictly games, like the Talking Tom series, which is especially a hit with younger audiences. For mobile developers, that presents an option for getting a variety of mobile titles in front of a wide swath of users on a huge range of devices, on a subscription-based billing model that could upturn the pay-per-download revenue scheme that’s mostly driven the mobile software ecosystem to date.
GamePop Mini will be a way for BlueStacks to spread its service far and wide, especially since there’s no commitment, and you need only return the console hardware should you decide to cancel the subscription before the 12 month mark. It’s also super portable, and in fact pocketable, so it’s designed to travel (which has the side benefit of introducing new people to GamePop). I think it’ll be most interesting to see how users react to having both a free and a $129 hardware option for a brand new type of gaming device, but we’ll find out more come winter when they launch.