Google’s Chromecast seemed a fairly innocuous seed when first planted back in July of 2013, but Google has been steadily ramping up the potential for the streaming HDMI dongle, via developer support and updates to its core software. Now, Google is announcing family-friendly games designed for Chromecast, which mark a concerted effort to turn the streamer into a console alternative for users who might’ve previously sought out a Wii for some multiplayer action that’s fun for everyone.
The new Chromecast apps announced today use your smartphone as a controller for the software running on the dongle attached to your TV, and include classics like Wheel of Fortune, as well as twists on old favourites like Monopoly Dash, Scrabble Blitz, Connect Four Quads, and Simon Swipe. The apps are all available for both iOS and Android, and work on both tablets and smartphones so that virtually anyone who happens to drop by can get in on the action.
Another new title is Just Dance Now, which is a mobile version of the Kinect-based dancing game, which uses your mobile device’s motion sensors to provide a basic kind of action tracking that translates your movements into the game. Big Web Quiz and Emoji Party offer two very different trivia experiences to the app, with Web Quiz drawing from Google’s Knowledge Graph to generate a healthy stock of questions to burn through, while Emoji Party lets you play a guessing game involving translating the communication icons into famous movie titles.
Chromecast is following in Apple’s footsteps with its two-screen gaming ambitions, taking cues from titles like Splitmo’s Poker Night TV, SketchParty TV and Real Racing, all of which use the TV for primary gaming displays while offering different content and interfaces on connected mobile devices. It’s a great use case for streaming gadgets, but one that also, as of yet, hasn’t produced any really noteworthy successes. Now that Google is shipping Android TV, complete with built-in Cast functionality, however, maybe we’ll start to see greater uptake of hybrid TV/mobile games.
Also new to Chromecast are Showtime Anytime and Starz app updates that bring Casting to their content library, which is great for existing subscribers to both channels. Chromecast’s app discovery website now also features a breakdown of software by category, making it easier to find specific content types as the library of compatible apps grows.
The $35 Chromecast itself is still the best way to get this stuff on your TV, and Google is sweetening the pot over the holidays with two free months of Hulu Plus and 90 days of Google Play All Access Music streaming, so long as users are new to both. But with the potential Android TV has for extending the reach of Google’s Casting tech to virtually any connected home entertainment device, these relatively little moves become just part of a much bigger and more ambitious picture.