The ‘secret’ is out: cable stinks.
Even the most avid TV-viewers among us likely bounce around between only 5-10 channels, but we’re paying for 150, probably more. It’s the age-old scam of cable companies, and it’s almost definitely going to continue. For companies that have their package structures down to a science, those of us who are content-crazed and a little too into TV are a lucrative crop.
However, we’re also not into paying for things we don’t use, which is why set-top devices are becoming increasingly popular. Apple’s set-top device (Apple TV) has been on the market for some time, gaining momentum and becoming “more than a hobby” in recent years. Roku and Chromecast, the other major TV accessories on the market, have also managed to capture a considerable portion of the streaming public.
But the newest game is town is Amazon’s Fire TV ($99), announced middle of last week. Much like Apple TV and Roku, Amazon Fire TV is small and black and will offer apps like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Instant Video and a smattering of others. It’s offerings and design put it on an even playing field with Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast.
What may set Fire TV apart, however, is the controller add-on and game functionality, something that no other set-top box currently on the market can offer. The controller, which is $39.99, is pretty robust, rivaling traditional console controllers (namely the Xbox controller) with its 3 directional controls and myriad of buttons and triggers. It even boasts 2GB of RAM and promises a decent selection of games, which they hope will make it a popular pick for gaming.
And it may, in the market of casual gamers. People who enjoy playing games but aren’t particularly jazzed about spending several hundred dollars on a console that’s a bit high-powered for their needs. For those people, Fire TV could be an elegant and brilliant solution.
Can Fire TV compete with Xbox One & Playstation 4?
Yes, of course it can. But the buyers that’ll be opting for Fire TV over the consoles are likely people who shouldn’t have been buying high-powered consoles in the first place.
To me, it seems like the Fire TV will be an extraordinarily well-functioning, elegant little set-top box with lots of little whizz-bangs that’ll make it slick and easy to use. It’ll be a great choice for casual gamers and game enthusiasts who aren’t particularly picky about which game they play, so long as it’s a good time. I think that Fire TV will be a very popular choice with a few great game options and a nifty controller.
For avid gamers, though, I just don’t see it. With only 8 GB of HD space, you certainly don’t have room for a very robust library. And, if you’re someone who enjoys the likes of Bioshock, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Portal, etc., you’re probably not going to find your favorite games on this ‘console lite’ anytime soon.
Fire TV Is Great, But As Media Streaming Device, Not A Console
Simply put, Fire TV isn’t a console system. It’s a set-top box with gaming capabilities, and it just won’t do for avid gamers. Not yet. Give it a bigger hard drive, better games, an online network, and a faster processor and maybe Fire TV could give Xbox One a real run for its money. Of course, if you give it those things, then you’ve got an Xbox One, and an Xbox One price tag to go with it, which puts us back where we started.
So, in the end, Fire TV is neat. Truly. It promises to be faster than its competitors, the remote is reportedly tidy and functional, and Amazon touts heightened interactivity with content through the device. If that’s true, then Fire TV is a serious contender indeed. For Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast. It will sting when Fire TV takes the casual-gamer-with-too-much-money market away from Xbox or Playstation, but at the end of the day, I don’t see it coaxing serious gamers away from their PCs or consoles.
They don’t need to, though. This first iteration of Fire TV may be enough to capture the attention of a large audience. From there, Amazon could certainly move on to a more robust, streamlined system with better offerings. Whether or not that might be a lucrative endeavor remains to be seen.
For now, Fire TV seems like an excellent choice for a set-top box, with an added bonus (‘added’ after an extra $40, of course) of some casual gaming capabilities. It features most of the big media apps (only notable exception is HBOGo), functions well, and is priced competitively. Only time will tell if Amazon is here to stay in the set-top game.