At CES 2015, Razer debuted the Forge TV, their attempt to bring PC gamers into the living room. They won “Best Gaming” product as well as the “People’s Choice” award, so there is definitely a lot interest in the concept. Razer is not the first to take a crack at bridging the two worlds of PC gaming and couch gaming, but they have a couple advantages when it comes to making the Forge TV a success.
Razer’s biggest edge is their dominance in the PC hardware marketplace. They already have recognition with the exact audience that they are hoping to attract—PC gamers who purchase peripherals—and they have a reputation for developing high quality hardware. Valve, another big player hoping to enter this market with Steam Machines, also has a good name with PC gamers, but not a history of hardware development. That must be proving more difficult than they anticipated, as the Steam Machines Valve promised in 2014 have still not materialized. Time will tell which approach is better, but if a $99 micro-console can compete with a Steam Machine, likely to cost much more, Razer’s approach makes more sense.
The second edge Razer has is what really differentiates the Forge TV from any other Android powered micro-console (remember the Ouya?), which is PC streaming. That turns a $99 device for playing Android games into one of the cheapest ways to play PC games on the biggest screen in your house. There is a lot of potential in that concept, but up until now nobody has been able to deliver. Steam already has big picture mode and PC streaming, but getting your library to play consistently is an exercise in frustration. There’s also noticeable lag, weak color reproduction, and you also have to put a dedicated PC by your TV. The Forge TV uses a proprietary codec built for gaming, rather than the standard H.264 used in most PC streaming solutions, in order to reduce latency and stream a high fidelity image, and the Forge TV is diminutive in size compared to a PC tower.
Alongside the Forge TV, Razer announced the Turret, which is a mouse and keyboard designed specifically for your lap. There’s a magnetized mouse pad attached to the keyboard that will keep the mouse from sliding off should you shift the keyboard around, which is a pretty great idea if it works as advertised. The precision gained from using a mouse and keyboard is often lost when you’re placed 10 feet away from the screen, rather than two or three, so controllers are often better for couch gaming. But for games where controllers are not an option, this looks like a great solution. It’s not locked to the Forge TV, by the way, so if you already have a PC or Android TV device you should be able to use it with the Turret without issue when it is released later in 2015.
As for Android gaming on the TV, there’s already a large but fragmented presence, with big players in the Amazon Fire TV and Google’s Nexus Player. Right now there’s not a lot of developer support, so we’ll have to wait and find out whether that’s a compelling reason to buy the Forge TV. It’s certainly a capable device, sporting a Snapdragon™ 805 quad-core processor, and an Adreno™ 420 GPU, so if more games do come to the market that support it, Forge TV should run just about anything without a hitch.
I’ve been pretty skeptical at most attempts at micro-consoles and game streaming. They often give you the worst sides of both console and PC gaming, but with the Forge TV I’m cautiously hopeful. If PC streaming works as advertised it will make playing your existing library of PC games on your TV a reality, which alone would justify the purchase. And, if we can play a game on our smartphone while out and about, and then throw that onto the TV when we’re home, then that’s icing on the cake.
What do you think of the Forge TV? Is there room for Razer’s new device under your TV?