Sometime this summer, Roku intends to refresh their digital streamer hardware lineup… while simultaneously expanding the platform to support casual gaming. And their first partner is Rovio, a heavyweight in the space and creator of the immensely popular Angry Birds franchise. From the joint press release:
Roku will offer Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio video games; launch an Angry Birds video channel featuring Angry Birds animated shorts; and sell Angry Birds merchandise-all via the Roku Channel Store. The announcement today also marks Roku’s expansion of its successful Internet TV platform to include casual games.
Roku goes on to say they’re lining up additional gaming partners. Yet I wonder if anyone cares? For adults, I see casual gaming as a possibly nice-to-have enhancement (assuming Roku releases a quality remote control)… rather than a selling point that actually moves units. For example, it’s not clear to me that TiVo or Verizon have seen much success with similar television-based casual gaming initiatives. And while I loved Peggle on my iPhone, it just didn’t translate to the big screen via my Xbox 360. Perhaps there’s a market here for the younger crowd. Unless they all have iPhone Touches or pocketable Nintendo units.
Roku isn’t really blazing any new trails, just adding ‘app’ variation to their platform… presumably an expanded SDK will follow. What I continue to hope for is digital media innovation and premium content partners. But, instead of adding top shelf video, Roku has been losing content from the likes of YouTube and CBS and their once cutting edge Soundbridge streaming audio product has been abandoned. It may just be that Roku’s zenith was in 2010. As, in 2011, the cablecos are rolling out desirable live streaming and back catalog video while I similarly expect the likes of Apple and Google to finally (successfully) exert their muscle in this space. And don’t forget Sonos, who holds onto the high-end and has intentions beyond audio.