Gem Box: the micro-console that wants to be the ‘Netflix for games’

French company Emtec wants to succeed where nearly everybody else has failed.

On August 18th, the firm will launch Gem Box in the US, UK and France, before releasing in other European territories later this year.

This Android micro-console, which comes with its own controller, gives access to a large selection of Google Play games and emulators, and allows for HD streaming via GameFly.

None of this is new, of course. Gem Box is the latest in a long line of micro-consoles, following the likes of Apple TV, Amazon Fire and… the disastrous Ouya. Other companies have given streaming a try, too, including OnLive and even PlayStation with its Now service.

Emtec is pitching Gem Box as the child of these two sectors – only with better services.

Gem Box is a reaction to what’s going on in the market,” explains Nathalie Lamri, Emtec’s marketing and comms director. With Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Google’s Chromecast, set-top boxes have become a booming sector in the past four to five years.

But they have made their sales based on the video content, mainly Netflix. Nobody so far has really focused on games because they have no clue about gaming.”

When asked about Apple, whose TV box features gaming capabilities, Lamri remains confident in Gem Box’s offering.

Apple TV is very limited in terms of the number of games. So far, all these companies – Apple, Google – have mostly thought about games for mobile devices, which means touch screens. But these experiences are absolutely not suited for a TV experience. And Apple doesn’t provide any streaming service right now.”

Streaming is at the core of Gem Box’s offering, Lamri insists.

We wouldn’t have done a box based solely on Android games,” she says. Game streaming is going to be the next big thing after music with Spotify, and TV with Netflix.”

Emtec’s UK and Ireland sales director David Walker adds that it is delivering a much better streaming service than its predecessors, thanks to its partnership with GameFly: If you look at some of the previous gaming platforms that have been around, like OnLive, they have a good system but unfortunately the broadband requirements are far too high compared to what people actually have in their households.”

He continues: The requirements to run GameFly are much lower than what we have seen before. We’re confident that pretty much anyone around the country will be able to run our service.”

This is a good thing because ‘pretty much anyone around the country’ is the Gem Box’s target audience, as it has been designed for families and casual gamers.

It’s for the people who bought a Wii, who were not necessarily gamers,” Walker says. These people have probably moved on to playing on mobile devices. It’s still gaming but there’s not really an entry level price device to use with their TV. We’re providing that with the Gem Box – something competitive on price that provides a good solution for the family.”

Gem Box also features three emulators – but Emtec insists that it isn’t encouraging illegal downloads and that it could simply not miss such a big trend,” Lamri defends.

We don’t provide any ROMs and we remind people of the law behind it: you’re supposed to download games that you already own. Frankly, you can download emulators on Google Play anyway. So we prefer to recommend ones you can play on TV with our gamepad at least.”

Gem Box’s offering could appeal to retailers who wants to diversify their range, Walker concludes: It’s quite clear that retailers need to look at other areas of gaming in order to support revenues they’re losing on physical software sales. Gem Box is a great opportunity to compensate that loss of revenues.”

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