Fuze Entertainment CEO, Wang Feng, took to the stage in Beijing today to unveil their brand new console named “Tomahawk F1”. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Fuze or talked about the console market in China so you should be familiar with the state of console in China today. For those of you who are new to this blog I would recommend that you read the following article “Fuze to launch new Games Console, will rival Sony & Microsoft in China” before continuing with this one as it will help fill in a lot of gaps as to why this console is being announced.
If you don’t have time to read the above then here is the quick version. Consoles have been banned in China since 2000 and it was only a couple of years ago that the ban was lifted and Sony and Microsoft started to sell PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the country. Since 2000 we’ve seen PC gaming grow to be huge in China and in 2015 we saw PC games software/services gross $12 billion in China. Mobile games have also taken off in a huge way in China with games software on smartphones and tablets now generating $7 billion during 2015. Consoles are very niche in China and aren’t even a $250 million business yet in the country with the PS4 & XB1 only having a tiny install base of 500,000 in the country. Consoles are set to remain a niche in China as users are simply not used to paying upfront for gaming hardware, when there are Internet cafes across China and subsidised phone contracts, nor are they used to paying for games software upfront when most PC and Mobile games are free to play. These reasons help explain why Consoles aren’t big in China and why Sony and Microsoft haven’t had huge successes yet.
Fuze want to enter the console market in China as they see an opportunity to compete with Sony and Microsoft who have only just started selling their consoles officially there. Fuze believe that they can create a competitor console that can be successful in China and bring true console gaming to Chinese citizens and solve some of the issues that PS4 and XB1 have in China. It’s been difficult for Sony and Microsoft to get local Chinese support with many local developers opting to release games on Mobile and PC. Overseas support is also dry with many not choosing to release a specific Chinese version of their game in Simplified Chinese. The companies also have issues with the Government who may censor and block certain games and services from running on their machines and the high costs of the console and games means they have an issue of appealing to a mainstream audience in China. Fuze Entertainment hopes to position their console in what they call the ‘mid market’, in that it is better than all other Chinese Android consoles but still below what Sony and Microsoft can achieve on a global scale. Instead they plan to win over consumers through AAA games that can’t be found on other Chinese consoles and through a good selection of Chinese games at a low price that Sony and Microsoft can not offer. They state that their ultimate goal is to build the best domestic game brand which brings the perfect gaming experience to Chinese gamers.
So let’s talk about today’s conference in a bit more detail. I’ll take a look at all the software announcement, hardware announcement and then summarise what we know about the console.
At today’s conference the company promised to bring many AAA experiences to Chinese gamers on their console. They showed off demos for Assassin’s Creed Chronicles, Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends, BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma Extend, Red Ash the Indelible Legend and Mighty No 9 and other well known games. If you’re wondering about the last two, these are the two games published by Keiji Inafune’s company comcept and if you read the article linked in the first paragraph you’d know that Fuze are the same company who funded development of Red Ash. That’s why all Comcept games will be launching on Fuze’s console in the future. The console will run the Android operating system but the CEO made a point of saying that they are working with developers and publishers to create tools to help them bring PC, Mobile and Console games to their custom Android console. The point of showing these games is that Fuze did not want to come across like any other Android console like Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV (iOS). They wanted to prove that you won’t just find mobile games on this console but you’ll find full AAA experiences and PC games along with mobile games. They’re trying to show that they can provide the best of both words to gamers in China which is something that Sony & Microsoft can not do with their console.
Fuze confirmed that they had over 200 development partners who were bringing games, services and tools to the console and made a point of saying that they had great partnerships with these game publishers such as Koei Tecmo, Codemasters, Comcept, Ubisoft, Deep Silver, Arc System Works and a whole load of other AAA publishers. Plenty of independant overseas developers are bringing their games to Tomahawk F1 and we should see games like Assault Android Cactus, Ziggurat and Heart & Slash on the console. Fuze CEO noted that this console is all about bringing the best overseas talent to China to show more Chinese gamers what they’re missing out on by only playing Chinese games. But they also plan to attract Chinese gamers using popular domestic titles and even plan to bring small Chinese indie devs onboard with their console as well. In total around 76 games have confirmed to launch on the console this year and Fuze are promising that more than 100 games are in development and due to launch in the future.
As noted above, the console will launch with the Android Operating System but Wang Feng was quick to point out during the conference that people are always skeptical of Android consoles so they took a lot of effort to make sure that they customised the OS enough to allow for better experience and performance for gamers. He said that they had removed the game installation limits on their console meaning that gamers could download as big a game as they wanted. He also said that games can now support up to 4 controllers at any one time and that gamers can record gameplay whilst they are playing. A lot of effort has gone in to making the operating system the complete experience for gamers but it’s very clear that the Chinese company has taken a lot of “inspiration” from Sony and PSN when it comes to the OS.
As evidenced in the pictures above and below, the Operating System looks very much like the one used by the PlayStation 4. It’s clear that the company have pretty much ripped off the design rather than creating their own unique take. It’s very much a complete copy with the home page having the exact same social and news features that the PS4 home page does, even the game store looks exactly the same with all the text and other interfaces in the exact place you’d find it on PS4. I can’t say I approve of Fuze’s blatant rip offs here and I’ll say right now that this isn’t the only thing they’re ripping off. Just wait till you read the hardware section. The OS also has an online social network similar to PSN where you can add friends and play against them online, games also support achievements and there are many media apps pre installed. The console allows you to stream live TV via the Panda TV and LeTV apps and you can watch pre recorded videos on Youku (Chinese version of Youtube). So as noted, this is pretty much the PS4 OS in terms of design and even functionality.
The console is a lot smaller than the PS4 and Xbox One due to the fact that it is an Android console and does not have a disc drive. Fuze aim to cut down on distribution costs for publishers by only allowing games to be sold digitally and downloaded to the console. This is one of the issues that Fuze want to solve in China which is distribution and cost of games. You may have noted above that they are attempting to solve the issue of poor software output that Sony and Microsoft have struggled with by bringing in big/small overseas games and big/small Chinese games too their console to make it more appealing. Now this move of only allowing digital downloads means that publishers can charge less for their games and encourage people to buy more games overall. So another issue has been solved by the company (technically speaking).
The controller, as seen below is very very very similar to another controller that all of us will have seen before. It’s pretty much a copy of the Xbox One controller but seems a bit more plasticy and also of cheaper build. Once again more evidence of Fuze just copying what already works rather than being original. The console itself comes in two different versions. A “Play” version and an “elite” version with the differences very much similar to what we saw with Xbox 360 and their Core/Elite versions. The console is a full square and 19cm by 19cm but the elite console has slightly more depth of 56cm compared to the play version which is 35cm deep. The reason for this is because the Elite console houses a 500GB hard drive where as the Play console only has 32GB of onboard storage. The console also looks somewhat similar to a PS4 (Surprise, more copying) although it may have just got away with not being a complete rip off due to the diagonal stripe.
Please see the full specs below
- Nvidia Tegra K1 (4 Core A15 @ 2.2GHz
- Nvidia Keppler @ 852Mhz (325GLOPS)
- 4GB DDR3 RAM @ 933Mhz
- 32GB eMMC storage (Elite = 500GB HDD)
- Wi-Fi & Bluetooth support
- HDMI, USB 3.0 x 1, Ethernet (Elite = Qi Wireless controller charger)
- Fuze OS (Android) + Open GL 4.4 & Open GL ES 3.1 support
- Chinese & English game support
Fuze are pitching the console as a true home entertainment system that can play Games, Movies, TV, Music and much more and they hope that Chinese consumers will buy one in order to turn their standard TV into a smart TV with all the functionality they need. The console even plans to support VR with Fuze releasing a VR headset later in the year to support VR Games and other content on the device. Ultimately Fuze believe they can be the choice of gamers and media enthusiasts in the living room due to finding the perfect entertainment balance at the right price, something that Sony and Microsoft haven’t been able to do at this point. But it’s going to be up to gamers and Chinese consumers to decide whether this product will fit in and in my opinion I think it’s going to fall short.
The Play edition of the console will launch at ¥899 which is just $140 and considerably cheaper than other consoles on the market. Although it may be seen as slightly more expensive that cheap android tv streaming boxes that can also play games like Amazon Fire or Tencent’s MiniStation. The Elite version of the console with the bigger hard drive and Wireless controller charging built in launches at ¥1499 which is $230. The console is available for pre order now and will ship on June 1st in China. There are no plans to release this console outside of China as Fuze are concentrating on creating a console market in China where they know they can compete with Sony and Microsoft. There is no hope of them finding success outside of China against Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and they are fully aware of that. As noted, the VR headset will launch at $170 which is a tad pricy when you factor in the cost of the console as well. The controller comes packed in free of cost with the console but additional controllers can be purchased for $30. Fuze noted that they’re actually selling the Play console at a loss and just breaking even on the Elite console as they plan to sell more content and services to offset the loss in hardware.
To sum up, the Fuze conference has been successful at communicating the plan for their console launch. What they want to do is target the China market and get them interested in console gaming and TV media entertainment using their Tomahawk F1 console. The lower price of the console means that it will remain attractive over the PS4 and Xbox One and the mix of great Chinese and Overseas games means it can appeal towards gamers in the country. The addition of media apps like live TV streaming also means it has an opportunity to win over the casual TV crowd and the fact that it is a digital console only means that the console is smaller and cheaper + games and media can be distributed cheaply too. The console also has some fairly good specs and with added VR support coming means that it can be seen as a console that will last many years in China, especially due to the promise of more than 200 development partners who will consistently bring content to the company.
My thoughts are that this is a good attempt but at the end of the day there is no room for a big console market in the Chinese games industry, I can see people buying products like this as an android streaming box but then in that case there are plenty of other products from Xiaomi and Tencent which are cheaper and do a better job on the media side. When it comes to console gamers we’ve seen that many are more than happy to buy a PS4 and import games and content. Sony and Microsoft are working on bringing more overseas games and Chinese games to console and whilst I can’t say they’ve done as good a job as Fuze when it comes to local content, they have done very well when it comes to big overseas AAA third party support and exclusives. Therefore I’m not too confident that this product will take off but it’s a good attempt overall and they certainly could see some niche success with it. Should there be any further updates I’ll be sure to post them here.
I’ve included a full list of confirmed games for the console in the tweet below and a video of all games-
Remember that Chinese console I talked about recently. So far they have 76 games due to release on the console- pic.twitter.com/fLtwXr2cKM
— ZhugeEX (@ZhugeEX) May 6, 2016