June 27, 2013 at 8:04 PM ET
The first round of third-party Android-powered video game consoles is now arriving, yet Google — godfather of the Android OS — may be at work on its own gaming device.
That's according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported on Thursday afternoon that the Mountain View, Calif.-based tech giant is developing gaming hardware as a preemptive move against looming competition from its rival Apple. No, not Sony or Nintendo or Microsoft, but Apple, which has been subject to a seemingly endless torrent of rumors surrounding a possible gaming console or at least gaming functionality built into a TV or set-top box.
Thing is, there's already been a proliferation of Android-fueled gaming consoles in recent months, all of which are trying to bill themselves as leaner and faster alternatives to the big three home entertainment console manufacturers' new wares. This week alone saw the launch of the Kickstarter darling OUYA, while Nvidia announced a delay of the Shield, a much-anticipated high-end mobile console. Earlier this month at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the gaming peripheral company MadCatz announced an Android-powered "micro-console" known as the "M.O.J.O.," and that's not even to mention the other Kickstarter star, the GameStick, which amassed six times its fundraising goal in February.
So what does Google have to gain amidst the glut of upstart gaming consoles that it has helped foster, however inadvertently? As the WSJ mentioned, the prospect of competition from Apple is likely a deciding factor. But the company could also be trying to gain a foothold amid the clutter of Android-powered competition as it did for smartphones with the acquisition of Motorola in 2012 —except without the added pressure of footing a $12.5 billion bill in the process.
In addition to the news about a new gaming console, the Wall Street Journal also reported that Google is working on an Android-powered watch (another rival to a rumored Apple device) and a new version of the Nexus Q media streaming device. While the report didn't say which one, the Journal claimed that Google is planning to release at least one of these products this fall.
A representative from Google was not immediately available for comment on this story.
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.