If you want the best gaming experience, you’ll probably use your TV. Your window into the game is huge, plus you’ll be taking advantage of the TVs great speakers. In order to play, you traditionally had to use a gamepad, an input device that is the same regardless of genre or gameplay. Recently, with the proliferation of screens, there have been new types of opportunities for unique gameplay and controller schemes. What if there was a new controller that had a screen in the center, which could display a custom interface based on the game you’re playing? What if your TV just acted as a dummy device and your phone was doing all the game processing?
AirConsole is a relatively new organization that is developing a cross-platform mechanism for multiplayer, second screen games. Unlike other systems, which have relied on proprietary technology that required custom hardware, AirConsole can run in a web browser on both screens. It even works on Android TV, thanks to a new app that wraps the website and lets you control the site from your phone.
The game processing is done on each screen, meaning the workload is divided more evenly than using casting. This may be a problem for high performance games on a relatively underpowered device, but in my testing the games ran pretty smoothly and without a lot of latency.
When the app first loads, you’ll be given a six-digit code that you enter into your phone in order to confirm the two devices are connected. From there, you’re shown the gamepicker inteface. Using your phone, you can navigate between them and select the one you want to start playing. You can authenticate yourself with Facebook, or just use a guest account.
The top picks are listed at the top, with categories for genres like “Party Games” and “Classic Arcade”. As you focus on each game, you can see more details about it and how many players can play at a single time. New users can join at the bottom by entering the code on their device. Some games require a minimum number of players.
When a game is selected, it’ll start loading on your TV and your phone. Your phone’s layout will change to adapt to the type of game you’re playing. The controllers look consistently themed and have exactly the controls needed to play the game effectively. When actually using it, I did get mixed up a few times as you do not benefit from the same tactility you would get from a physical gamepad.
Developers can easily get started building apps with this functionality by visiting their developer site. Their API is also accessible through Unity, making it easy to get started.
AirConsole is free to use on both phones and TVs. You can go to their website or download the apps.