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The Smartphone Is the New Party-Game Controller on Chromecast

Google's Chromecast now plays games, but keep your phone at the ready.


Google said today that it is adding support for a bunch of games to its cheap media-streaming stick, the Chromecast. But what’s interesting is how they’re controlled.

Google’s competitors on this point — mainly Roku and Amazon, which makes the Fire TV — use either their default remotes or add-on accessories to play games. The Apple TV officially supports no games at this time, although a handful of developers have tweaked their games to be broadcast to the TV from an iDevice over Apple’s AirPlay streaming technology.

The new Chromecast update skews toward the latter approach, telling players to bring their own phones and tablets to the game. In other words, rather than looking at a physical Scrabble board and consulting the tiles on the rack in front of them, players will look at the TV to get the “public” view of the board, and at the Scrabble Blitz app on their own devices to see what letters they have to choose from.

If it all works as advertised, this is thanks to the same technology that makes it possible for the Chromecast to play videos. The stick connects to the same Wi-Fi network as your various devices, so they can talk to each other with only a small delay.

The mobile-controller idea has been popping up more and more in recent months. Fibbage, a game available for PlayStations 3 and 4, the Xbox One and Amazon’s Fire TV, is a regular sight in my house, with up to eight people on whatever Internet-connected devices they prefer. And in September, Ubisoft announced Just Dance Now, a mobilized version of its popular dancing game that uses phones instead of game controllers and supposedly supports “unlimited players.”

These sorts of titles are what I had in mind when I asked Nintendo last week if the smaller audience for its latest console, the Wii U, is composed of different people from the hordes who bought more than 100 million units of the first Wii. After all, if you don’t care about characters or graphics and only want a simple party game a la Wii Sports, and if the devices you already own can handle all the computing, why buy a console?

Just Dance Now is one of the new supported titles on Chromecast, as are a handful of board game adaptations from Hasbro and a game developed by Google itself, Big Web Quiz — an algorithmically created trivia game based on the company’s Knowledge Graph.

Here’s the full list of games the Chromecast can now play, along with a few new media apps:

Wheel of Fortune

Monopoly Dash
Scrabble Blitz
Connect Four Quads
Simon Swipe

Just Dance Now

Big Web Quiz

Emoji Party

Showtime Anytime


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