Google buys the ghost of Green Throttle Games, as TV arms race gathers speed

By James Robinson , written on March 11, 2014

From The News Desk

Four months after Santa Clara-based Green Throttle Games slowly shuffled off this mortal coil, PandoDaily has confirmed that its parts and labor have been quietly scooped up by Google as a possible asset in the increasingly warming arms race between tech giants to create the perfect set-top TV box.

Green Throttle Games launched in late 2012, the brainchild of Charles Huang of Guitar Hero fame and Matt Crowley and Karl Townsend, who worked on the initial iteration of the Palm Pilot. It was backed by $6 million in series A funding, led by Trinity Ventures and DCM. Green Throttle sold a custom Atlas controller, which worked alongside its Android Arena app via bluetooth. It was criticized for being late into the space, too far behind competitors like OUYA and PowerA but the founders insisted that its point of difference was that it had made its software developer kit available to developers to innovate on its platform.

A Google spokesperson wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but confirmed that one had been made. Part of this deal included former Green Throttle staff - including Crowley and Townsend, two of the three co-founders - joining the Google team.

Huang retains rights over the Green Throttle business, Google confirmed. However with Green Throttle removing its Arena app from the Android store in November, its console - which remains on sale through Amazon - is functionally useless. Calls to Green Throttle’s customer help line were not answered and the company’s Facebook page features comments from disgruntled customers who had purchased the app after November and found no way to use it.

Huang has since helped found Singtrix in New York, which makes Karaoke machines that auto tune a singer’s voice in real time. Calls to Huang via Singtrix’s press line were not returned.

Behind the scenes, sources close to the situation report that the Green Throttle Games acquisition is a clear signal that Google looking at anchoring its set-top TV box - rumored at the end of last year to be coming in the first half of 2014 - around games. Apparently, Google’s interest in Green Throttle revolved around helping enhance its potential controller's Bluetooth powers.

The TV set top box figures to play a large part in the 2014 tech landscape. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Amazon’s set top box, part of its planned assault against Netflix, could arrive by the end of March. Apple has been talking content deals with Time Warner for a possible April launch of a new box and this new development confirms that Google’s plans are starting to come together also.

Green Throttle’s sale for parts is one more further sign of the struggles faced by the independent game console movement. The big splashes of 2012, with Green Throttle’s launch and OUYA’s $8.6 million Kickstarter campaign, have been beset by a lack of traction and product issues. OUYA’s recent statements that it would pivot towards software caused some last week to declare the movement dead.

Google’s latest acquisition shows that at least some of this technology, allowing for easy mobile control of a large screen interface, can find a use in the new battle for our living rooms.