Roku has sold more than 1 million of its TV set-top boxes, with the main attraction being Netflix streaming. But with the new Roku 2 device, the Saratoga, Calif., company is betting on another hugely popular item for its killer app -- Angry Birds.
The Rovio-built game has been sold more than 200 million times across different smartphones and tablets, and Roku is hoping it'll cause more consumers to pick up a Roku 2, which was released on Tuesday in three different models and price points, ranging from $59.99 to $99.99.
So, how does one play Angry Birds on a little black box (that looks a lot like the Apple TV) that fits in the palm of a hand? With a bluetooth motion-sensing remote (that works a lot like the Nintendo Wii remote).
The top-of-the-line version of the Roku 2, known as the Roku 2 XS, sells for $100 and includes the motion control remote and a copy of Angry Birds already downloaded and ready to play, as well as USB and ethernet ports not available on the cheaper models.
The $79.99 Roku 2 XD's bragging right is the ability to play 1080p full-high-definition video, which its more expensive sibling can do too.
And then there is the $59.99 Roku 2 HD, which is limited to playing back 720p resolution video.
All three of the boxes use an Internet connection to tap into Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora Internet radio, Vimeo and nearly 300 other "channels," the company said on its website.
But the big news here is still casual gaming, said Anthony Wood, Roku's CEO, in a blog post.
"Angry Birds is just the beginning," Wood said. "Between now and Christmas you'll see the games selection on Roku grow dramatically. My goal is to grow Roku into a major low-cost family oriented gaming platform, with games in the $5 range rather than $30 range.
"Just like Netflix is shaking up the video world, and Pandora is shaking up radio, Angry Birds and their friends are shaking up the gaming establishment. We're trying to help as best we can."
Rumors have been circulating for months that the next version of the Apple TV could add games too. It'll also be interesting to see how the Boxee Box responds to casual gaming on the Roku.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Images: (Top) The Roku 2 and (bottom) the Roku 2's motion-sensing remote. Credit: Roku