- [Yay, a guest post, and the second in a raggedy series of 'Alex Handy Sez' missives, in which the former Game Developer editor and current Computer Games Magazine/Massive/otherstuff contributor riffs on something or other - cos we like his crazy hair!]

"Hey guys! Guess what! There's a new game console!

Stop laughing. This isn't an investment scam, and it's not another bothersome phone that you talk into sideways. There really is a potentially viable fourth party at the table. And you probably already own it.

Gamix is an open hardware specification, that amounts to a 2-year-old Windows PC. 1.8 Ghz, 512 MBs of RAM, 128 MB graphics card, and a USB thumb drive for saved games.

See, you already have one, don't you?

So, Gamix's hardware also calls for a software requirement as well: each game disc is a bootable Linux environment. So, while there's no Direct X, there is SDL, OpenGL, and all that cool open source game development stuff... Hey, Gamix ain't perfect.

Development environment issues, aside, Gamix games themselves are the draw here. You buy a Gamix game, pop it in your Windows PC, and reboot the machine. Then, bam, it boots up behaving like a regular game console: nothing but the game.

I inherited a stack of these blue DVD-boxed games from a certain magazine editor that hates hearing about Linux games. Many of them are staid old Linux classics, like SuperTux, NeverPutt, and Lost Labyrinth. But some of the others here, I'd never heard of. NoGravity is a nifty space combat game that's causing me to pilfer a joystick from the ACCRC "free shelf" this afternoon. Elsewhere on the docket is Kiki the Nano Bot, which seems a little buggy on first glance, but is certainly a new take on the platformer genre.

Like all open source software, there are still bugs and kinks and generally bizarre things going on all over. But you've got to admire the approach here. But the spark is here. As it says on Gamix's Web site, software sales incur no royalties for the use of the Gamix logo. Hardware sales include $1 per unit distributed. That's a distribution model developers can get behind. When you think about it, this is just a return to the days of the Apple II or Commodore 64: those systems booted right into their games, afterall.

I think this is just about the best way possible to distribute an indie game at conferences, yard sales, out of the back of a Volvo, or wherever the underground, grass-roots stuff starts.And remember, as my friend Andre LaMothe is fond of pointing out, you can sell games as impulse items in grocery stores and bargain bins. Mom and pop still play MahJong and Solitaire. As most lInux games are GPL, you could make a killing boxing up and selling the things. Unscrupulous? Only if you don't compensate the lead developers!"