This handheld game console crossed with a smartphone could be the future of gaming in China

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Among the dozens of booths at this year’s Global Mobile Game Congress in Beijing, one hardware company in particular stands out: a little known smartphone maker called Much.

It’s easy to miss what makes the Much G2 special upon first glance – I passed it without a thought the first time. Upon closer inspection, I realized on the top of the phone sits a low-profile joystick, along with something resembling a directional pad and a few other physical buttons along the bottom.

The G2 is a smartphone tailored to handheld game lovers. Think of it as a cross between your Samsung Galaxy and a Playstation Vita. While companies like GrayhausMoga, and PhoneJoy have been making smartphone video game controllers as accessories for some time, this looks like the first real crack at integrating the physical controls directly into a smartphone since the Sony Xperia Play. I got to demo one of the device’s few dozen compatible games (I’m sure normal touchscreen-only games work fine as well) and found the device quite comfortable and sturdy held both horizontally and vertically. Here’s our video:

A “why the hell not” price tag

The five-inch screen is a bit of a letdown – a paltry 720p resolution – as is the lack of 4G connectivity. It does, however, come with a MediaTek quad-core processor, 16GB storage, an 8MP camera, and a huge 4,200mAh battery. Obviously, this sort of device requires some software modification as well, which means you’re stuck with the company’s Android 4.2 skin. While slightly bulkier than other five-inch phones, Much has managed to keep the device down to a tolerable stature. Finally, the RMB 999 (US$161) price tag nudges it from the “gratuitous toy” category into “why the hell not?”

As an added bonus, Much has come up with a smart TV app that lets users play their games on their living room big screens.

As you may know, China just lifted its over 13-year-long game console ban. I’m not sure if Much falls into that category, but it has beaten the Huawei Tron and ZTE’s Fun Box to the market. While Much might not be the perfect middle ground product between console and mobile gaming, it could set the bar for similar future devices.

You’ll notice at the beginning of my demo video (above) that the gentleman playing the Much G2 initially attempts to use the touchscreen until a staffer points out the joystick and buttons. He wasn’t the only one; the gadget shows how a decade-long lack of consoles has made Chinese gamers unaccustomed to physical controllers.

The Much G2 went on sale in China earlier this month. You can check out it and its slightly pricier brother, the i5s, on JD, Tmall, and Amazon China.

(Hat-tip to Kotaku’s Eric Jou for pointing it out)

This article was originally published on Tech in Asia.

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