So, What’s the Open Pandora Community Made Of ?


Ola. Hold your horses, Sir. I know this survey was conducted in October and I see your gun pointed at me, asking me why it took so long to deliver the results. Well, analysis is one of the stuff that requires time and skills. And the more data you get, the more time it takes to go through to make good value of it, and look at segmentation and stuff like that (and you are never really over with it). Hopefully by reading this article you will understand why it took a while.

The survey took place during October 2014, and was split into 4 major parts:

  • Profile: learning more about the respondent’s habits, location and demographic info.
  • Pandora: How the respondent came to get a Pandora and how they view it.
  • Linux: evaluating the respondent’s interest and knowledge of the platform.
  • Pyra: focusing on how they view the upcoming Pandora’s successor.

First, let me state that as with all surveys, this one includes bias. The first obvious bias is that it was conducted online, through a post I made in the Open Pandora boards, so only members who actually visit the boards were able to see it and reply. So it’s probably representative of a certain part of the community which is really active more than the overall community in general. On top of that, a certain number of folks refused to use Google Forms to answer the survey for ethical reasons (I think this position is somewhat excessive but I respect their choices), so that’s another sample of participants whose voice is not represented.

Let’s go through these parts one by one. It’s going to take a while so you are advised to get a cup of coffee and tea as we go. Order a pizza, even.

I. Respondents’ Profile(s)

a. Location

The majority of respondents were based in the Western world, and this is no surprise. The Pandora being more of a European thing (it’s made in Germany presently) than anything else, we see most folks from Western Europe:


Others include Middle-East: 0.6%, Central America: 0.6%, South East Asia: 0.6% (0.6% represents 1 person in the survey).

You know the 80/20 rule right? Well here again you get to see it in action, with more than 80% of the respondents being in two geographies and the rest of the world (a little less than 20%) everywhere else. Since the base size for Western Europe and North America are quite large, I will keep them as potential segments for several of the following analyses.

While most people in the survey live where they grew up, there were still about 10% (15 out of 175) who now live in a different country. That’s quite a sizeable number of people moving across borders.

b. Languages

I was curious about one thing, on top of the respondent’s location: how many of them made the effort through school, their career or their free time to learn another language?


Unsurprisingly, there is a clear difference between Europeans and North Americans in that matter: 78% of Europeans in the survey know several foreign languages (with 41% mastering one/several), while the same proportions are respectively 35% and 9% for North Americans. After all, in Europe you are more likely than not to run into another country and English would be therefore needed to communicate – while for most North Americans, American English (or whatever you call it) is their native language and also one of the most used languages internationally. Therefore there is no real need for them to learn another.

c. Gender

No surprise here again, with a large, overwhelming majority of guys (96.5% vs 2.3% females). There are very few of our female friends on the boards as well, so this is consistent with what we can expect.


Out of the four female respondents, 2 came from Europe (all between 20-29 years old), one from Australia (retired), and one from North America (20-29 years old bracket again). I included the “Not sure about my gender” (labelled as “Others” in the above graph) option and a few picked it up, too (1.1%). Go Figure what that means!

d. Age

Since the Pandora is an excellent machine for emulation and retro-gaming, it was certainly not a surprise to see some “older” gamers answering in the survey. Here’s the split:


As you can see, almost 60% (58.3%) of respondents are between 30 to 50. This is clearly a “mature” audience, and that tells you that the Pandora is not a game machine for kids. Which is probably why most users want to be able to do other things on top of just gaming – they have other needs as well.

Depending on geography, the split was not uniform. For some reason, Respondents from North America were younger (40% in 20-29, 37.7% in 30-39) compared to Western Europe respondents (28.5% in 20-29, 44.7% in 30-39). I don’t have a good hypothesis to explain that, however, but it could be that North American retro gamers are more interested in PS1 emulation and therefore younger retro gamers vs Western European retro gamers who may be more into the Amiga Era of emulation, since the Amiga was not popular at all in the States but a big hit within Europe. That could account for some of the 10 years difference. If you have a better hypothesis, please let me know.

e. Family Situation

There’s no single pattern here. The largest group is composed of people living in couple (52.5%) with about half of them having children (26.8%). Single people (or Living Alone) accounted for 41.7% of respondents. There were a number of other situations, such as Single parents with children (2.3%) and someone who described their situation as “Complicated!”, which made me smile. Family situation can severely impact your amount of free time, so I’ll keep such groups for segment analysis, especially the Parents with children and the Singles living alone.


I tried to compare between North Americans and West Europeans in terms of Family situation, and surprisingly there was not so much difference, even though North Americans tend to be younger group. My perception is that usually North Americans tend to live in couple earlier (and tend to have kids a little earlier too) and that may account for the fact that the ratio of singles/couples is not impacted despite the age difference. This is actually substantiated by this Wikipedia page about the Age at first marriage. German guys marry on average around 33 years old, UK guys around 30.7, while in the USA the groom is around 29 on average. Cultural differences at work, whether you are aware of them or not !

f. Occupation

That was something of a special interest to me. Who’s working, and for what kind of organization ?


A lot of people are actually employeed, either in a company or for the government (or themselves). Few retired people, quite a few students as well as some unemployment (probably a good reflection of how many people are actually unemployed in general). So far, nothing too surprising.

As you can easily imagine, the Employed people have less of a Budget Constraint (average 2.51/4) vs UnEmployed ones (average 3.08/4). This also translates very well into how many Pandora they actually have so far: Employed people have on average 1.32 Pandoras, while Unemployed ones 1.07.

Focusing on those who were employed by a company, I was actually very surprised to see that a majority works for an IT company.


55% of employees working for an IT company. And even more surprising, the number of folks with an actual IT job:


60% of them! Now, I feel silly I did not ask more details about that, but judging from what i know from a certain number of community members, you probably get some data scientists, server administrators, coders, game programmers and so on in the lot. But I certainly did not expect to see so many hackers. In terms of where they were located, there was nothing unusual and the spread reflected pretty much the general location of respondents in this survey (i.e. about 60% coming from Western Europe, 20% from North America, pretty close in number with the Location split you could see earlier on).

There was however no difference in how many Pandora these groups (IT vs non-IT) got (1.29 vs 1.26) and no clear differences in budget constraints for gaming either. I admit I was a little surprised by this, since I expect people with IT background to have higher earnings and therefore more disposable income, but I guess there may be other factors at play (such as perception of disposable income as well).

g. Gamer Type

That is a key question, because a great number of Pandora users actually come first for the Emulation capabilities of the device… but how many are actually heavy gamers?


Quite a few can be considered Heavy gamers actually, at about 60%, with about a third considering themselves as casual ones. That’s a pretty decent ratio. As you can imagine, Singles or folks living alone seem to be more likely to be heavy gamers (Green below) vs Parents with children (in Red).


For good measure I checked as well for differences between North Americans and Western Europeans but there was nothing much standing out. It seems like the Family situation is well correlated with the gaming stage you are in (whether it’s a cause or a consequence…?).

h. What do people game on ?

That’s the next obvious question, since it was already quite obvious there was a large gaming audience among folks in the community.


We live in a world of handhelds and if you were not convinced, this chart should do the job. Consider that the Pandora crowd is very much gamer-focused, and more than 80% have an handheld console to play with. The other outstanding fact is that PC gaming is still very, very strong. This is probably a matter of target population as well, but among serious gamers I would not expect PC gaming to be weak. Home Consoles are still powerful, but it’s pretty obvious they are not as strong platforms as they used to be. By the way we can confirm that impression with a split on the gamer type…


As you can see, Heavy Gamers are not playing across the board on all platforms more than casual gamers, but specifically on two: they are more heavy gamers on PC, and more on Home Consoles compared to Casual ones. But they also play on Mobile on and Handhelds, but just about as much as Casual Gamers (we are talking about platform choice here and not duration of play).

Apart from that, a noticeable fact is that 40% of the community members actually play on Mobile phones (I clearly belong on the other 60%) and while the Arcade share is very small, I was also pleasantly surprised to see it’s not completely dead. It probably depends on whatever is available around your location, though. In Japan we still have the luxury to have relatively lively arcades in many places.

i. Key Game Genres

Not really anything to analyse further here, but just to give you an idea of what people actually play on all these platforms. I could do some additional breakdown between Heavy and Casual gamers, if that is interesting for anyone. Let me know.


Any, RPGs have certainly come a long way, from being a “side dish” in video games to being a major genre loved by most gamers.

j. Recent games

As you can expect, there was a ton of variety in such an open question. I was however interested to look both for commonalities, and exceptional choices. Team Fortress 2, Civ 5, Minecraft, Borderlands 2, Papers Please, CounterStrike:GO, Kerbal Space Program, Path of Exile, XCOM, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, Dishonored, World of Warcraft, Dota 2, Fifa… they all came up several times. What does this say ? Not so many story-driven games, overall. I see a lot of open-world games (Minecraft, Borderlands 2, Kerbal Space Program), Strategy/tactical tiles (Civ 5, XCOM, Starcraft 2), Online Multiplayer (Diablo 3, WoW, Dota 2, Hearthstone, TF2, Counterstrike)… which is a good reflection of where the market is going. Note that most of these games are PC games rather than console games, which is again not so surprising.

k. Online Gaming Habits

Online gaming has become a whole genre in itself, and with a strong amount of PC gamers in the lot it’s not unexpected to see more than 50% of online gamers in the survey.


But while everyone who answered is clearly able to connect to Internet, several people actually choose not to play online. And guess what, the habit depends a lot on where you live:


It seems that there the folks who are not interested to play online are all in Western Europe (Red)! I’m not sure what drives such differences, but it’s very clear that North Americans (Blue) are well known to be the driving force in online gaming, since the early days (the Xbox Live was as phenomenal success in the US first).

There were some open answers about the reason for online gaming. Most of them were around “Better than playing against an AI”, “More fun when playing online”, “Playing with people I know in Real Life/Friends”, “Social contact (chatting while playing)”, “Competition”.

The good news is, Solo gaming is still a thing, somehow. It has not completely disappeared.

l. Prior Gaming Hardware (Consoles)

Here comes a fun part. What did people buy/own in the past in terms of gaming consoles? What’s fun about this is that you will realize how different this community is from the total market. First, let’s see what happened for the 8 bits era.


The most popular home console was the NES. The Master System from Sega was also a competitor but a minor one at that time, yet 30% of the community members seem to have owned it. NEC was a clear minority, but I suspect it is also over-represented in this community. As for portables, the GameBoy was clearly the most populat console of its time, the Game Gear being technically better but also worse in some aspects (battery life). I’m also surprised to see how many people actually had a Lynx – that’s one console I have only seen twice in my life or something at the time.


The 16 bits market was very much a two-companies competition, with Nintendo having the upper hand with the SNES. Makes sense. Sega was also at his strongest during that time, with Kalinske in command of the US Market strategy. The official figures were that the sales of Megadrive/Genesis and SNES were about the same in the end of their generation – so this may hint again at an over-representation of Nintendo supporters.


Well here’s our clear confirmation that there was an over-representation of Nintendo in the lot. The N64 sold about three times less than the PS1, yet the gap is far from being as narrow here in this community. The other consoles, like the CD32, Jaguar and 3DO are clearly over-represented as well compared to their actual market share at the time. The CD32, probably because of the vibrant Amiga community in Europe – as for the other consoles, I have no clear explanation why they were purchased in that amount among the respondents. We’ll see in the comments if someone is interested to step up and give us more insights.


Again we see a clear bias for Nintendo in that PS2 generation (for the lack of a better name). The Gamecube was a total disaster for Nintendo in terms of units sales, yet it’s in a second spot after the PS2 here. The Dreamcast is also at a higher spot than expected. It had a phenomenal start but did not last very long and was dead soon after the PS2 came out. On the portable side, the GBA was another resounding success and it’s not illogical to find it very popular among the Open Pandora fans, since the Pandora is in the continuation of numerous handhelds that came before. Note there are a couple of Wonderswan owners, too. Cute.


For the last gen, somehow the results a lot more consistent with the market feel. The PS3 and the Xbox360 at about the same level of ownership, the Wii far ahead (because it became viral pretty quick), and the DS widespread too. The only exception may be the PSP, probably owned by more people in this community than on the real market. The PSP was almost an “open console” once you cracked it, so I can somehow understand the appeal it may have had for people who liked the idea of the Open Pandora in the first place.


I kept the same scale on purpose for this graph. This shows several interesting things for the current generation. First, ownership is very, very low in general. Even for the 3DS that has been on the market for a while, it’s far from being as successful as the DS or the GBA before in this community. And the Vita is, like the PSP, clearly getting more costumers in this community than on the real market. On the Home consoles side, we see once again the bias towards Nintendo. An amazing one, since there are more users with a WiiU than there are users of PS4 and Xbox One combined! Nintendo would love to see such a market, I’m sure. Apart from that win from the Kyoto firm, what strikes the most is how LOW the overall adoption of these new consoles are. There’s still time, but somehow the ownership share is lower than I would have had expected.

It’s also worth looking at cross-generations shares of ownership in terms of brands. Nintendo, first.


As you can see, Nintendo has always been strong in this community, yet we see that the WiiU is showing some signs of weakness so far. If the WiiU struggles into what is very much a Nintendo loving world, I can’t imagine how worse it does in other, less Nintendo friendly communities.


Sega’s trends are more or less consistent with what we could expect from the market, except that the Master System and the Dreamcast are probably owned more in this community than on the market at that time.


The Sony trend is… revealing. The PS1 and PS2 were very much getting a wide appeal apparently, but after that the PS3 and the PS4 seem to follow a downward curve. I can kind of relate to that feeling, since I have not purchased a PS4 myself despite having all previous consoles from Sony. Not sure what everyone else thinks, but in my case the PS4 has two major issues: the lack of sexy exclusives, and specs which are way too weak to make me dream of getting one. I’d rather spend some cash to get a strong GPU card for my PC instead. That seems like better value overall.


Microsoft consoles do not have a very large appeal here, but the trend seems very much consistent with what happened on the market. The XBox 360 did better than the first Xbox, and the XBox One is failing miserably… Maybe one should not expect to find many Xbox owners anyway in a Linux-friendly community.


Among handhelds, what can I say ? It seems like up until the DS, Nintendo managed to get as many people to buy in their portable platforms, but the 3DS is still not there yet. Is this the impact of smartphones? Or simply a lack of interest overall towards what it has to offer? For Sony portables, while the share is probably off, the trend seems to follow what we hear as well. The PSP did pretty well, but the Vita is more or less a niche market so far. And it’s not like Sony is trying to keep it alive very much either.

m. Budget Constraints

I wanted to know whether there was some sensitivity about cost matters related to Gaming (either hardware or software). And there were indeed people who have to be careful and who have clear budget constraints.


I was checking whether there was any real difference between Singles and Families with Children and actually it was pretty much the same. This may be because Singles may have only a single source of revenue anyway, while couples are likely to have more than one and therefore despite the increased expenses incurred by children, they can still somehow manage (at least not worse than Singles). Again, there was no clear differences between Western Europeans and Americans.

Anyway, we will see how this behavior impacts purchase intents later on.

n. Attitude towards Next-gen

While there was already a good penetration (in October) of “next-gen” hardware (PS4, XboxOne, WiiU) among respondents (22.6%), I was actually surprised to see a relatively large resistance to move towards these consoles among those who do not have them yet (about 50% of respondents!). This is very much of a Gamer crowd, who has bought tons of consoles (and OpenConsoles) in the past, and if I were any console manufacturer I’d be worried when seeing this overall trend.


What was really interesting is to see the difference of behavior between people living in Western Europe and those living in North America (WE in red, NA in blue):


There is way more resistance to buying next gen hardware in Europe (57.8% in Definitely Not or Probably Not) versus North America (37.7%). You can also see that the penetration of next gen hardware is higher among North Americans (29% vs 21% in Western Europe). This kind of observation is a reflection of a much broader phenomenon: North America has become the leading market for Video Games, and penetration of hardware is usually faster and deeper there. There’s a clear reason console launches happen there first.

While there was nothing significant, there was a slight trend to see people with Budget Constraints for gaming to be actually more interested, comparatively, to get a next-gen console vs the ones without much Budget Constraint. But as I said, the difference was really small anyway – I could have expected people with budget constraints to want to avoid additional spending on next-gen consoles, however it is true that consoles can be seen as a cheaper gaming option than gaming PCs. for example.

II. Pandora part

In the total sample of community users, I could account for 200 Pandoras. ED claims that there were about 6000 Pandoras sold (I don’t remember the exact number but I believe it’s around that), so that would mean this survey represents about 3% of the total volume sold. Not a bad sample size compared to the whole market.

First I thought it was key to understand when most people became aware of the Pandora in the first place. And while I was a late comer to the standard (I had only heard about it in 2011), I was actually part of the minority.


Among the ones who were aware of the Pandora early (2007 or before), many of them were prior Open Console users. Look at that!


But in fact, for many respondents the Pandora was the first Open Console they have ever purchased (61%), so somehow Craig and ED did a good job to attract new users into the OpenConsole world.


If you are curious about which Open Consoles were the most popular among these Open Console owners, here’s another graph.


The GP2X seem to have been a kind of common denominator. Out of all these Open Console owners, there are 30 of them who owned more than one console, and some of them even up to 4 !


You will notice in the above graph as well that there is even an ex-Ngage owner ! I must admit I have never come across one, so now we know there is one in our community. By the way, Owners of Open Consoles are usually older, as you can see here (Blue: owners, Red: Non-owners):


This is hardly surprising to see younger folks being less aware and therefore less likely to own such Open Consoles, but the gap is yet very, very clear. But not just that. Open Console owners are way more likely to live in Western Europe than North America (the main geographies considered, I ignored the others for that graph below):


I checked if there was any difference in terms of budget constraint between owners of Open Console or not, and there was actually none (Top2 vs Bot2). It seems that regardless of the budget constraints, the respondents would be about as likely to have purchased one.

The more you consider such data, the more it makes sense to see the Open Pandora being born within Europe, led by a couple of people in their 30s (matching the demographics of most Open Console owners).

Yet even the Pandora ownership graph (showing the year when respondents got their first Pandora) shows a very different curve.


I was wondering how long most of the people who were aware of the Pandora quite early waited to get one… They were 61 of them:


Actually about half of them got the Pandora within 2-3 years after hearing about it, but it still took a fairly long time for a LOT of them. At this point I cannot interpret this completely (it could be because of the pre-order mess, or simply because they did not place their order as soon as they heard about it.)

So how did the Pandora fare with respondents? Did it meet their expectations ?


While you could say it was a resounding “yes”, the “Kind of” type of answer highlights a number of issues that people did not expect in the first place. I won’t go in details here, but the Wifi chip was not working properly, there were not enough apps for it, Web browsing was not very fast, USB1.1 missing… yet even despite these issues many respondents were actually repeaters, and bought several Pandora in the following years.

There are three models of Pandora available on the market, CC being the original one (600 Mhz, 256 Mb RAM), followed by the 2011 Rebirth model made in Germany (600 Mhz, 512 Mb RAM) and the newest, 2012 Gigahertz model (1 Ghz, 512 Mb RAM). And through the survey, this is how it looked like in terms of model spread:


And while the CC is historically still strong, the 1Ghz has now become quite ubiquitous among owners. It’s managed to sell very well, and there are even folks who have all three versions of the Pandora (4 respondents, actually), and 10 who have a CC on top of a 1Ghz. I’m a Rebirth + 1Ghz owner myself and the 1Ghz model certainly provides a number of good incentives for purchase. As a side note, there was a tendency for people who have less financial limitations to get more Pandora, which makes a lot of sense (Top 2 Budget Constraints: 1.17 Pandora on average, Bottom 2 Budget Constraints: 1.36 Pandora on average).

Note that the Pandora Overall Evaluation was very similar to the “Met Expectations” result.


While the trend is consistent among geographies, North Americans were only rating the Pandora as Good or Very Good, while the Average rating only came from Western Europeans. And some comments were clearly about the lack of specific language input support, which would be a concern absent from English-speaking countries.

The Pandora is not a shared device, at least for most respondents (close to 90%). And even for the rest, it’s certainly not evenly shared, but rather “borrowed” by someone else only.


There could be several reasons why one would not share a Pandora with someone else. First, it’s expensive so you probably want to be careful with it. Second, you probably want to use it most of the time so there could be not so much space to share it with someone else. Third, it’s not necessarily an easy device to grasp at first, so more casual family members may not understand at first how to operate it. Or there could be other reasons….

Next, it’s important to try to measure how much use the Pandora gets nowadays among respondents. How frequently is that ?


You can see that for most respondents, the Pandora is (unfortunately) not a device they use every single day, but daily usage seems to be reasonable, at 43.3 %. Very infrequent use (twice a month or less) is almost at 20%. If you look at how the usage was a year ago…


You can see that infrequent usage was way lower (7%) and Daily Usage much higher (more than 60%). This is clearly showing that the activity of most users has fell in the meantime. There are probably many reasons but that is a fact and that is also reflected by the slower rate of downloads and feedback for new software released for the Pandora these days.  I asked an open question related to such changes, and here are a couple of recurring themes: “I don’t play as many retro games as I used to”, “Don’t use it for web browsing anymore”, “i don’t watch any movie on it anymore”, “less time”, “Smartphone has replaced it for Browsing and Email”, “Life changed”, “2 kids now”… etc. You get the idea – it’s a combination of folks having less time, doing less things on the Pandora itself for specific tasks.

Frequency is one thing, but how long is the Pandora actually used on average, every time ?


Very impressive usage period. On Average it seems most people (77.3%) use their Pandora more than 30 mins at once, and more than a third use if more than 1 hour at once (35.8%). It can make a lot of sense if you are using it for gaming – and even more serious tasks.

We have seen before that the usage frequency was limited by the lack of free time. But what if the respondents had more free time ? Would they use their Pandora more/longer? There was a question for that, too…


Looks like most people would actually want to use it more if they could. There are many things striving for our attention everywhere, but certainly the Pandora is one of the things where I can see myself investing a lot more time as well.

It’s actually quite interesting to see the splits between parents who have children and singles in terms of how they view their Pandora Usage:


As you can see parents with children are desperately looking for more free time with their Pandora… while it’s quite different for Singles:


While Singles may already have enough free time for the most part to use the Pandora as they wish, and would probably redirect their free time on something else if they had more of it.

Now, what is the Pandora used for ?


The Pandora is certainly primarily used for Gaming by many users, but as you can see it’s from being its only raison d’etre. Thanks to its excellent audio capabilities it’s also a wonderful music player. It may be a little slow for Web Browsing nowadays, but it has fully featured browsers than the current mobile offering cannot match. And surprise, surprise, many folks (close to 40%) actually use the Pandora for coding… a use for which the keyboard is absolutely essential. But all in all, it seems that the Pandora is clearly, primarily used as a Gaming Machine across the spectrum.

Now, we look at how respondents rated the Pandora for these very same tasks. As you can see the order is quite different…


The objective of that question was to better understand how Pandora users view each of its capabilities. The best one and the worst one were kind of expected: everyone knows the Pandora excels at Gaming, while Browsing is clearly one of its weak points (too slow, poor Flash support, not enough RAM) – despite being used quite a lot for that!

What’s in between is worth a look: I was actually surprised to see such a high rating for Pandora as a Music Player – it is indeed excellent in terms of audio quality, but a little lacking in terms of external controls to use the Pandora on the go for that purpose.

The other scores are better than average but not very high either: Chatting is the largest score among them – I am assuming the combination of a keyboard and software like Pidgin or Quassel makes the Pandora a fine solution for chatting. Email is around the same average – and does not get a higher score probably for the lack of better software (our current solutions look a little crumpled on the Pandora screen). I was honestly surprised to see the Office category to be rated so low since you can actually get a lot done with something like LibreOffice, but the size of the screen is certainly a limitation.

As you know, there are several options to run an alternative OS on the Pandora, instead of the default SuperZaxxon distribution (which is a heavily customized Angstrom distro). The most obvious candidate is Slackware, but there’s also Pandebian, or even Bodhi if you are into exotic stuff. So, how many members actually tried it ?


Actually very few use such distros as a default OS. The conversion curve from “using it sometimes” to “actually using it by default” is very poor. It would be interesting to get to know why. I am wondering what is the key barrier for adoption here (maybe PND compatibility? Or the absence of an actual need if SZ does everything they need?).

In any case, there’s definitely a way to increase trial further, since about 60% never used it in the first place. But if you really, really want a full distro on your Pandora, Slackware is awesome and I cannot recommend it enough.

I know I have been asking many times about the Evaluation of the Pandora through many questions, but after you ask people about the drawbacks of their machine, their opinion may change as you go through more and more of what you can recollect about it. Around the end of the Pandora section, I asked whether the Pandora was a good purchase, retrospectively, and if they would have bought it if they knew exactly everything about its shortcomings.


Yeah I call that SMOT (Second Moment of Truth), which is the evaluation of your purchase after your purchase. This is another confirmation that the Pandora fares very well in terms of opinion. It’s not a device for everyone, but those who have it usually know it’s really worth it and do not really regret their decision. This being said, there are always a few members who are disappointed, as you can see in the “Probably Not” part of the graph. In the trading section of the Pandora boards, we see once in a while someone who realized the Pandora was not for them and who parts with it.

However it seems that this high satisfaction does not lead to having everyone recommending the Pandora around them.


Sure, there are active evangelists (a bit more than 50%), but I feel that in general, you would not recommend the Pandora to everyone after you use it. Casual users may feel lost because it’s not as “plug’n play” as they would expect. Some others are probably happier with their phones or windows machines and found their way around these other devices and need nothing else. As for me, I do show my Pandora to many people, but I do not recommend it blindly. I know when it should be advertised and when it is probably not a good idea.

At the center of the Pandora, there’s its Community. It’s always refered this way because there is no company as a driving force behind the Pandora. Everything that is made, ported and created for the Pandora comes from its users, and most of the work is made available for free to the other users. It’s a very different dynamic from many other platforms, really, and if you want to be a part of it, you are bound to interact with those who release stuff. Several questions in the survey addressed those interactions and how frequently they occur.


As you can see, the results make it seem that everyone is interacting quite often with other members. This being said, this is clearly a bias coming from this survey, since you would probably only hear about this survey if you are connecting with the community in the first place. I was rather interested in seeing the touchpoints of interactions more than anything else.


The official Pandora boards remain the place to be, as you can expect. Nice to see that Pandoralive (now 2 years old!) has about the same share of mind as the IRC channels (which usually gets about 50 to 100 members connected most of the time). Meeting in real life is not so popular because we are probably all very far from each other, because of the community size – but it happens at specific events where people gather for other purposes. Hopefully this will improve with the Pyra should it manage to create a larger community.

There are numerous reasons to get involved with the community, and getting updates about new software is clearly an important need:


However, the second one came as a surprise. There is really a lot of interest in the Pyra (the Pandora’s successor) and most respondents are following it very closely. Getting help and sharing views is also seen as important for the majority. There were a couple of free comments as well, and some just said “I come for the Awesomeness!”, “Friendly Community”, “Sharing Recommendation of Good Emulated Games”, as well as “Input in Pyra’s design”. All those things are certainly happening and I see them constantly as a regular boards member.

III. Linux

The Open Pandora is clearly a Linux handheld and it does not try to hide it. Yet, there are probably some users who had no experience with Linux whatsoever, and were mainly lured by the gaming aspect of it. How many of them ?


Actually very few had “no experience” with Linux before, and more than 50% were actually active Linux users. But at the same time, if you get 60% of folks in IT occupations, it’s very likely they would be using Linux in some way or another.

My next topic of interest was whether the Pandora had any impact on the respondents’ perception of Linux in general. While it did not massively change things, for about 30% of folks it did improve their opinion:


While I am not showing a new graph here, if you look at the subset of folks who had irregular to no experience with Linux before, the ratio of unchanged/improved is actually better, more like 50/50. So the Pandora may have had a bigger impact among users who did not use Linux as much before. There are several users I can remember from the top of my head who actually mentioned they first started using Linux with the Pandora and then subsequently installed them on all of their home computers. That’s an “improvement”.

On top of the opinion piece, you can expect that the Pandora had some impact in improving overall skills related to a Linux environment. How was it perceived?


I guess it really depends how much you got sucked into the Pandora. For the majority, the Pandora remained a gaming machine most of the time but they probably learnt several tricks to deal with the shortcomings of the system as they were using it. As for the “Greatly increased”, it’s probably a mix of people who had no experience with Linux at all, as well as users who went full head into development after owning a Pandora. There are several users who tried to make games from scratch and i suspect that experience has greatly improved their knowledge of the platform.

Leaving the Pandora for a bit, let’s see how many of the respondents actually use a Linux PC at home on top of their Pandora…


That’s probably one of the highest penetration of Linux desktop use you will ever find in any community! There were ONLY 17% of non-Linux users in one way or another. Even though I did not provide the option “Server”, it came out by itself as an open comment, with no less than 11 folks actually running a Linux server at home! We are definitely not in the casual Linux usage here. On top of that, through the years we have seen the Pandora “converting” some users to Linux for home usage. Here’s one comment from a user from another question:

This little machine has made me switch all my home computers from Windows to Linux. That’s how influential this device is for me.  I am still a novice Linux user, but that doesn’t matter, as I keep on learning everyday using my Pandora and most of the stuff I learn on the Pandora can apply to my Linux PC desktops.  So, now I am not really using my Pandora for gaming but for learning more and more about Linux as a whole.  It also changed my thought about Open Source and Closed Source…

Home Linux usage was already impressive, but how much Linux is used for work ? Actually, not as much:


But still a very reasonable percentage. After all, we have a number of folks working IT jobs, and who are likely to be more exposed to Linux servers and such applications as part of their daily duties.

Steam for Linux has been released for a while now (it’s been almost 2 years I believe…), and here’s what Steam’s usage looks like on Linux in this community, among Linux PC Home users…


Now that was surprising. Among a gamer crowd & a Linux loving crowd, I was expecting to see at the intersection a high ratio of Steam Linux usage. On the contrary, frequent users are a minority (about 30%). This means that the home Linux use is rather for serious applications, browsing or office work more than anything else – gaming being far from the main use. Until now I was under the impression that Valve had completely unlocked the potential of Gaming on Linux, but there might just be some more Linux users who could be converted to Steam in the future, even without switching from any other platform.

But there’s something paradoxical going on. When asked how good of a gaming platform Linux is…


There is mostly a large, favorable opinion for it, with almost 90% thinking it’s a OK/great platform for games, and only 12% who think it’s basically crap. But more than the overall positive evaluation, the reason why it does not get so much adoption yet is probably because it’s only seen as “OK” by most folks (60% here) – OK as in,”maybe not worth my time yet”. It probably needs a lot more AAA games to make people perceive it in another way.

When considering the future, the community is however very positive on its outlook:


Close to 60% think it will definitely grow as a Gaming platform. Soon it’s time for the GDC in March and Valve should disclose more about its plans for its Steam Machines… which is believe to be the best way to drive Linux adoption in the world of Gaming at this stage. Talking about Steam Machines, here’s what the community thought about them…


There’s still some healthy dose of skepticism (more than 20% don’t see the point of it), but overall the feeling is enthusiastic. While I support Valve’s initiative, I am unsure as well as how good or successful it will prove to be, so I’m cautiously watching how the situation unfolds.

IV. Pyra

The Dragonbox Pyra is the successor of the Open Pandora. It’s not out yet, but it’s expected to hit the market in late 2015 (Date TBD at this stage). Many people actually follow its progress among the respondents:


Close to 85% following the project very closely. That’s a strong attention given to that new device, and for a good reason: it should be better in all aspects compared to the Pandora.

While the price is still unknown, there is already a strong Purchase Intent for the Pyra:


If we take a look at the purchase intent as Top 2 Box (Definitely and Probably) we get about 84.5% of people who are positive about buying a Pyra. That’s a very high ratio of positive purchase intent, in my experience. I took a look at whether the budget constraints had any influence on that purchase intent, and they actually do:

– most Budget Constrained Folks (Top2): 80% of them were in the Top 2 Purchase Intent, with an average purchase intention of 83.7 out of 100.

– Least Budget Constrained Folks (Bot2): 90% in them where in the Top 2 Purchase Intent, with an average purchase intention of 88.5 out of 100.

Not a huge difference, but still noticeable – this may yield some hints regarding the price sensitivity of potential customers. The two respondents who said they would not be purchasing it had the following reasons:

Too expensive and Pandora already fits their needs,

No time to do everything I want to do with Pandora already.

Interesting to see that it’s nothing much linked to the Pyra characteristics in themselves.

The “Not sure” piece is more interesting. I put them in several categories:

– waiting to see how it will be like (7)

– will cost more than I want for how much i will use it (3)
– no money right now (4)

NO TIME (8%)
– lack of free time (2)

– concern project will crash (1)
– concerned about build quality (1)

OTHERS (13%)
– interested in other devices (1)
– already satisfied retro gaming needs (1)
– just got Pandora (1)

I had a specific question regarding the potential price concern…


The point here is that even the ones who have no price sensitivity seem to want to wait a little before going ahead and purchasing it. And that’s about 40% in total of potential customers who will wait either for price reasons, or just to see if it’s really as good as they hope. We’ll come back in another Pandoralive post about the price point, since that’s something ED mentioned in a long post a while ago.

Now let’s come back on the key Purchase drivers…


Emulation comes first again ! The Pyra should be capable of emulating the PSP and Dreamcast properly so this will further open up the great amount of games one can play with one. But the second factor was interesting. Full Linux OS came a key second driver (and only one choice was possible). While that’s already possible with the Pandora by installing the OS an a SD Card, it will be more natural on the Pyra and certainly more practical to use. The other outstanding answer was Android. I remember Craig pushing for having Android on top of Linux or even Android as a base OS and Linux as an option. It does not seem to be very appealing to anyone in this community.

FInally, I was wondering if the Pandoras were going to end up in a landfill once the Pyra hits the market. Apparently not:


There is probably some sentimental value attached to this little machine, and probably even more since there are only very few units left to purchase and it runs out of production completely. That’s a piece of History you have in your hands !

And this concludes the survey. Congratulations if you made it this far! And many, many thanks to every responder who managed to get until the end, it was indeed something that took quite a while. I will probably do another survey later this year before the release of the Pyra, so that we compare how the attitudes and perceptions may have changed.

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Very interesting, thanks for the detailed analysis of the data.

Errata: In the “Habits of playing online/key locations” graph, the caption is reversed (it says that Western Europe is blue but in the main text you are saying it is red).


Re: Jaguar, 3DO (and more) ownership over-representation, I can only speak for myself but at that crucial juncture in console evolution, up to the arrival of the Dreamcast, I was working for a games import/exporter – so I got to pick up all the new systems at cost as they came out.


Cool analysis! I was a bit sad that I missed my chance to do the survey. Then again, it doesn’t really matter.
Errata: GP32X was the name of the forum where the gp32/gp2x scene was hanging out. I am not aware of a console called gp32x. Pretty sure, cause otherwise I would’ve owned one ^^.


Nice report, and well done on collating all that data and visualising it