Not in the official store?
Android TV has the potential of becoming a replacement of video console in many homes. That time is still far in the future though. At the moment there are very few great titles compatible with Android TV. Even though you won’t find it in the Play Store, Hearthstone is very playable on Nvidia Shield TV and should work well on other Android TV devices. I will use this game as an example how to install an app from outside of Play Store on your ATV.
- We will be installing the game through Amazon Appstore, and for that, you will need an Amazon account. If you don’t have one, go on and create it now.
- Sideload Launcher is necessary for launching apps incompatible with Android TV so it is better to install it as well. We will create a home screen launcher for Hearthstone here, and if You create launcher for Amazon Appstore as well, you can avoid this step.
- You are going to need at least 3gb of space to install this game. If you are using an SD card with your Nvidia Shield TV, then I recommend switching to USB memory stick. It is much faster.
- A mouse, airmouse, or even better, a handheld trackball is necessary to control Amazon Appstore and the game (please check this post to read up about best controllers for your ATV).
Installing Amazon appstore
First, go to Play Store and download an app called TvAppRepo. This is a great little open source app which will not only help us create a home screen launcher for Hearthstone, but also download Amazon Appstore.
Now launch TvAppRepo, and select: “#SIDELOADTAGS: Install through tag”. Type in the tag AMAZUNDER which is a shortcut for address: http://tinyurl.com/AMAZUNDER. This will download Amazon Appstore from amazon.com and install it. You might be asked to enable installing apps from unknown sources. Look for it in Settings -> Security & restrictions in your Android TV, or press “Settings” in the window that pops up (the message says: “For security, your phone is set to block installation of apps obtained from unknown sources.”). This is a must if you want to install this app.
Now launch Amazon Appstore and log in. Search for Hearthstone and install it (a message may appear: “Hearthstone: Do you want to install this application? It does not require any special access.”). If you have a wired connection, Hearthstone might warn you about not using Wi-Fi connection (the message says “Hearthstone Download: No Wi-Fi connection. Do you wish to download over cellular?”). In that case, click “Use cellular” and confirm. The game will start downloading all the data which will take some time. It is done in the background so press home and switch back to TvAppRepo. Hearthstone is installed, but as being incompatible with Android TV, it doesn’t have an icon on the home screen. The only way to launch it right now is by going to Sideload Launcher and selecting it there. With TvAppRepo, we can create a launcher for it.
Select Hearthstone on the list and click Advanced. Mark it as a game, and in “Banner URL (Optional)” type in: http://goo.gl/zRtSDZ. Click generate and you are done. This will download the banner png and install a launcher for Hearthstone on the home screen.
How to play Hearthstone in 60fps? For that, we need to do one more thing. We need to edit Hearthstone’s options.txt file located at:
Just add this line at the end of options.txt text file:
This is best done with a good file explorer that has built-in text editor. I recommend Astro File Manager.
That is it. We can finally enjoy the game!
Why make it so complicated?
So what makes this game incompatible with Android TV? It seems the only reason is that it requires a mouse to control. This whole tedious process could have been avoided if only Play Store for Android TV was more open for apps requiring a mouse. Hearthstone is just an example, there are plenty of other apps marked as incompatible yet they work very well. If you know some or have an easier way of installing apps from outside of Play Store, share your thoughts in the comment section.
- When choosing banner URL, there seems to be a bug: after typing dot and ‘g’ in the address, space was added between them. Make sure to correct that.
Hearthstone not long ago introduced a graphical bug on Nvidia X1 GPU. It is an annoyance but doesn’t make the game unenjoyable.Update: this bug has been fixed!
- Installing apps from unknown sources gives you a lot of power but it comes with a responsibility – always check where those apps are coming from.
- In Android TV Nougat some messages are almost unreadable – font is light gray on a white background. I tried to provide the message at each step.