The Ouya developer units are shipping out right now and, with the console just a few months away, I thought it was time to take a look at OUYA.
For the sake of anyone unfamiliar, OUYA is an Android-based platform that started life as a Kickstarter campaign. OUYA hit the one million dollar mark in just 8 hours and 22 minutes, making it the quickest project to reach that milestone, and went on to raise $8,596,474 over the course of the month. Their promise is to be the most-open development platform console.
There’s a lot of potential in OUYA, but there’s also the potential of failure. Let’s look at what OUYA gets right and what it gets wrong.
While there will always be a market for large-scale console titles, the advent of mobile gaming has changed the landscape. Digital download is not the way of the future; it is the necessity of the present. Going to brick-and-mortar stores are now a one-time inconvenience. Games sit mere seconds away from your impulsive fingertips. While Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store have embraced this concept, the current and next-generation of consoles aren’t quite there.
OUYA represents the leap forward. The potential to disrupt the console gaming market, much the same way the iPhone and other mobile devices have disrupted the portable gaming market, is here in this tiny little cube. It is hard to ignore the plausibility of such a change, regardless of the power of the OUYA compared to the current high-definition consoles.
By the way, here are the system specs for anyone curious:
- Tegra3 quad-core processor (up to 1.6 GHz quad-core)
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB of internal flash storage
- HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth LE 4.0
- USB 2.0 (one)
- Wireless controller with a touch pad
- Android 4.0
For the most part, that puts it in line with the Google Nexus 7, which is a powerful little tablet. Unlike the Nexus 7, the OUYA has an internal fan that would allow for a higher clock speed than the Nexus 7′s 1.3 GHz quad-core setting. While that may sound like something to scoff at, I dare you to watch Horn in motion on the Tegra3-powered device and still cast doubt.
The addition of a controller, though, is what really piques my interest. I cannot count how many times I was playing a game on iPhone and Android with awful touch-screen controls. I can literally name fifty games off the top of my head that would be better with an actual controller rather than shoddy touch-controls. It’s not a coincidence that many of these games, such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2, NBA Jam, and Chrono Trigger, all started life on consoles with tactile controls.
There’s a market out there for classic games. Nintendo proved it with the success of the Wii’s Virtual Console. Think how many publishers wish there was a market outside of consoles for these games that wasn’t tied to the standards of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. While OUYA has great potential for new games, the prospect of re-living my gaming memories excites me.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved, as OUYA takes their share, publishers get a second-life for games that stopped profiting long ago, and gamers get the games.
Additionally, indie developers have another outlet without the constraints of the console makers. While I love indie games, I’m hardly the only person to ignore the Xbox Live Indie Channel when compared to Xbox Live Arcade. What OUYA brings is even footing for indie developers. Who wouldn’t want a fresh start?
Finally, there’s the size and price. You cannot mention the OUYA without stating how small and cheap it is. It’s not that difficult to part with $99 if you believe in the potential success of OUYA. Think of this as Yves Behar’s One Console for Every Nerd.
Of course, when looking at the potential for success, it’s only fair that we look at OUYA’s potential failures.
The elephant in the room when it comes to Android gaming is piracy. It’s simply too easy to find and sideload an Android APK file. OUYA does nothing to mitigate this problem. In fact, one of the selling points in their Kickstarter is how easy the OUYA is to root. You don’t invite vampires in if you want to survive, but that’s what OUYA does. I give it mere hours before users, hackers or not, have the OUYA running commercial APKs and homebrew.
UPDATE: While not verifying that it will run APKs, this video by Android developer code_zombie shows that his game, Deadly Dungeons RPG, already works with the OUYA devkit out of box.
code_zombie’s: “I was just showing that existing Android games run on OUYA. More for developers. I’ll throw some graphics demos up later.”
By the way, this is exactly why I will be getting an OUYA. The Google Play store already has tons of emulators readily available, from the Atari 2600 all the way up to Sony’s PSP. Hell, three out of my top five gaming systems have excellent emulators in SuperGNES (SNES Emulator), My Boy! (GBA Emulator), and ePSXe for Android (Playstation Emulator) already. As I said before, re-living these gaming memories excites me.
Another large problem is the fragmentation on Android. Again, OUYA does nothing to alleviate the problem. It’s just one more Android device, one more set of specs, and a couple more screen resolutions to consider. Having played Need for Speed: Most Wanted on both iOS and Android, I can see where this is a problem.
Too many games on my Nexus 7 look awful because they aren’t optimized for the system. A game that looks decidedly current generation on my iPhone and others iPads looks like a game from last generation with jagged polygons and programming that doesn’t utilize the full power of my tablet. With millions of Nexus 7 tablets out there that aren’t getting special treatment, what makes you think this device with tens of thousands will?
While the controller will undoubtedly improve many mobile games out there, there’s also a segment of games that will not work well or at all. Android staples like Cut the Rope and HOMERUN BATTLE 3D, which use touchscreen and gyroscope controls respectively, just won’t work on OUYA.
Then, of course, there’s the nature of the beast. How long before OUYA needs to be replaced? Will it have life cycles in line with the Android mobile market? While it’s currently top of the line, how long do you think OUYA has before it becomes obsolete? Three years tops? While mobile gamers are already accustomed to this obsolescence, console gamers aren’t. That just isn’t going to cut it, especially as the Xbox 360 lumbers into its eighth year of existence.
Are gamers, particularly console gamers, really concerned with the OUYA’s “something must be free” element? This mandate, for many games, just means more work for developers. It’s an unnecessary hoop that seems like more trouble than its worth. I fear it will just lead us further down the freemium rabbit hole. Free-to-play and developers like Supercell and Zynga that profit off this model are a cancer on gaming as a whole. Why would you try to further this awful trend?
Finally, who is going to develop for OUYA? While there are nearly twenty games announced, including Final Fantasy III by Square Enix at launch, are developers going to test out an unproven market? Yes, I said it was even footing, but when that footing is directly over jagged rocks and a raging ravine, you might want to think twice about it. Aside from the users who backed the Kickstarter, who exactly is going to buy the OUYA? I fear a number of developers will experience something akin to Rubicon’s experience with Great Big War on Microsoft Surface and have a successful game fail in a new format.
I have no doubt that there’s a lot to love about the OUYA. But it is highly improbable that it makes a dent in the next generation of consoles. I think it’s a great idea, something that I’d love to see the more robust Apple App Store replicate, but there’s just too many questions. Things I haven’t even addressed, such as payment methods, Netflix compatibility, and storage expansion are other things to consider. Even if it does succeed, what’s to stop other HTC, Samsung, and Google themselves from doing the exact same thing?Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 328 posts on Delta Attack.