With the world bracing itself for the release of the PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox (currently named 720) to take current generation gaming to the next level, let’s not forget about the small time independent console developers out there. One such company has set out to challenge the mainstream competitors of the video game industry with a console they are calling ‘Ouya’ (Pronounced ooo-yah), but is this new console more ooo-no than ooo-ya?
One look at the device itself and you can’t imagine how it has earned the title of “games console”. In fact, just by looking at it, without knowing what it was, you would probably believe it to be a lavish looking external hard-drive. The console is very small in size; roughly the size of 3 decks of playing cards placed on top of one another. You’re probably ready to disregard any thoughts of seriously buying at this point, but you may well be wrong. Here’s why: Ouya features a standard HDMI port with the ability to output to TV screens from 720p, to 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. The system also runs its own Android version of 4.1 Jellybean, so the feel of the interface should be fast and smooth moving between apps and screens with relative ease.
What make this a really exciting and interesting system is that it is running a modified Android variant which will be open to rooting (without voiding the warranty). Not surprising given it size and limited internal part structure, that it can be opened up fairly easily; in fact you only need your traditional screwdriver to access the internals. This allows for modding and hardware upgrades which can be done by you, the user, however you please. What the team behind Ouya have done is allow owners of the console to also be developers without paying fees for doing so; something the big game companies would die of fright at the very mention of such an idea.
Performance wise, the system has an NVidia Tegra 1.7 Ghz processor with 8GB of flash memory and 1GB of RAM. The amount of memory isn’t that inspiring and there is no certainty that the system can be upgraded with the use of external storage drives, but it is quite likely considering it has a USB 2.0 port in addition to a micro USB port. The fact that it has a 1.7GHZ processor will mean a not overly powerful machine, especially when you consider the unveiling of the PlayStation 4, which boasts an AMD 8 core processor with 8GB GDDR5 RAM; 2GB of which is exclusively for system use. The question then is, will a system with this kind of processing power and RAM really be enough to warrant its (low) asking price? On the plus side, these facts do help to bring down the cost of the unit to around £100. It remains to be seen if it will stay at such a low price closer to release.
All of the apps in the system will be unique, and all games will be either free to play or free to try; with the possibility of home-brew and more than likely emulated games. One great feature of the system however, is it does perform well using programs such as XBMC at a reported 55-60 frames per second. This can be a bit of a hit and miss it seems with some encoded videos having trouble maintaining a stable frame rate. This in itself is quite an achievement though seeing as some processors do not have the power to run XBMC, (words form someone who has crippled an older computer more than once when trying to run the Windows XBMC version).
The console takes similar controller designs from other consoles with the main buttons spelling “O U Y A”, much the same as the PS3 and Xbox do with their own colored symbols. The top of the controller also has a built in touch input interface, useful for android based touch input games it is imagined. Having been conceived as a project in early 2012 it really isn’t that old at all. For an independent development company, it’s not at all a bad entry into the video game market. But will it be a memorable entry, or will it be crushed outright while trying to connect with its intended market.
In summary, the console is very small and will fit nicely next to your console or PC of choice while not getting in the way. Sadly this console will be over-shadowed by rivals. Let’s not forget however, the truly free nature of the product. A big part of its selling point is home-brew gaming, modding and even emulating; something which people have been doing on Xbox consoles for a while, so there should be some appeal based on this alone. Getting such features on a dedicated console can be complicated, time consuming and unpredictable; though Ouya looks set to simplify this with a dedicated system.
For a small device able to stream game services and play movies, shows, games and emulators from XBMC, this should be a console you at least consider getting if you like this sort of customizing and experimenting; if not, or you already have more game services and media streamers than you can handle, this probably isn’t going to make your day any time soon.
The console is set to go on sale to consumers sometime in July, with an official unveiling 28th March in a conference in San-Francisco. It’s still dubious whether the price will go up by then but considering the components inside, it seems somewhat unlikely. Sure, it won’t impress compared next to the upcoming consoles, but in some ways, I don’t think it’s trying to. Instead, it paves the way for other developers to experiment, as well as providing an experience not found on rival consoles. While not strictly competing with them it can sure sit nicely next to them.
Ouya is currently available for pre-order from sites such as Amazon and Game-stop.
Are you interested in getting an Ouya or does it leave you somewhat unimpressed?