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A Second Look at the Ouya -- Weighing The Pros and Cons

Deesing

Posted July 11, 2012 - By Jonathan Deesing


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  • Screenshots
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Ouya

I’ve never used Kickstarter before, but the temptation of the new Ouya got me to start weighing in the pros versus the cons of jumping into this foreign land.

I told myself it was out of some journalistic moral conflict, but the truth is that I’ve never really seen something that really piqued my interest. I couldn’t even justify jumping on the Double Fine bandwagon. Perhaps the price wasn’t right. But apparently, a $99 developer-friendly console is just what it took to become a crowd funder.

Will the Ouya fulfill promises and shake up the traditional business model for consoles? Let’s take a look.

The good – a world of possibilities…and a cool controller

At its core, the main draw to the Ouya is probably the price. Starting off at $99, the Ouya is cheaper by far than any of the current generation of consoles, including handhelds. From college students to families on a budget, the Ouya has already guaranteed itself a niche in the console market by principle of its cost alone. Ideally, it will become ubiquitous—not unlike the Wii, which used this same marketing technique to gain dominance over the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3—and developers won’t be able to ignore it.

If the price didn’t hook people, the sheer possibilities of the little box certainly did. Gone will be the days of buying a rooted Xbox 360 from a sketchy degenerate—If you want to play Gameboy Advance games on your 52” flatscreen, the Ouya will allow you to do so. The open nature of the console will draw in every hacker, emulator, and tweaker from the industry to try to one-up one another. Whereas Nintendo or Sony may require developers to crawl and beg for a developer kit, Ouya is sending one to every single customer. Without a doubt, this will inspire creativity and development on an unprecedented level, even if it’s just from indie developers. Powered by the Android OS, one notable for its openness, the console is a beacon for anyone who has faced a barrier to development.

Finally, the most dramatically overlooked quality is the controller. The team working on the box has actually stated that the controller is the most important part, and it shows. Drawing cues from the 360 and PS3 controllers (both beloved in their own right) it likely seeks to settle the debate over the most comfortable controller, or just add another solid contender. From what I can tell, the button layout is almost identical to that of the 360 controller, with one little change. There’s a freaking touchscreen right in the middle. Re-realizing the brilliance of the Dreamcast’s VMU, (and don’t bring up the Wii U, that thing pales in comparison) Ouya seeks to encourage ports of already tried and tested Android games.

Ouya

The bad – a weakling by comparison

Unfortunately, the console’s very nature presents an interesting hurdle; it’s based on a mobile platform and therefore tied to those inherent limits. The system’s Nvidia Tegra3 processor is designed for a mobile device and can in no way compete with the processing power of the current generation of consoles other than the meager Wii. This alone will likely keep the vast majority of major developers away from the console unless it really takes off. Especially with an upcoming generation of consoles, the Ouya will most certainly gain a relationship for being drastically underpowered.

Due to its hardware weaknesses, Ouya will likely spend its genesis painfully devoid of meaningful and unique titles. Unsurprisingly, Markus “Notch” Persson is on board and has committed to making a port of Minecraft, and you can be sure to find a variety of Android games on the console. As for exclusive titles for the tiny box, we will probably have to wait until the next Notch gets his/her Ouya in the mail.

The uglya likely lack of software

In theory, demanding developers offer some free content sounds fantastic, but in practice it may keep the most prominent developers away. If the weak processor doesn’t turn of huge publishing firms, the idea of offering their games for free certainly will. Like we saw with the Dreamcast (moment of silence), having a huge studio like EA boycott your product can be crippling, especially in early stages of the console’s life cycle.

Many free-to-play games, however, have seen major financial success under a similar model (you’ve heard of Minecraft, right?) so don’t expect a complete dearth of games; just a different type of game.

A show worth watching

It’s clear the Ouya was not designed with EA or Activision in mind. The console is designed to shake up the traditions of the console market, and huge publishing firms are a part of the old guard. So do I think Ouya will completely revolutionize the console market? Probably not. But without a doubt, it will launch a generation of young indie developers, something this industry desperately needs. Are you one of the many fans who moan about every new Call of Duty or Halo announcement? If you are, you should probably go preorder yourself the Ouya.

Nationally unacclaimed freelance writer Jonathan Deesing loves video games and puppies. If you can't get enough of his musings, check out his Twitter feed.

Tags: Features, Tech
A Second Look at the Ouya -- Weighing The Pros and Cons
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