You wait years for a new games console to come along, and then several come along all at once. Who would have thought games consoles and buses had so much in common. Hot on the heels of the PS4 and Xbox One being revealed at E3 2013, and Matt Smith and I arguing about the merits of both systems, Ouya has been launched in retail outlets.
The Ouya console isn’t a direct competitor to the Playstation 4 or Xbox One, or, for that matter, the Wii U. It is a games console nonetheless, and one that, thanks to its low price point, could prove very popular. From humble beginnings on Kickstarter, through controversy, and on to selling out at Amazon, Ouya is an interesting piece of hardware, which we are about to dissect for the betterment of the MakeUseOf readership.
The Ouya console was promised to be a machine designed to disrupt the games industry, proving people are capable of looking past the big-name manufacturers and embracing something different. An open-source, Android-powered games console for the living room. And it was a message that got through to thousands of people.
Ouya arrived on Kickstarter in July 2012, with a goal of $950,000. By the end of the first day the project had surpassed that goal, and ended up sailing on to amass a whopping $8.5 million. A total of 63,000 people pledged money to make this hardware a reality, with most of those pledging enough to pre-order an Ouya console.
Ouya was originally slated for a December 2012 release to the earliest Kickstarter backers, but this slipped into the early months of 2013. Then trouble arrived as backers reported not receiving their consoles as expected. Some people who pledged money a full year ago still haven’t received their Ouya.
In the meantime the Ouya console enjoyed a retail release to selected partners in selected countries at the end of June. And now anyone in one of those countries can head out and buy an Ouya off the shelf for the same price paid by the majority of Kickstarter backers. This has caused much bad blood and is a situation that remains unresolved at the time of writing.
So, what do you get for your $99?
A small, square, silver cube designed by Yves Behar running its own version of Android. It boasts an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal flash storage that can be expanded by USB port. Of which there are two, one USB 2.0, and one micro USB. You also get an HDMI port, an ethernet port, and WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.
One controller comes with the console as standard, and it’s a decent stab at a controller that looks like a cross between the Xbox 360 and PS4 controllers. There are two analog sticks, a D-pad, eight action buttons, and a touchpad. The controller is powered by two AA batteries, and additional controllers are available for $50.
The number of games available on the Ouya platform is growing every day, but the quality of the titles on offer varies wildly thanks to the decision to let just about anyone, and everyone build and publish games for the system. Thankfully all games are free to try (at least), so you should be able to avoid spending money on any duds.
What you won’t get are visually arresting games on a par with current consoles. What you will get are Android-like indie games that look surprisingly good played in glorious HD on a big television.
The video below shows a handful of the launch titles being played.
If you’re not convinced of the worthiness of the Ouya console from what you’ve seen so far, don’t worry, as the console is thankfully capable of more. The open-source, hackable nature of Ouya means there are some extras of offer to those willing to tinker with the device just a little.
It’s possible to install emulators for all of the big retro consoles on your Ouya. It’s then simply a case of acquiring ROMs of your favorite games online (legally, of course) and side-loading them onto the system. This may not offer as smooth or as stress-free an experience as playing a physical copy of the games on a real console, but unless your name is Dave LeClair it will work well enough to sate your appetite for nostalgic button-mashing.
It’s also possible to install a media center such as XBMC or Plex onto your Ouya. Doing so turns this innocuous little silver box into a powerful tool for delivering all kinds of content to your living room. It’s at this point that the MakeUseOf guide to XBMC could prove invaluable.
Although this is far from a full review, I will say that Ouya isn’t for everyone. For a full review, keep your eyes on MakeUseOf, because we are reviewing and giving an Ouya away this month!
Don’t buy an Ouya console in place of a gaming rig or next-gen console, as it won’t scratch that itch you have for the latest and greatest games. However, if you’re into indie games or retro games then Ouya offers a new way to play these kinds of titles. And with a little bit of effort it can be used in other, less-traditional ways.
What do you think of Ouya? Were you one of the 60,000+ people who backed the console on Kickstarter? Or is this the first you have heard of Ouya? Do you think $99 is a fair price for such a piece of hardware? And do you hope this gem disrupts the gaming industry in the way its creators hoped it would? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.