Editorial

Ouya game console could shake up the industry, provide options

Before yesterday, I had never contributed to a Kickstarter or similar crowd-funding project. That changed when the Ouya Kickstarter launched.

For those unaware, Ouya is a proposed video game console powered by Android. The console will run on a Tegra 3 ARM chipset and feature a low entry-level price of approximately $100, if everything goes according to plan. Additionally, the console's developers have touted the open nature of the device, which will allow users to modify both its software and hardware, including the console and its controller.

What's most important about Ouya, however, is the fact that it will challenge the established thought of what a game console should be. The console doesn't feature the most powerful hardware, nor does it require developers to work with third-party publishers to release their games or any additional content – something that is essentially necessary on either Microsoft's Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation 3.

This isn't to say Ouya will kill consoles as we know them. It won't. The point of Ouya isn't to replace traditional consoles, just as the point of tablets isn't to replace laptops. Ouya is simply an alternative for a different crowd or a supplement for the standard console audience. It's unlikely someone looking at the major consoles will consider the Ouya in the same category as Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo's offerings. What will change is the choices people have regarding gaming; if a casual gamer wants a console, he or she will now have a legitimate option with a stable of well-known games ready, thanks to Ouya's Android operating system.

Ouya also has the potential to be great for both gamers and technology enthusiasts alike. A more open console can only help encourage originality and expand the boundaries of traditional game development, and it could also potentially be a fantastic settop box due to Android. Essentially, it could be what Apple TV has not been: a legitimate threat to traditional home entertainment devices at a fraction of the cost.

The fact that Ouya already has major supporters lined up, such as former Microsoft executive Ed Fries, indicates this isn't a project that can simply be ignored by the industry's heavy hitters. Even without its well-known backers, it'd be hard to ignore a project that raised all the money it needed – $950,000 – in a matter of hours, along with approximately 16,000 backers offering roughly $2 million in the Kickstarter project's first day. 

While some sites may try to scare you away from backing Ouya because of the previous failures of other consoles, they fail to consider the different situations each console has faced. Ouya isn't trying to take on an established market, it's trying to be a different option. The parts used in Ouya are hardly pricey, and the underlying Android base is also well-known for being developer-friendly and easy to bring to the market. This is starkly opposed to a failed console such as the Phantom, which used expensive parts, set its sights squarely on established consoles and featured a then-unproven delivery system.

The one unknown Ouya faces is competition. While it's unlikely the project will be much competition for the next major round of consoles, it may find itself with an established competitor in Microsoft if rumors of an entry-level console codenamed "Loop" are accurate. According to those rumors, Microsoft is working on both a full-fledged successor to the Xbox 360 as well as an entry-level console that will play games similar to those found on Xbox Live Arcade. Much like Ouya, the entry-level Microsoft console would feature an ARM processor and an inexpensive $100 price tag.

While Ouya won't be capable of supporting the same types of graphically advanced games as the next generation of consoles, which are expected to launch in 2013, that doesn't mean it's something that won't appeal to a wide audience. Games like Angry Birds and Shadowgun have proven that entertaining options are more than possible on ARM-based platforms, and companies such as EA have been slowly trying to nudge into the space with new titles based on popular franchises, such as Dead Space and Mass Effect. Popular games of yesteryear, such as Grand Theft Auto III and Max Payne, have also been ported to ARM-powered devices.

One area Ouya could actually outclass current consoles is indie games. Indie developers have long been critical of their place in Microsoft's Xbox Live ecosystem, which tends to force them to one area: the PC. With an open console, however, independent developers would have both an outlet and an engaged audience. And unlike Microsoft, Ouya seems to covet independent gaming, something that could entice hardcore gamers to the console.

It's certainly possible that Ouya may never see the light of day. But that's a risk I'm more than willing to make in backing the console in the name of progress. Even if the console is never released, it's already proven that gamers want more options and are willing to support companies that take big risks. At the very least, Ouya will cause companies to consider what gamers truly want.

Ouya certainly isn't for everyone. But it's hard to deny it's an interesting idea – one that could potentially reshape the way people view what a console has to be. It's also hard to argue the technology and gaming industries don't need a kick in the pants every once and a while, and being part of that kick is a rewarding feeling.

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I want one!!

Sadly I'm a bit broke so can't get in on the kickstarter options, So I will have to wait until it is released properly and then order one online

to make it more success:
1. Allow this to become a PC too (with USB keyboard and mouse). so we can use for work and other game.
2. Release the good SDK for creating good app
3. make the processor and graphic card upgradeable

Good luck

This whole Ouya thing is just silly. It'll be outdated in a month and in a year there will be phones that are twice as fast and better on power. Heck, at that point just get Adroid phone with an HDMI port - play games at 1920x1080 even.

Waaaay better hardware is right around the corner.

What is interesting is that the price and the hardware do not make sense.

If this was the 'trend' or had any true effort, it would follow what Microsoft did with the Original XBox and build a PC based architecture.

You can build a PC for this price point, a PC is far more customizable, and a PC can offer a certain level of 'standards' by providing DX9 class shaders and a certain level of CPU/GPU performance as a baseline.

At least it would have some consistency.

However, they can't do this, because it would just be a PC running Linux or Windows and not an 'open source magical' device. *cough*

useless junk.

yeah lets make a console that has no restrictions to how good the game is, standards.

so basically, we are getting a console that will have arcade games.

No thanks.

This is a nice Kickstarter anecdote.

This is not the first console alternative that tries to emerge and not the last neither. They all usually fail before launch or simply die very fast. 16,000 geek supporters is not an ecosystem neither a critical mass to sustain a product.

I'll be happy to see them rise and succeed but, I would never bet on this. It is unlikely that the current players in this industry have any doubt about the outcome.

I really don't understand you guys, more Fan Boy crap maybe?. Have you even bothered reading the comments from Indi devs, AT ALL?. They absolutely love the freedom this will offer, hardware hackers also are going ape.

Never see the light of day? lol. You can bet your bank account it WILL see the light of day and more, it's almost guaranteed at this point. eesh....

Mike Frett said,
Never see the light of day? lol. You can bet your bank account it WILL see the light of day and more, it's almost guaranteed at this point. eesh....

How do you know? Honestly, you don't know. Nobody knows if it will or won't become reality, Time will tell anyways.

Mike Frett said,
I really don't understand you guys, more Fan Boy crap maybe?. Have you even bothered reading the comments from Indi devs, AT ALL?. They absolutely love the freedom this will offer, hardware hackers also are going ape.

Never see the light of day? lol. You can bet your bank account it WILL see the light of day and more, it's almost guaranteed at this point. eesh....

LOL

In a sick way I wish you were right; however, developers still won't touch Android even though it is the #1 smartphone OS, do you really think they will touch this mess?

Game developers do NOT love to hear how things will be 'inconsistent' from software to hardware and on and on. They for some weird reason want their game to run well and know it will run well. Weird uh?

leave it to bloggers to make stories about something that "might" be "the next big thing". man you guys are ****in terrible.

i remember the same thing was said about this one tablet that was a beagleboard in a laptop/tablet hybrid body with a detachable screen,and all these fake ass bloggers were all over it proclaiming that it could be the death of computer manufacturers.

we all know for a fact that this thing is DOA. people want to play call of duty, not some lame ass game made by some basement linux nerd who knows c and can call SDL APIs or some other "open" whatever library.

People who compare this to Phantom have no clue at all. Phantom had no ground to base itself on. It would have been just yet another console/PC machine that could play normal PC games, whereas PC gaming market is very loose and wide and changes a lot with hardware upgrades.

Seeing how OUYA is based on Android and probably Android market as well, it will and should have a better start and gain more credibility among users as well as established Android developers.

Andre said,
People who compare this to Phantom have no clue at all. Phantom had no ground to base itself on. It would have been just yet another console/PC machine that could play normal PC games, whereas PC gaming market is very loose and wide and changes a lot with hardware upgrades.

Seeing how OUYA is based on Android and probably Android market as well, it will and should have a better start and gain more credibility among users as well as established Android developers.


How is that any different? The phantom was planned to take advantage of the extensive library of PC games, much in the same way as the ouya plans to take of android library of games. If anything the android market is just as "Loose and wide" as the PC market. Whatever that is supposed to mean. In fact I would argue that the PC market is and was much stronger as it has the backing of major publishers. Which large publishers are going to back the Ouya? There were a multitude of reasons why the phantom failed but the ecosystem of the pc gaming was not one of them. Furthermore, your comment about the PC market moving rapidly with new hardware is just as valid if not more so with Android. Why as a developer would you support this when 2 years down the line the galaxy 5 and other phones are hugely more powerful?

simplezz said,
Sounds like a great little device. The price, openness, and established Android ecosystem are attractive options.
What a surprise you like a device running Android. It will probably flop harder than windows phone, which as you like to remind everyone in every article is a monumental disaster. That or it will never see the light of day.

neufuse said,
Ah another Phantom console in the making...

I'm sure they'll have developer support this time, I mean, it was on kickstarter - that's at least 1,000 internetz.

The name of the game now is end-to-end ecosystems. This thing is about 5 years too late. This will be nothing more than a novelty device.

I agree with bun bun. I just dont see what the market is for this device. The article seems to suggest that it is to provide the throwaway game experiences you can get on your phone. So in a world where nearly everyone has a phone that can play angry birds why would you need this? And lets be honest 2 million is a drop in the ocean compared to the hundreds of millions spent by companies like MS and Sony to get their new consoles off the ground. Compared to those consoles it is going to be very difficult to get this thing off the ground with any traction amongst customers. The stronger consoles will in all probability canibalise sales at the higher and tablets and phones will eat up sales at the lower end of the games market. It seems as if this device is being positioned as a middle ground that im not sure exists. Besides if you wanted to play angry birds on your tv there is always services like XBLA.

For ****s sake why is everyone so damn excited about this? If the OUYA is "SO AMAZING" then why isn't the EVO2 getting any press?
http://www.envizionsinc.com/evo2.html

I'll tell you why, because everyone has kickstarter on the brain, and anything that shows up there regardless of how relevant it is, is suddenly "amazing"... bah!!

Xionanx said,
For ****s sake why is everyone so damn excited about this? If the OUYA is "SO AMAZING" then why isn't the EVO2 getting any press?
http://www.envizionsinc.com/evo2.html

I'll tell you why, because everyone has kickstarter on the brain, and anything that shows up there regardless of how relevant it is, is suddenly "amazing"... bah!!

Probably because it does not have that nice body. Plus I am not sure about the Evo, but OUYA is going to be open-sourced.

Xionanx said,
then why isn't the EVO2 getting any press?

Most people who read sites like Neowin are trying to AVOID the "press" because there is a difference between news and propaganda.

Unlike most Kickstarter projects, this one depends too much on software developers that currently do not exist for the platform.

dagamer34 said,
Unlike most Kickstarter projects, this one depends too much on software developers that currently do not exist for the platform.
Ouya is android base, and the Android market is already full of developers. There are plenty of developers already who are making games on the mobile platform. Ouya just extends this to the TV, letting developer expand their products.

link6155 said,
Ouya is android base, and the Android market is already full of developers. There are plenty of developers already who are making games on the mobile platform. Ouya just extends this to the TV, letting developer expand their products.

Of course, when people think 'gaming' and 'performance' the first they that comes to mind is Android. Oh wait, it is possibly the worst OS platform for gaming in modern history.

Here is how 'technically' it fits...
Win95 would be a better platform choice than Android, and this is a true technical statement because it can run a higher level version of OpenGL, does not have the Dalvik crap managing processes and can get more RAW performance out of the hardware. Win95, like Android is also a monolithic kernel design.

Even using a technology like WinCE, like the Sega of the 1990s would be a better choice, runs on ARM, has better DirectX features than Android's OpenGL ES 2.x support for graphics, and is 4 to 5 times faster than Android.

This is where the Open Source is 'magical' and will make everything perfect religion has created the growing idiocracy.

Even a regular Linux distribution would be smarter than Android, and that has been done and failed.

I'm confused.. is this a cheap console for people who can't afford games? Or is this a cheap console for developers who can't afford to create games?

Enron said,
I'm confused.. is this a cheap console for people who can't afford games? Or is this a cheap console for developers who can't afford to create games?

You obviously can't grasp the fact that developing for MS and Sony consoles is a tough road. Both companies are very strict when it comes to who develops what, when, how and for how much. Having an open platform allows independent developers to skip the corporate thumb and do whatever they want. Obviously to some degree, but theoretically indie devs can do go crazy, at least that's the idea I believe. Plus, hacking the machine is also encouraged, so why not. I am sure that someone will eventually be able to hook up Kinect or Wii controllers to the console and game developers will be able to utilize that for their games as well.

Andre said,

You obviously can't grasp the fact that developing for MS and Sony consoles is a tough road. Both companies are very strict when it comes to who develops what, when, how and for how much. Having an open platform allows independent developers to skip the corporate thumb and do whatever they want. Obviously to some degree, but theoretically indie devs can do go crazy, at least that's the idea I believe. Plus, hacking the machine is also encouraged, so why not. I am sure that someone will eventually be able to hook up Kinect or Wii controllers to the console and game developers will be able to utilize that for their games as well.

Almost the opposite of what you just said...

A console without any 'standards' is a nightmare for developers. Developers may complain about Sony or Microsoft, but beyond that they know that their game will run on everyone's system and perform exactly as they want it to perform.

You can't have a mix of crap, that has software version disparity and hardware disparity and expect developers to jump into the platform. EVER.

How about this analogy... Android - #1 smartphone OS - when it comes to serious game developers #3 - behind even WP7.

Games demand consistency in software, hardware, and end user experience, and developers won't touch platforms they can't ensure their creation will play properly.

When you have game developers spending $100 million on game development, they are NOT going to release it on a platform they can't be sure it will run properly. Test it, how many Linux games can you count from major publishers?

As for the Indie argument... Microsoft was the first to create a 'console' market for indie publishers, and with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the Fall XBox updates, this expands to where indie developers can move past the current limitations, and produce games that can compete with studios.

thenetavenger said,

How about this analogy... Android - #1 smartphone OS - when it comes to serious game developers #3 - behind even WP7.


That's not even remotely true under any form of measurement (amount of games, game rating scales, etc).

Will this be another Phantom? They're not promising anything that couldn't be delivered by simply adding an HDMI port to a cellphone or tablet. They're even fiddling with the idea of a touchpad on the controller. Why not just play on the tablet then? Without any major game support and "weak" hardware, it's like a Wii but with Angry Birds instead of Mario & assorted sequels.

Bun-Bun said,
Will this be another Phantom? They're not promising anything that couldn't be delivered by simply adding an HDMI port to a cellphone or tablet. They're even fiddling with the idea of a touchpad on the controller. Why not just play on the tablet then? Without any major game support and "weak" hardware, it's like a Wii but with Angry Birds instead of Mario & assorted sequels.

Agreed. And then they have to tackle the very real problem of getting this in retailers. This would be, at best, a impulse purchase, which would require it be in front of consumers... I just can't see this working out...

And for all the talk that it isn't competing with the rest of the console industry, it most certainly is. The fact that it's trying to do that with less power, less resources, etc. doesn't change that. People still, on average, will have one console, and given the choice, it's not going to be this one...

Wait, gaming on tablets? Unlike some people I don't comment on competition and then intentionally not disclose that I'm employed by Microsoft who just so happens to sell Xbox gaming consoles.

With that being explicitly said I think this is a brilliant move.

Bun-Bun said,
Will this be another Phantom? They're not promising anything that couldn't be delivered by simply adding an HDMI port to a cellphone or tablet. They're even fiddling with the idea of a touchpad on the controller. Why not just play on the tablet then? Without any major game support and "weak" hardware, it's like a Wii but with Angry Birds instead of Mario & assorted sequels.

First of all, they're providing a service of their own -- they're not going off the Android marketplace, although you could root it to do that. Think something more along the lines of PSN or Xbox Live. As far as "major support" -- they're already getting a lot of claims from some major indie developers expressing interest, from the likes of Mojang (Minecraft) and Meteor (Hawken).

As I stated in the article, I'm not expecting this to take on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 head-on. I don't think anyone's expecting that. I mean, just look at the difference in specifications and it's obvious. But to say that automatically means the games will be bad is a poor assumption to make.

Independent developers are thriving on Steam and the PC in general, yet they've constantly ridiculed Microsoft and Sony's efforts on consoles. I don't see how it can be a bad thing to get some big-name independent developers to show interest in your project.

As far as just buying a tablet -- tablets are, in general, far more expensive than $100. They also don't come with a controller. I don't think people buy tablets with the purpose of hooking them up to their television. Saying "just hook your tablet up to the TV to play these kinds of games" is akin to saying "just hook your laptop up to the TV to watch movies." Sure, you can do it -- but having a cheap, dedicated device is far more appealing to most people.

Bun-Bun said,
Will this be another Phantom? They're not promising anything that couldn't be delivered by simply adding an HDMI port to a cellphone or tablet. They're even fiddling with the idea of a touchpad on the controller. Why not just play on the tablet then? Without any major game support and "weak" hardware, it's like a Wii but with Angry Birds instead of Mario & assorted sequels.

"Which will allow users to modify both its software and hardware"
... Weak hardware? Where was that mentioned?
It's affordable hardware, and it's open source software. Both of those together make a great platform. Look at Android, running the majority of phones. Linux/BSD, etc. running the majority of servers, including Google/YouTube, most hosting companies, etc.

Gaming on a tablet is annoying, mainly because you are putting your fingers ON the screen just to play and it's harder to move around. If they optimized a console controller specifically for touch-sensitive gaming, it might be good.

Either way, it's not a real thing yet. It's all just a concept. None of us really know for sure which direction this is going to go in- but it has potential as is.