News, Views, and Reviews
OUYA has begun shipping to their Kickstarter backers, so any day now, I should be getting mine. When it arrives, I hope to do a full review and maybe even an un-boxing video. While I’m waiting, I can provide some back ground information.
Last year, a group of game industry veterans, led by Julie Uhrman, started a Kickstarter campaign. They saw a growing trend of game developers, especially independent developers, getting frustrated with the options available to them on consoles or mobile devices. Developing for and getting published on consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 can be difficult and costly, and the minimal returns don’t always justify the hurdles and obstacles to overcome. Apple and Android devices are easier to develop for, which lets studios reduce the size and budget of development costs, and the income-split favors the studio. But developers looking at the mobile market have to make compromises to their projects, mainly, adapting them to smart phones and mobile devices that usually only include touch screens.
Julie and her company, Boxer8, want the Ouya to provide another option: develop console-type games, for controllers and big TVs, on the Android platform, and get that studio-favoring income-split. The Ouya Kickstarter campaign started in June, 2012. For the basic pledge of $99, backers would get their own Ouya console and controller, that doubles as a “development kit” for those interested in creating their own games. The Ouya campaign only asked for $900,000. They met that goal in eight hours, and the pledges kept coming. In thirty days, the campaign raised $8.5 million. Clearly, people are interested in Ouya.
Some of that money was provided by more serious backers: indie developers with a little experience and money to spend. Those backers got their units at the end of December, and that means games will be available now, and even more will be ready when the system officially launches in June. Some of the early games are going to be ported from previous Android devices, but as the Ouya development community grows, the number of console quality games will also grow. Indie hits like Minecraft and Fez are likely to appear, but surprises like Final Fantasy III have also been announced.
The openness of the Ouya console isn’t just good for game developers, it should favor gamers and modders. The small console unit is basically smart phone technology, running on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor, and can be taken apart and modified without voiding the warranty. It will run on Android’s “Jellybean” 4.1 OS, which already has its share of apps and mods. It will ship with a basic menu system and user interface, but it will be interesting to see how that evolves.
For only $99, the Ouya boasts:
|CPU||1.7 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9|
|Storage capacity||8 GB internal flash memory|
|Memory||1 GB RAM|
|Display||HDMI 1080p, 1080i, 720p|
|Graphics||Nvidia ULP GeForce|
|Input||USB 2.0 (one) Micro USB (for connection to PC)|
|Controller input||Wireless controller|
This makes it comparable to the previous generation of consoles, but with HD capabilities. Instead of upgrading individual components like a PC, Boxer8 promises to release new versions of the Ouya annually, which allows it to keep up with the mobile market. The Tegra 4 processor, for example, is already in development, and in some ways, surpasses the current console generation. Imagine that much power for only $99!
A mini-console that can play, at the least, mobile quality games without the required $499 smart phone price and/or 2 year contracts was enough of a deal for me. I understand that some mobile devices can display their games on a regular TV, and can even use wireless controllers. I also understand that tasking those devices with displaying their images twice (once on the device, once on the TV) can put a strain on performance. The Ouya only has to display its image, once, on the TV. Like a console, developers will have certain specifications in mind when they develop Ouya games, instead of worrying about the countless versions of smart phones and other devices in the mobile market. This should streamline and optimize those games to look better than ever. Plus, developers can finally make console type games and not compromise with touch screens. The controller does include a touch sensitive pad, just in case someone really wants to use that input. I look forward to getting my Ouya any day now, and I look forward to seeing its impact on the video game industry.