Ouya: The lowdown
If you’ve been living on another planet for the past few weeks and have no idea what Ouya is all about then let us clue you in on this little treasure. Making its debut on the crowd funding website, Kickstarter.com, it is a gaming console built on Android open-source technology. Ouya (pronounced “Boo-yah” without the B) intends to bring all the Angry Birds addicts and Farmville fanatics back into the living room.
The team behind Ouya, Julie Uhrman (Former IGN head of digital distribution) and Yves Behar (designer of the JamBox and the 100 dollar laptop project), believe that there is a lot of focus on social media/mobile platform and that gaming should be brought back to the TV. They want independent developers able to get their game out there without having to sell their grandmothers and at the same time give them a coding environment that they might already be familiar with, hence the Android based platform.
It’s also designed to be open to hackers/modders, so they can open it up and make it do the laundry without voiding the warranty. Oh, and did I mention they intend all of their games to be free? Well, at least have a free portion, it’s up to the creators themselves if they want to have a “pay to unlock” system inside the game for certain areas/items. All of this is available for the small price of 99 dollars, you can obviously donate more to the project and earn other rewards but 99 dollars is the baseline for the console and a controller.
The kickstarter campaign itself raised over 1 million dollars, reaching its designated goal, within the first 8 hours and as of writing this article is up on a whopping 6.5 million dollars and rising. This meant that team Ouya could look into other features and obviously shipping more units day 1. Quickly seeing their success they upped the amount of consoles they could ship out of the gate from 5000 to 80,000. They reached out to the backers as to what they would like to see added to the console and what games they would like to see on it.
What makes it so special?
Well, I think everyone and their dog heard about the scandal involving the Playstation 3 and hacker group Anonymous, so the fact that this thing is busted wide open embracing hackers and modders with open arms is a reasonably big thing. They state quite clearly that rooting the system won’t void the warranty nor will cracking it open with a screwdriver as it’s designed with this in mind. I even got a little chuckle at their nod to hacker group Anonymous in their subtitle “Hackers welcome” followed by a full stop (“.”) containing a link to the Anonymous twitter page.
I really haven’t seen communication quite like this before. Backers are making requests and, as the console is still mostly in development stages, team Ouya are listening and acting accordingly. It really does warm the heart to see such a connection between creators and community and makes you feel like you are a part of the whole project.
Though their market seems to be the mobile market/indie developers, with OnLive jumping on board toting its st(r)eaming stew of AAA titles and Square Enix announcing that Final Fantasy III will be a launch title who knows how big an audience this stylish little cat will drag in.
Stylish you say? Is it sexy?
The box itself is designed to be fairly simple and easy to open, so modders can have a field day in there. It’s about the size of a rubik’s cube and comes in a sleek brushed metal design with a big shiny O on top.
The specifications, as listed on the kickstarter page, are as follows:
- Tegra3 quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB of internal flash storage
- HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD
- WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth LE 4.0
- USB 2.0 (one)
- Android 4.0
- ETHERNET! (Announced by Muffi 7/18)
It’s a fairly decent spec for a small box. The ethernet port was a later addition after a torrent of requests by backers, a clear show of ears by the Ouya team.
Ok so the controller must be crap right?
Actually no, they took a lot of time to go in-depth with the controller and explain how much they worked on it to make it perfect. It consists of 2 analog sticks (xbox360 style placement), D-pad, system button, a touch screen (to be compatible with Android mobile games) and 8 action buttons. The action buttons on the top right side were a topic of heated debate on their kickstarter page, with color blind gamers speaking up to say that the same shape on all the buttons would not be enough for them. Again, Ouya listened, the buttons now spell out OUYA instead.
So what can I expect to see here?
Well the updates have been coming thick and fast for the past couple of weeks as to who and what we can see on there. As I mentioned earlier, OnLive will be bringing its streaming service to the console and Square Enix will have Final Fantasy III as a launch title. They also potentially have Mojang’s Minecraft waiting in the wings, as Mojang have said that if enough people are behind it they would consider bringing Minecraft and other games to Ouya. One of the earliest announcement was that Robert Bowling’s company – Robotoki – will be making the first Ouya 1st party exclusive, an episodic post-zombie-apocalyptic prequel to Human Element.
Also, gaming related, is the exciting announcement that U4iA (industry veterans that brought us Call of Duty and Guitar Hero) will give Ouya its first confirmed first person shooter titled Offensive Combat. Quoted to be a “cheeky, free-for-all shooting mash-up” by the company’s CEO; Dusty Welch.
You might begin to think, “Ahh, so it’s just games then”, but you’d be wrong – as it’s based on Android it has the potential to house all the Android apps. Provided they are adapted for the console of course. In fact, at release Ouya will have Twitch TV – a channel that broadcasts e-sports including StarCraft and League of Legends. Another interesting announcement is a partnership with VEVO, the music video giant, to bring music videos to the console. The most recent bit of news (obviously as of writing) is a collaboration with iHeart radio – for free, customizable digital radio streaming. Though this seems to be a U.S only thing, the update goes on to say that they are keeping internationals in mind and reaching out to companies outside the U.S, quoting:
I think it’s fair to say that there are a lot of people jumping on the Ouya bandwagon and it can only get better as it goes along, this could be a real revolution in the gaming scene.
In terms of future titles, team Ouya have had a survey up asking what games backers would like to see come to the console – to get a feel for who they should be buying coffee and donuts for. They then compiled a list of the top 20 and asked the community to vote again. This obviously doesn’t mean that they will 100% be on the system if requested but it’s good that backers can point them in the right direction.
If that isn’t enough to wet your appetite they take a moment to mention that there are a lot of developers wanting to bring their stuff to Ouya, but that their “lawyers” can’t act quickly enough to announce the partnerships in the kickstarter campaign. They also gave us a hint to what they are thinking about, to show that they are still listening to the community:
Are there no down sides?!
I wouldn’t say there are any apparent down sides as such as we’re not really at a point where we have it in our hands and can say “Hey! This thing doesn’t work”, but there are a few worries that will need to be addressed in the coming months. For example, hackable and open could be a double-edged blade – will hacking the store front be an issue? A possible problem in multiplayer? Also, with this easy to create system won’t we be drowned in games all the time? How will the store work in terms of finding new games/good games? The box itself is international, but as stated on the page, publishers may not be international. Meaning those of us in countries not supported by OnLive yet won’t get to enjoy it etc. I am also sure there are more concerns for the Ouya but if it works the way they want it to, this could be a true diamond.
I’m hooked! Where can I get me one?
Until August 9th you can fund their project and reserve your console at the kickstarter page (Link to the page here) other than that there have been no details as to how to get one after the fundraiser ends. They are dedicated to supplying those that back the campaign now in March 2013 but state on the page that the date only applies to kickstarter backers. Another incentive, as this is the last week of the project, they’ve unveiled a limited edition option for kickstarters only. A brown brushed metal version, chocolate anyone?
I really like what this console stands for – openness – the idea of developers being able to get their creativity out there without being hindered by cash barriers and dominating corporations steals my heart. All-in-all I am definitely ready for a new challenger to enter the console ring, and for 99 dollars, people should be more than willing to take a chance on Ouya even if it only does half the things it says it will.
Here’s a follow-up article after the kickstarter project ended:
OUYA; Kickstarter ends
So the big question is, are you camp Ou-YEAH! or camp Ou-CARES?
Let us know in the comments section below and stay tuned to the website for all the updates as it unfolds!