Ouya? Oh Yeah!


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

There was a time when someone  mentioned “handheld” gaming, your first thought was some flavor  of a Nintendo portable (GameBoy, DS, DS Lite, etc.) or a Sega portable  (Game Gear). Since then, times have changed, with Sony entered the portable  market as well with the PSP and now the Vita. The core concept behind  handhelds was being able to play games on the go on systems that don’t  require the same processing power as games played on a console.

Well, the mobile gaming space  has evolved even more since the heady days of playing portable games  on grey and black rectangles with rounded corners. These days, the proliferation  of SmartPhones has decimated the devoted portable gaming market, with  more and more “casual” gamers playing on iOS and Android devices.  The games are simple to pick up and play and capitalize on Moore’s Law  on steroids, as just about any device now blows the specifications of  a GameBoy (for instance) out of the water. If the idea of playing less  CPU intensive games on the go is appealing, then doesn’t it stand to  reason that doing the same on a home console is as well? That’s what  the folks behind Ouya are hoping and they’ve actually  got a promising strategy.

The Ouya console was launched  as a Kickstarter back in July 2012; so long ago that it was before even Angry Birds found that galaxy far, far away.  The concept was to present a console running on a flavor of Jelly Bean  that would be open source, $99 and give gamers the ability to develop  if they chose. Oh, and play games.

Turns  out, all four of the above were extremely appealing to Kickstarters,  as the project reached $3.7 million in the first two days and eventually  reached 904% of its funding goal. Clearly, people liked the concept  behind it. Those backers will get to reap the benefits of their early  faith, as the first wave of consoles will be shipping to them on March 28, a few months ahead of the  mainstream rollout in June. It’s already been proven that support is  there for the console from enthusiastic early adopters. The bigger question  is whether or not the support is there from everyone else?

A cursory glance at the console reveals some information  that techheads will find appealing. Ouya will sport a Tegra 3 SoC, running  a 1.7 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. For comparison’s sake, the CPU  runs on a similar architecture as the iPad 2 and the Vita, with the  processor speed putting it at the top of its class and on par with Asus  Transformer Pad Infinity and HTC One X+. While it may boast innards  comparable to that of many mobile devices, the fact that they’re on  the higher end suggest that this might be something you want to put  in your living room. There’s also 8 GB of internal flash memory, 1 GB  of RAM, HDMI, Wi-Fi (b/g/n), Bluetooth and an Ethernet port.

Looking at those specs, the console actually isn’t  half bad. Sure, it’s not going to run an AAA title you would find on  XBox 360 or PlayStation 3, but it can clearly handle anything you’d  play on a portable and then some. It’s got a small form factor, so it’s  not going to hog space or energy to run and it’s already looking to  be working on an exciting catalog of games. Looking at the early list shows some really indie developers  working on Ouya games, which is great for gamers and the industry alike.  The fact that Square Enix, Tripwire and Double Fine are the biggest  names on the list is quite exciting actually, in that it means there  are a ton of other potentially awesome games that you wouldn’t really  have the chance to play otherwise.

Although, the inclusion of  Square Enix is even more exciting because the game listed is Final Fantasy III. Yes, you’ve probably already  played and own about ten different versions of the game as each new  portable console came out, but unless you’re playing on a PC or doing  some crazy set-up, being able to play Final Fantasy III on your big screen required  getting an SNES. ROMs have always found a home on portable consoles  and if that translates over to the Ouya all the better.

Another  feather in Ouya’s cap is the creative team. Founder Julie Uhrman has  spent time at IGN, Gamefly and Vivendi Universal Games. Yves Béhar  was one of the main proponents behind the OLPC initiative (among other  things). And Muffi Ghadiali was brought on to oversee production of  the console, drawing on his experience as an alumnus of Amazon’s internal  Lab126, the team responsible for developing the Kindle. That’s three  super-talented individuals who know how to make something like the Ouya  work, being able to pool years of experience in all facets of the product.

Only time  will tell whether or not the Ouya is a success (June to be more precise).  The idea of playing what are essentially mobile games on a home console  is one that seems to make perfect sense, but if it’s not executed correctly  it could fail. The promise is there though that it won’t fail and will  actually be able to carve out a place alongside the more established  and powerful home consoles. If you got in on the Kickstarter you’ll  know before everyone else whether or not the console can be revolutionary  and if playing less intense games on your big screen is fun. In the  meantime, you’ll just have to play Angry  Birds on your  iPhone 5 using AirPlay to stream to your AppleTV to see it on your big  screen.

    One Comment

  1. John Vaught IIMarch 22nd, 2013 at 5:59 am

    The Ouya actually will be able to play some AAA titles by game streaming via OnLive. It’s also recently been tested and found to be able to outperform the original Nintendo Wii (not Wii U) graphically and otherwise.

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