Can the Kickstarter-Funded Ouya Console Deliver?
Low cost is something of a draw when it comes to consumer technology, and the designers of Ouya fully understand that – a double-digit starting price point is sure to look very attractive to potential customers, given that current gen consoles are still going for just shy of $200. However, there is a compromise: instead of using standard PC parts, like the two major players in domestic gaming, Ouya uses the mobile Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset. Although it’s a mobile processor, it still packs a fair punch; a quad core processor clocking in at 1.4GHz, the Tegra 3 also offers support for 3D gaming on the go. There is no doubt that it performs highly in devices designed around it, but how does it fare when it has to be blown up onto a display bigger than 10.1″ at the most? well, according to tests done by Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry, the results aren’t exactly brilliant. They reported that “HDMI output on demanding titles causes noticeable frame-rate drops compared to running from the tablet screen: servicing two displays appears to present mobile tech with serious bandwidth challenges.” Now, whilst there may only be one screen when using Ouya, it sounds like mobile technology may not be quite there yet in terms of competing with even the low specs on the current Xbox 360 – if this machine can’t run games smoothly, it could spell death for it in the mainstream gaming market.
Certain comparisons can be brought up between Ouya’s campaign and its rebellious ideals with a device that targeted a different market in the 80’s, helmed by a certain charismatic individual *nudge nudge wink wink*, but can this machine capture the hearts of its users like its brother in the fight against The Electronic Establishment did? This will only be possible if it can form a loyal fanbase (as so many hacking/modding products establish) that stick with the console through thick and thin. Despite there being support from ‘major developers’ as well as indie companies, I for one believe that the future of the device lies in the hands of players – most would jump at the chance to make their own game, so it makes sense to say that player-developed games will become the defining feature of this machine in the long term after support from bigger names in the industry inevitably begins to be withdrawn. Much like when a child takes the training wheels off their bike, the platform will either crash straight away or get going quickly and only gain momentum.
The main problem with claiming that ‘big developers’ will support the console is twofold. Firstly, this support will evaporate almost immediately if no one buys their titles on Ouya, which is likely given that the console is targeted at gamers who want to make their own games and play each others – much like an indie community does. Seeing as the hardware inside Ouya isn’t even supposed to be the mainframe for a console, more graphically demanding titles will most likely have frame rate issues on the platform. If word gets around that a game can’t be run well on the console, less people will buy it, and for mainstream publishers and developers, that probably means support for the machine will be withdrawn. Also, given that Ouya is aimed at people wanting to have a go at developing, modding and hardware tinkering, certain security risks pop up – games with multiplayer services could be completely ruined by malicious hackers out to deface the game, which gives the title (as well as the people who developed it) a poor reputation all round. Will major companies take the risk? It’s not likely.
With its versatile open source operating system Android, company founder Julie Uhrman expects the platform to be a fertile breeding (and proving) ground for aspiring developers and hackers alike, citing in the description on Kickstarter that ‘Developers will have access to OUYA’s open design so they can produce their games for the living room, taking advantage of everything the TV has to offer’ and ‘Developers can wave farewell to the roadblocks of bringing a console game to market. Anyone can make a game: every OUYA console is a dev kit.’ this means that players can count on seeing lots of homebrew titles pop up on the dashboard frequently, most likely varying vastly in quality, before a select few go viral and wildly successful. Hardware enthusiasts have something to be happy about as well – as stated in the infomercial, ‘[the console is] open for hackers who want to tweak the box and make it their own’, so there will no doubt be people showing off on forums about new parts they’ve added and how great they’ve made it look.
Still with months to go before its release, are we cruelly over-hyping this machine or could it truly be the key to finally opening up the platform? Will the bet hedged on cheaper hardware for a lower price tag pay off? Only time will tell, and in the just-over-6 months before (targeted) release, a lot could change. For better or worse? We will find out on release day.
What are your thoughts on Ouya? Surefire flop or revolutionary machine? Or something else? Let us know in the comments!