Ouya Ignites a Slow-Burning Console War

ouya

Ouya, a popular Kickstarter project that received more than eight million dollars in crowdsourced funding, is finally beginning to ship. There is a catch, however, as only those who paid $699 or more (i.e., bought in to the Ouya Developer Program) are currently receiving them. The Tegra 3-based game console is powered by Android (version unknown, though Ice Cream Sandwich or even Gingerbread seems likely), and connects via HDMI to any compatible television. Coming in at only $99, it seems obvious that the Ouya is hoping to gain a large market prescence in the face of more traditional consoles like the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. Many were skeptical, but based on these early views in to the device’s progress, Ouya may very well become a force to be reckoned with.

The main menu of the Ouya (at least in this iteration; note that everything could change before a final launch to regular consumers) is straightforward: various options, represented by their names, are set against an orange background with the console’s name floating in the top right-hand corner. That background will supposedly be white by final release.

Codezombiegames made the following video detailing the Ouya Developer console:

The seventeen minute video covers the basic concept of the device, and also offers a look at the hardware. The Ouya developer hardware is actually quite interesting, given its small size and translucent hardware. The Ouya itself is a small cube, about the size of a large fist. The controller, also made of translucent plastic, looks as if it takes its design cues and layout from the Xbox 360. Early reports say that the controller is quite plastic-y, but that it feels solid when used. The controller is one of the most important aspects of any game console, and it can potentially make or break how well the Ouya is accepted in to the gaming market.

While Ouya’s first “public” outing does seem promising, there is already competition for the game console that could. Other than an impending release of next-generation consoles (that could contain at least one surprise competitor), other companies are beginning to take on Ouya: GameStick has launched a KickStarter campaign to raise funds for a production run. GameStick is incredibly similar to Ouya, but with the bonus of plugging directly in to an HDMI port. The hardware is self-contained inside the dongle, and the remote is more reminiscent of an NES controller.

GameStick

Various other companies are also interested in making a competitor to these two products. Already, there are dozens of products that offer a miniature computer or dongle fully capable of running Android and installing apps. While the apps available are usually limited to those relevant to a television (Netflix, and other streaming programs), hardware is quickly approaching the point of being able to handle games while still being tiny and not generating enough heat to negatively impact internals.

All of this comes at a time when the console market is particularly vulnerable. Both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 are old. The Wii U is limited in some very important ways. All three are more expensive than these Android-based alternatives. Of course, each has the advantage of exclusive, first-party titles, but the importance of such titles is waning in an age when Angry Birds is as recognizable as Halo. While none of these Android-based alternatives are going to immediately pull the rug out from underneath the incumbent players, each has the potential to slowly chip away.

Now, if only Apple could solve the controller dilemma and launch a full assault on all sides with the Apple TV.

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