Ouya, the console set to be released March next year (or even later) with an Android-based operating system, has created quite some waves since its over-successful fund raising campaign. After gathering enough funds to fuel projects, attract game designers and ship thousands of units, it is time to analyze the possible impact of this product, in a modern battle of David, versus several Goliaths. Today, the question that we seek answer for is: will Ouya be successful enough to cause problems for PlayStation and Xbox, possibly even other competitors?
After achieving the second biggest raise on Kickstarter, managing to gather more than $6 million from over 60 thousand pledgers, Ouya has a modest sum to back-up investments. While its ambitions are more than high, Ouya has already won the support of the crowd by embedding a few classic, but never-old concepts, such as rendering content on TV and using a shiny controller, made out of wood. But will we see the rise of a new name, or another body in the sea of failed consoles (right next to Apple’s )?
What does Ouya conceive under the surface?
The first word about Ouya was officially spilled sometimes in June, this year, when developers finally considered gathering a fund raiser. The console was presented as a device that wishes to bring gaming back to the TV, a concept which me, my colleagues and thousand others, have enjoyed. Moreover, Ouya is supposed to be affordable (the selling price will be around $99) and it will be crafted on the Android frame, with heavy modifications brought to Google’s mobile OS.
On top of all, Ouya promised that all games will be FREE to play, in one manner or another, and that the software and hardware parts of the system will be opened to hackers and developers worldwide. Just like Arduino did for microcontrollers, Ouya will let everyone develop extension parts, mess up the hardware and interface in any pleasant manner imaginable. Also, the wooden-made controller puts to shame many existent components, at least theoretically, so the project is an all-in-one wonder. But let’s deep further.
Juicy Ouya details and hidden facts
There is some information hidden between the lines and after carefully reading, here’s what we discovered:
- All-Free Gaming? Not quite – Developers have stated that all games are free to play, but this strategy won’t work for every title. As the pictures posted on the official website and through the campaign hint, free games such as League of Legends will surely be invited to the Ouya platform, but the task will be difficult with titles like Crysis and Assassin’s Creed. No sane person will let users play a game like this for free, unless it will be served in a demo-plate or, on a trial-basis. This is just a theory, but Ouya will do much good to leave players test a title before they purchase it. As for the free part, it will only happen in some cases.
- The fancy controller – in every Ouya video there is this controller featured, with an original design and naming of the buttons, which looks absolutely terrific. The only issue is that we haven’t seen one in full-state until the moment, and the company claims it will deliver the very first one just in March. As all products seem astonishing from videos, we will rest our review until release.
- Boosting the audience – we’re not pointing fingers here, but Ouya’s CEO Jullie Uhrman stated in the video posted on the Kickstarter page that Minecraft will be included in the first batch of titles. After CVG opened our eyes, it seems that in the bottom FAQ section of the page Ouya officials are more careful with this statement, saying that Minecraft will be ported only if the console will come out great and enough people will desire that game.
Ouya versus PlayStation and Xbox
Now that we have been formerly introduced, is time to talk about the truly pressing matters. At the time we were writing this piece, there were over 40,000 Ouya units sold from the Kickstarter phase, and even more from the recently-opened pre-order campaign, made available even over-shores.
Please note that although this number is not that impressive, these are people who pay for a device yet to be seen. They have no idea what is truly coming and by this fact alone, Ouya shows to have quite the fan base. If the ball rolls and this number reaches the 1 million mark until release day, it will be a serious competitor. But is this enough to threaten seasoned players like PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and even Nintendo or the next generation after them?
Ouya’s advantages on other consoles
Besides those presented already, Ouya has some tricks hidden up the sleeve. The first one which comes in mind is the included development kit, which gives developers and hackers worldwide the ability to customize the console and tweak it in every way. Considering the fact that the console comes with low-end specs for the today market, we might just see a hardware version of CyanogenMod arriving, one that catches such a flame that it will be sold worldwide as a tremendous success.
Taking in consideration the fact that hacking is even encouraged, rooting the device or otherwise opening will not damage the warranty, games and other modifications will be encouraged to be made. Moreover, the expensive licensing fees for porting a game to Ouya are removed completely, so we have three big pluses for any developer out there.
Another plus is hidden in plain sight with Ouya’s controller, the one which comes with a touch surface between the hard buttons. This makes the device a perfect candidate for future games, which might take advantage of the whole layout, and imply the use of touch and physical buttons, at the same time. It’s a great frame for someone with great ideas. Are you reading this, Steam?
Besides the audience itself, Ouya has already gathered the support of many names in the gaming industry, such as Robert Bowling itself, the ex-Creative Strategist behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. He was one of the few people to pledge $10,000 on the KickStarter campaign, and this support is surely not giving for sympathy.
From our knowledge, Bowling is preparing to release a new post-apocalyptical game somewhere in 2015, and needs a platform to concretize a part of its plan: episodic content on a highly accessible console. It seems that the smart choice was Ouya, the one which will carry the most attractive part of the game because it’s worldwide reach and the price, while the game will also be supplied on mobile devices, such as smartphones. The fact that a man like Robert Bowling chose Ouya right from the start is a great sign.
Plus, Ouya has signed deals with several content specialists, like OnLive for game streaming (watching that StarCraft II championship will be easy), VEVO for music videos and XBMC with a streaming media app, while radio stations will be supplied by TuneIn and iHeartRadio.
Oh, and almost forgot of Google, who is probably smiling at the moment. They will have an Android-based console, without doing any work at all. Having a company like Google on your side is no fling, and if the search-engine giant decides to intervene and help the crew, at least in marketing, it will be terrific.
Everyone loves TVs
“The revolution will be televised“, said Ouya’s CEO in the presentation video. This is exactly what Ouya is capable of, a revolution in gaming as we know it. With the help of TV, device makers like Samsung, Philips and LG can take advantage of the upcoming rise and sign contracts with the console makers or, as Peter Suciu hints for Fortune, there is only a small step to embed Ouya equipment right into TVs.
Ouya also lacks big in some chapters, and one of them which can be spotted right from the spot is the hardware configuration. Technical specifications are the essence in developing quality games, found right beside the ability of creators to take advantage of the existing equipment and optimize the software for better results. Here is what Ouya has to offer, comparing with the existing PlayStation 3 and the Xbox360:
|Ouya||Xbox 360||Playstation 3|
|CPU||Tegra 3 ARM Cortex A9 Quad Core 1.6GHz||Tri-Core Xenon PowerPC 3.6 GHz with 2 threads per core||STI Cell BroadbandEngine3.2GHzwith1PPUand6SPU|
|GPU||GeForce ULP 520 MHz (8 pixel shader units)||ATI Xenos 500 MHz with 48 pixel shader units||Reality Synthesizer at 550 MHz with 24 shader units|
|RAM||1GB 1600 MHz DDR3||512MB 700 MHz DDR3||256 MB System and 256MB Dedicated for graphics|
As for the PlayStation 3, the Cell Broadband Engine is hard to compare against regular processors, but IBM sells servers filled entirely with this component. The sheer amount of power provided is way beyond the Ouya and the graphical unit exceeds the new player in both frequency matters, as well as with shader units. As seen from above, other than exceeding in RAM quantity, Ouya fails in every sector – graphically speaking.
Not so many details are available at the moment, but we hint that the future console will lack hyper-threading at all, while the Xbox 360 for example, comes with 6 more thread numbers for the graphical unit and 6 six bonus threads for the CPU, making the small 20 MHz difference between GPU cycles appear insignificant.
The brief conclusion is that Ouya is no toy, it can still supply wonderful results, especially paired up with Android, but it’s no match for powerful consoles. The hardware configuration can be compared with the early days of the Xbox 360 or even a generation back. But, as we’ve mentioned earlier, if developers optimize the software, better results will appear. Moreover, the next-generation of consoles may drop at any time in 2013, and how would Ouya face such daemons?
The lack of games
This will be a tough one, even for the brilliant minds backing-up Ouya. At the moment, there is no firm list of games. Officially, it is too soon for developers to announce the rooster of the first games which will be assured to reach Ouya, meaning no-one can give assurances of what will be played on this console. Without exaggerating, there are lots of developers interested in the project, but until we hear an official list, they are only a possibility. And possibilities won’t bring success. However, Wikipedia has a list of some names, whith a total of 19 games, mostly extracted from promotional videos and mostly without a release interval, at all.
Ouya will be great, I give you this. But it will be a totally different dish than consoles, and no match for them when it comes to stand-alone games and dedicated series, like Call of Duty. The environment is simply not enough to accommodate such loads, at least at the current state. Of course, if someone bold enough would tweak the platform and make an improved version, or let’s say that the company itself would launch a second version filled with glittering tech, then yes, it would be a threat. Until then, a definitely no. Ouya is counting on a completely different segment of the market…
Could Ouya be the next Indie platform?
This is the gold pot. Ouya may be situated at the end of the rainbow with its brilliantly cheap idea, and it only needs a few original titles to make it snatch the coins and create an addiction. Look at games like DotA, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth and futile to mention MMORPGs, like Lineage and World of Warcraft. There aren’t many titles that fit this description, but they literally have millions of players.
And taking in consideration the level of customization which can be embedded in the console, either in hardware and software principle, expect very powerful Indie games, which are yet to be imagined on the existing equipment. Ouya opens a new path, one that we are very convinced it will seem appealing to millions, millions who would enjoy there weekends outside the PC world on an affordable product.