WTF is an Ouya?


WTF is an Ouya?
And why should we care?
What a difference a week makes. When the Ouya game console was first announced there were some who were sceptical. It was listed as a $99 Android game console with an emphasis on free-to-play games. The kicker was that anyone who bought it would get access to the software development kit (SDK), allowing them to create their own games, apps and extras. We initially said that it “could be a hit with fans of independently titled games”. Of course, what we did not expect at the time was that the indie scene has a huge following. Ouya’s Kickstarter was launched three days ago with a goal of $950,000, but has blown past that with a current pledge total of almost $4 million. It has arrived with a bang, but what can we expect from the console and how can it justify taking up space on an otherwise crowded electronics shelf in our living rooms?

The Ouya is designed to be developer friendly; it is powered by Android, which is a platform that many developers have familiarised themselves with already, includes the SDK and is hackable from the moment you get your hands on it. While developers are able to design for smart phones and tablets in this manner, the team behind Ouya want developers to be free creatively, while still working on a readily understandable platform. Of course, we could see some smash mobile titles being upscaled for the console.

But let’s face it. Most of the people who are reading anything about Ouya are gamers; we don’t have the drive, talent or creative thinking required to even imagine what we could do with a developer friendly console. However, we could benefit most of all. Some of the most creative titles of recent years have been developed by small teams. Games such asMinecraft, Super Meat Boy, Braid and Limbo had humble beginnings before they became the phenomena that we know today. This is the kind of creativity that could be harnessed by such a console and would provide an audience for developers. The developer behind Minecraft, Mojang, has been supportive of the console so far. It said, “If OUYA delivers on the promise of being the first true open gaming platform that gives indie developers access to the living room gaming market, yes that is a great idea.”

Mobile gaming and social gaming platforms have caused developers to reconsider how they do business. Developers have experimented with free-to-play models, in-game purchases and the more traditional routes of delivering games. The Ouya is about to do the same, except with a manner of gaming which we are more accustomed to experiencing in a traditional manner. The condition attached is that “at least some gameplay has to be free.” We could be looking at a new generation of games, which utilises the free-to-play model of hits such as League of Legends and Team Fortress 2. It’s hard not to be excited about the possibility of playing games for free.

Obviously gameplay is king at the end of the day, but gamers have come to expect a certain polish at this stage. The Ouya will be powered by a Tegra 3 quad-core processor, which is no slouch. The console will have HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD. We could waffle on, but Nvidia has provided a gameplay tech demo to give you an idea of what can be expected. If a picture can tell a thousand words, then you should be nicely clued in by the end of a video.

One of the main reasons to be intrigued by Ouya is that it is trying something different. That in itself has to be admired and it is a point that some developers are excited about. Founder of thatgamecompany, Jenova Chen, said “I'm excited for OUYA! I am a firm believer that there is always room to challenge the status quo.” In an age of endless sports franchises, military “simulations” and pop-gaming, we need something different.

Ouya has met its Kickstarter goal; now it just has to satisfy the masses who are hungry for change. Could we see the next big hit originate on Ouya? Will the backing of Minecraft be enough in itself to make it a success? For now, there are more questions than answers, but it’s refreshing to have something to be excited about.

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