Initial thoughts on Ouya

ouyaI’m not much of a console gamer any more.  I used to be, particularly during the 90s, but computer gaming pretty much gave me everything I wanted, leaving me and consoles to grow apart.  Other than an occasionally used SNES, we haven’t even had a console in our house since 2009 (and that was an even less-used Wii).

But I wanted to roll the dice on this new Ouya thing, so I asked for it for my birthday.  Due to shipping and rollout delays, I didn’t get it until a week or so ago, and only recently had the time to hook it up and check it out.

Ouya is a Kickstarter-funded console notable for a few factors: it’s incredibly small, it is quite affordable ($99 for the console/controller, $49 for an additional controller), it uses an Android OS, every game on it has some sort of free version/trial, and it doubles as a development box for those looking to make and sell their own games.  It’s a cool idea (Ouya likens to calling itself a “revolution” but I think that’s going a bit far) that theoretically undercuts the big console makers and publishers and puts the power back in the hands of garage software studios.

It’s gotten a mixed reception so far.  Common complaints are the laggy input, substandard controllers (although you can use Xbox/PS3 controllers instead), a messy menu system, underpowered hardware (it’s not going to run bleeding edge games, that’s for sure), and a lack of killer apps.  I think there’s a lot of valid criticism there.  But the Ouya is still quite fascinating to me.

The setup was pretty easy.  The console itself is smaller than a soda can, has a TV cable and connects to your wifi.  The controllers take two AA batteries and are wireless.  Everything connected pretty well, although it was annoying to have to enter in all sorts of information (wifi password, credit card info) with the controller’s D-pad.  This is one of the reasons I don’t like consoles.  Keyboard and mouse are almost always superior.

I have to say that I love the small size of it.  It made it really easy to tuck it beside my blu-ray player and forget about it without it taking up a lot of shelf space.  Also, not having to deal with game discs is a bonus.

Due to iPhone/iPad gifts, I haven’t had an Android device up till now, so I was curious how different it would feel.  I guess the answer is “not much” — apps are apps.  But what I was even more curious about was whether an Android console was able to offer anything more than an Android mobile device.  In other words, why own an Ouya?

I honestly don’t know right now.  Mobile gaming is great for its portability and convenience; being tethered to a TV seems to be a step backwards here.  Ouya might offer or start offering games that don’t appear anywhere else, but I saw a lot of titles that I know are on the Android market.  Maybe the biggest plus is something that hasn’t started happening yet on a large scale: Giving people the ability to make games with this dev kit/game console.

That’s why it’s hard to pronounce judgement on Ouya right now.  It’s a decent console, but it’s more or less a stationary mobile gaming platform.  I liked playing on my big TV, and I think we’ll be using it to download a few fun games for the family.  My kids had fun messing around with Retro Racing, and my wife and I played a round of You Don’t Know Jack.  But I get the feeling that there’s an important window we’re in right now — maybe six months or so starting with the console’s launch — where Ouya has to prove its worth by bringing out all of these closet developers to make products that don’t typically land on the major consoles.

I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground on this.  As an MMO player, I don’t think the Ouya is capable of handling anything on that scale (especially with a meager 8 GB flash drive), so I won’t be holding my breath for that.  But if it can provide a fun party gaming platform with a juicy array of affordable games, then it could make a spot in our daily lives.

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4 thoughts on “Initial thoughts on Ouya

  1. Don’t forget what seems like a big feature, it’s portability. Sure, you can’t play real killer games. But it’s probably really easy to hook up to a hotel’s TV, or if you’re staying over at a friend’s house and they go to bed early, and I’m assuming it’s more powerful than a standard cell. So, it may not have it all, but it seems like a device that can give you a quick, more immersive gaming fix. And I don’t know 100% about it but since it’s Android, I’m assuming you can use Netflix and music streaming apps, too, right?

  2. Can it run games through a browser? There are plenty of decent MMOs out there that are browser-based. That upcoming steampunk game is just one example.

  3. You can plug in a usb keyboard by the way. I was hooking mine up and it lost wifi connection and wouldnt reconnect after i had put in all the information. To reconnect to the wifi, i had to wipe what i had typed. SO I decided to plug in the keyboard i had lying around to save some time on the second go through, and it worked just fine.

  4. I’m a PC gamer too, so the “killer app” for Ouya for me is Kainy. It’s basically a remote desktop program that allows you to play your PC through your Ouya (or iOS/Android device). I was skeptical, but it actually works quite well over wifi. It takes a little programming to get it the controller mapped to keyboard inputs (I was hoping it would allow me to just use the controller as a controller, but no such luck as far as I can tell), but it’s not that bad. There’s a little latency, so don’t try to play anything that needs lightning reactions, but I’ve been able to play Skyrim well enough.

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