Mention the phrase ‘upcoming consoles’ and most would think of the successors to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
or Wii U
However, a fourth console option that seems to have come out of nowhere, the Ouya, is in the works and making considerable waves in the game industry.
As of today, the Android-based Ouya, which is a Kickstarter project
, has raised a substantial $5.7 million (R46.5 million) in less than a month, accruing some 45000 backers and widespread media coverage
. For a Kickstarter initiative, this is particularly impressive, as well as promising in its own right of potential sales success when it launches.
Reasons for potential success
The reason for the Ouya’s popularity may well be three fold. Firstly, the console, which is currently just a prototype, is priced at $99 (R800) when it does go to market, possibly as early as September. As we have seen time and again, price matters, and an accessible price that is accompanied by decent hardware, can make all the difference between a company selling plenty of its product, or fighting an uphill sales battle.
The Ouya technical specifications include Tegra 3 quad core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB of internal flash storage, an HDMI connection to the TV, which will support up to 1080p HD, and one USB 2 port.
The console itself will run on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and will be accompanied by a wireless controller with the familiar layout of two analog sticks, a d-pad, and eight action buttons.
The Ouya console is both futuristic looking, and more than a little reminiscent of a Rubic's cube.
Secondly, the Ouya’s primary purpose is to bring games that are freely available on the Android market, or competitively priced by Android developers, to one’s TV screen. According to the company, the one requirement of developers is that at least some gameplay has to be free.
Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask players to subscribe. This has proved to be popular on mobile devices, where games start in price from as little as a few rands.
Thirdly, it may be indie game developers' dream come true - an affordable, easy way into users’ living rooms rather than just mobile devices, without the need for the megamillions which triple A and other console game publishers routinely invest.
Open is in
According to the founder of Ouya, Julie Uhrman, even as games developed for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become undeniably popular, games are still optimally experienced on a large screen.
With the Ouya, the company is hoping to attract creative, innovative developers who have flocked to creating mobile and social games.To this end,the console is intended to take advantage of the open nature of the Android market, while offering developers another way of bypassing the obstacles normally associated with bringing a console game to market.
Additionally, the console itself would be fully hackable, and hacker friendly, meaning that hackers would be able to root the device without voiding their warranty,
To the point
Even so, Uhrman has made no claim of taking on already established consoles. Instead, it appears that Ouya wants to shake up the games market and make console gaming on a TV screen at least as accessible as it is on mobile devices. That can only be good news for the games industry in general and game lovers in particular.