Today is a perfect day to get you acquainted with one of the most awaited Android projects that should change the way we see mobile games. Not that long time ago a couple of developers have posted their creative idea about a gaming console running Android and called it OUYA. Their task was to collect 1,000,000$ but they already have gone too far with $8,596,474. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Well, by the end of this year major developers and those who preordered their OUYAs should receive the console and can actually start diving deep into the process of hacking, flashing, constructing, developing and whatsoever. And while they are working, we are going to take a closer look at the console itself and will study its potential.
For some reason I do not want to start with the specs and would actually like to describe its look. So far there are two versions of the console: the first one comes in plastic transparent box no bigger than a mug cup or a standard Rubik’s cubic. It is so small that it can be called “Portable”. The other, consumer’s version, will appear in a lot more beautiful design with glowing lights, gentle curves and a lot better plastic. The reason for this difference is that the first model is oriented on developers and it’s all up to them to hack it, turn apart, upgrade and do whatever it takes to make the Android gaming better. Consumers do not need that opportunity but still – with a proper screwdriver you can get inside and do whatever’s on your mind. As a matter of fact, OUYA is developers’ friendly and every console is a dev kit. No need to purchase a license or an expensive SDK – it’s built on Android, so developers already know how it works. Moreover – it won’t affect your warranty which is a great bonus.
Gamepads also deserve a lot of credit for being gamer friendly. Well, they kind of remind Xbox gamepads but still have some differences. One of the main changes is a 3-inch touch panel that will become useful considering Android’s nature. What I do like about the pad is that its battery pack will be hidden in one (or both) handles which will make everything look accurate.
Now let’s take a look at the hardware, ports and other useful stuff packed inside and outside the OUYA. I will start with my favorite – the quad-core Tegra-3 based processor clocked at 1.2 or 1.5 GHz (that is still to be verified). The next nice thing in the list is 1GB of RAM memory. Well, it could have been 2GB (for future perspective) but I am pretty sure that you won’t have any problems playing games and watching HD movies. 8 GB of inbuilt memory will be more than enough for a couple of games but, of course, you can increase it with microSD cards. Among other things you will find Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n connectivity, Bluetooth LE 4.0 connectivity, Ethernet port, HDMI port, one full USB port, microUSB port (for charging, syncing with PC and else), 3.5 mini Jack and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on the board. Obviously, there will be a bit modified version of Android with a special interface but thanks to the open SDK you will be able to root and flash it with something else if necessary.
I do hope that with the custom OUYA interface we will be able to switch to the “naked” Android or, at least, have access to Google Play with all the great games and applications out there. But even if not – there will be its own market where gamers will be offer to try out new games for free, rent them or download and play as long as they want. While some developers will be working on OUYA friendly games only, I do believe that those already available will be optimized for gamepads. Otherwise – some of the great titles will be lost forever. Also, thanks to Android’s nature, I am pretty sure that you will be able to install .apk files right from microSD cards or with the help of USB flash drives – this should not be an issue.
If optimized correctly, playing some of the Android titles with gamepads will be just amazing. If you recall, in our previous posts we’ve been talking about Archos GamePad and its panel with inbuilt controllers. Archos used its own technology to optimize or, better to say – “redirect” virtual navigation on the pad. The best part – game developers do not even have to do anything because the software has already covered their backs. I do believe that something like this will be done with the OUYA. Well, whom am I kidding – there definitely will be. But the only thing that keeps bothering me is if the useless onscreen controllers will totally disappear or still will be visible?
I do believe that Onlive Service requires no introduction but if you still do not know what it is – I will explain in a few words to help you get the general idea. Onlive allows you to play any games online no matter how poor your computer’s specs are. All you have to do is to download an app, register and then pick what you want to play. The most important thing here is stable internet connection. Of course, playing games is not free but you can either buy or rent them spending much less than you would spend getting it on DVD. The best part – you can always try the game out for free and 30 minutes of gameplay will be more than enough to see if you need this game or not.
Unfortunately, for some reason (despite all the expectations and believes) Onlive service appeared to be unprofitable and it was sold for a couple of millions. I am not sure why this has happened but, probably, because of the market flooded with consoles like Xbox 360, PS3 and PC that, to some point, are still better than the service. But OUYA with its openness and Android with its kindness can actually save the service from going down. As a matter of fact, even today you can download the Onlive App on almost any Android device and enjoy playing great games. Lots of them are not optimized for touch-screen input but that’s a long road to walk. But, with gamers’ friendly controllers and stable internet connectivity Android users can turn their $99 devices into a powerful gaming console with access to the most popular and awaited game titles in the world. As I’ve said – this is a long road to walk but more than likely to end with great results.
Launch and Price
As I’ve accidently mentioned above – this console will be sold for $99. Of course, after it appears in the stores, you can expect the price to jump a bit but even with another hundred over $99 this will still be a steal. Boxer8 responsible for creating OUYA has already started shipping consoles to developers. As for the regular customers, they should have their wallets prepared for preorders that will start in March of 2013. By the end of April OUYA should appear on the store shelves all over the world.
If you need a bit more detailed information on the project, here’s OUYAs official site.