Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Game Console on the Horizon: The Ouya

By Matt Heston

The Ouya game console is a piece of hardware that merits everyone's attention, though I can't say for sure it also merits everyone's business. Funded by crowdsourcing from Kickstarter, it seems to have everything  gamers, tech geeks, and even the casual market could want. 99 dollar price point? Check. Easy to modify hardware? Check. All games coming with some free-to-play aspect? Check. On paper, the Ouya is possibly one of the most revolutionary game consoles to come out this last decade. To be fair, though, Nintendo's Virtual Boy was pretty revolutionary for it's time, too.

There's a lot of rumor and gossip surrounding the Ouya, and it might be difficult to sort the fact from the fiction. It has plenty of supporters, not including the massive number of people that funded it somewhere around 8 million dollars, the graphics card company Nvidia has been hyping up Ouya as well as game developer Square Enix. The fact that both Nvidia and Square Enix have a stake in the Ouya (the console is being built with Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip, and Square's Final Fantasy III is one of the console's big release titles), shouldn't necessarily be treated with cynicism. The fact that the developers managed to partner with such big names is interesting enough by itself, considering this console is being made by a brand new company led by some relatively unknown names.

Though there are plenty who are trumpeting the Ouya from every mountain-top, there are still an equal number of cynics asking what the catch is. There are a few common arguments brought against it, the first being that it isn’t a “true” gaming console. The Ouya’s hardware, along with it’s Android operating system, can really only only run games you would find on your smartphone or tablet. For me, this isn’t a problem technically but rather merely potential pitfall.

There is a huge mobile market and the success of Google Play, iTunes, and the Windows App Market shows that there is plenty of business with inexpensive games that don’t require a lot of processing power, but expectation is everything. If the Ouya isn’t properly marketed, people looking to get the newest console with graphics to rival current gen competitors like the Wii U, Playstation 3, or Xbox 360, are going to see what the Ouya can do and be disappointed and let it pass by.

With the Ouya expected to release sometime in June, the buzz about it, both positive and negative, will only get louder and more fervent. For whatever my opinion is worth, I hope to see the little console succeed. Historically, it’s been incredibly difficult to release a successful gaming console and the big names have taken advantage of the lack of competition to glut the market with their safe bets and triple-A games with as much depth and integrity as a summer blockbuster movie. If the Ouya succeeds, we might see a brand new market of games that were once too risky to develop. Though, if the Ouya fails, I’ll just go back to the game I recently downloaded on my phone for a similar experience.

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