Is Ouya The Future Of Gaming?


In case there’s anyone who still hasn’t heard, sometime next year there will be a new entrant in the console war. This one isn’t made made by a major game company, won’t feature the latest and greatest technology, and will ship with a modest price tag of $99. This console is called Ouya (pronounced OOO-yah) and is being designed and developed by a an-star team of industry experts, including Julie Uhrman and Yves Béhar. Their goal for this project is stated on their kickstarter page; they plan to revolutionize the home console industry, shifting the focus from major developers and publishers to small developers, home gamers, and anyone who may want to tinker with their console. On top of that, each game developed for the Ouya must have aspect that is free-to-play, whether it be a demo or the full game.

The initial response to the announcement and the Kickstarter campaign was overwhelming, and many questions arose regarding the potential of the console. The campaign launched asking for $950 thousand, a number was was surpassed in less than eight hours, showing that many had faith in the console and supported the idea of ‘open gaming.’ Others were more skeptical, wondering why more information hadn’t been released when the campaign kicked off. There was no controller, only an image which displayed half of one possible design. There were no confirmed games, although the Kickstarter page made it seem like Minecraft was guaranteed to be on the console. Some feared the android-based console would only further fragment the android app market.

At this point, several of these questions have been responded to, and Ouya's funding has surpassed $8.5 million. At the close of its kickstarter campaign comes, over 63,000 backers have shown support for this project and the progress it has made since been announced last July. As of this writing, the Ouya team has revealed the prototype hardware design and specs, confirmed several games and apps for the console, and announced additions to the development team.

The controller bears some resemblance to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller, featuring two analog sticks, a d-pad, eight action buttons and a system button. Initially the buttons were not very distinct, but after feedback from fans and supporters, the four face buttons are named O-U-Y-A. In addition, there is a touchpad positioned near the center of the controller, which should simplify the process of porting apps from other android devices. The controller will run wirelessly with a 2.4GHz RF, and will not use bluetooth.

The first game officially announced for the Ouya is a prequel to Human Element, a post-apocalyptic survival game developed by Robotoki, an independent developer based in Los Angeles. The company was founded recently by Robert Bowling, who previously worked as the creative strategist and community developer for the Call of Duty franchise. The prequel will released exclusively for the Ouya, and will focus on the events of a zombie outbreak, while Human Element will take place 35 years later. The second exclusive game announced comes from a more familiar franchise. Ouya has partnered with Square Enix, and will offer a remake of Final Fantasy III. Until its DS remake was released in 2006, this game was unavailable in the United States, which makes this the first time the game can be played on a US home console. The release will not be a direct port, but will instead make use of the console’s high-definition output. Those who have never played the game and are unsure about buying it can test it if they like, as a free demo of the game will be offered.

Since the Ouya is android-based, it can run many apps other than games. As previously announced OnLive will have native Ouya support at launch, and hundreds of games will be playable on the Ouya through this partnership. TwitchTV will be available as well, allowing gamers to watch live streams of their favorite games and game-related events. Additionally, music lovers will be glad to know that Ouya has partnered with both VEVO, the music video streaming giant, and ClearChannel’s iHeartRadio, a radio station streaming service. With VEVO, users will be able to choose from over 50,000 music videos to stream live and in HD on their consoles. iHeartRadio allows access to over 1,000 live radio stations from across America, and users can also personalize their own stations by choosing a song or artist, and using the “Discovery Tuner” to decide how much variety they would like.

More games in development also have the possibility of being available for the Ouya. The german developer Black Forest Games is currently working on a game with the working title of Project Giana. The original Giana game, titled The Great Giana Sisters, was a Super Mario Bros. clone released in 1987.  and was eventually withdrawn from shelves due to complaints from Nintendo. In the new release, Giana returns for classic 2D platforming “with a twist.” Giana can perform a twist that changes her appearance as well as altering the dream world in which the game takes place. By switching between the dream and nightmare worlds, Giana can avoid obstacles, smash enemies, and access hidden areas. If the Kickstarter campaign raises $300,000 - double their goal for a PC launch, the game will also be developed for Ouya.

As the company is user-oriented, Julie Uhrman has gone to the social website Reddit to answer many questions herself. The following are some of the top questions and answers, as voted on by other Reddit members.

Trioptical: How do you plan to tackle to content discoverability problem that plagues current digital content stores?

Julie: This is definitely one of the most important things for us. We have the advantage of being mostly focused on games, we won’t have lots of other categories to deal with. So we’ll try to do the standard stuff: top games by popularity, for example. But we’re also looking at grouping by genre, doing OUYA’s picks, seeing some unknown finds that the community surfaces. But this is going to evolve, we will have to learn as we go. Tracking usage instead of just sales is a great idea -- we have to think on that more.

ChrisActually: I'm mainly concerned (interested, not worried) about the various online features that will be available. Primarily, will there be a web-browser included at launch? And if not, maybe sometime down the road? Also, what can we expect for the community aspects of the console (friend-list, achievements/trophies/other-name-for-in-game-accomplishments, etc.)? Thanks for all you're doing! Can't wait to get my hands on OUYA!

Julie: We are working to include a web browser in time for launch -- we do think we’ll do one it’s just a matter of resourcing. As for community, we have plans to build lots, but at launch it will probably be pretty simple. Thanks for supporting us!

TheJackalMan: What is the planned life cycle of the ouya as a console? Will new versions be released as the technology advances?

Julie: We are still figuring that out, it’s just too early in the product [sic] lifecyle to predict how this will evolve. We think this hardware will be plenty powerful to last a while -- there is always something new that comes out, but having a simple, open product that developers can build on is more important.

As more questions are answered, more arise, and there is still much uncertainty and speculation around this console. As the launch date draws closer, the Ouya team is in a feedback loop of sorts. The more support they receive, the better the console will be, and as more features, titles and specs are announced, support for this innovative project will grow. Developer kits are expected to ship in December, and the public launch has been announced as March 2013.

Via KickStarter and Reddit

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