With Ouya’s Kickstarter page going live yesterday, people have been asking me what I thought of the new console. I’ve had some time to think it over, and I keep coming to the same conclusion. The Ouya is little more than a smartphone masquerading as a home console. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just what it is.
Lets start with the hardware. It’s near-identical to what’s found in the current generation of smartphones and tablets. Nothing about it is really impressive. It’s CPU, the Terga3, was specifically designed for mobile devices, specifically audio and video. Its a 32-bit multicore ARM architecture with a very small cache. In theory, it’s nearly as powerful as a current-generation console. The Terga3, however, was designed to be very low in power consumption. But since the Ouya is plugged in at all times, it can be pushed harder than a tablet would. How much they’re able to take advantage of this fact and optimize it has yet to be seen.
What really troubles me though, is the small amount of internal disk space the Ouya has. With only 8GB of internal space, even less when you take into consideration of system files, and no dvd drive in sight, any dream that it could compete with an Xbox, Playstation or Wii is killed. Between high-resolution textures, audio and cutscenes, 8GB fills up incredibly fast. Unless you’re an indie title, most modern games take up between 5-10GB. With such a restriction you severely limit the size you want games to be on your platform. Even if you’re able to attach an external hard drive, publishers like EA or Activision wouldn’t force such a requirement to play their games. They have never required extra hardware to run their game on a console before and wouldn’t start now.
What’s most baffling above all, is why it runs Android. If you were serious about “disrupting” the industry, you don’t half-ass it and choose a mobile OS to power your home entertainment system. You have the freedom to use any variation of Linux you want, and you choose Android? By no means is Android a bad OS. It’s great for tablets and phones, it just hasn’t been proven as a viable gaming platform yet. And let’s face it, game companies are lazy and greedy. Why would they choose to waste the time to port a full game to another platform, when they can easily make minimal changes to their IOS/Android game?
The Zeebo Clone?
What everyone seems to also overlook is the Zeebo. A few years ago, Zeebo Inc released an inexpensive console to developing countries. The premise of it was to be an affordable home console system. To keep costs low, it’s architecture was very similar to the Ouya. Unlike the Ouya however, they had agreements with EA and Capcom. And while it has reached moderate success, the only games that ever made it to the console were ports of existing mobile games. I can only hope large publishers will take notice of Ouya’s Kickstarter popularity, and the additional money being raised will go to fund deals with them.
When you look at the big picture, this will be the platform for indie developers and small/casual games. And you know what? I’m perfectly happy with that. I will never see it as a replacement for Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, but for $99, its a pretty cheap investment. Not to mention there are mobile-only apps that I would much prefer playing on a big screen instead of a handheld.