What's the Ouya and Should You Buy It?

What's the Ouya and Should You Buy It?

On July 3, 2012 the world was introduced to the Ouya. With an interesting and charismatic Kickstarter video and the promise of bringing gaming back to the couch, backers were eager to send their money towards the Ouya’s production.  Over $8 million later the promise of the Ouya was becoming a reality. A little less than a year later and the Ouya was being shipped out to backers as a beta, of sorts. Normally, when a gamer hears the word “beta” they think of a free experience that helps developers hone in on problems and fix any last minute kinks before their product becomes finalized. Things are a bit different with the Ouya; the only way to beta test a console is to get it out to the public. This is both the most exciting and most disappointing feature of the Ouya as its unfinished feel is a promise of potential and a detriment of poor development.

What’s in the box? (The hardware of the Ouya)

I was one of the many. I paid $99 to receive an Ouya ahead of schedule because I wanted to have something to report on early. Unfortunately, my Ouya didn’t arrive in March like I had expected. Instead it showed up at my door about halfway through May, with a little more than a month until the actual product’s retail release. The Ouya arrived in a black box that was not unlike a shoebox of sorts. When slid open the box revealed a red sign that read “Thanks for believing” and underneath was the Ouya, a controller, a HDMI cable, and a couple of AA batteries. Plugging in the device was pretty simple, even if the HDMI cable and power cord are a bit short for my liking, and getting the Ouya up and running proved rather easy.

The Ouya is tiny, measuring in as a 2.95 inch cube it’s not going to stand out as a console or a set piece of any kind. That’s not a bad thing, merely the facts. In fact, I enjoy the Ouya’s tiny size as it’s easy to move around and its overall design is quite sexy. While the Ouya itself is fine it’s the controller I have a lot of issues with. The controller is designed to mirror the comfortable feel of an Xbox 360 controller mixed with the originality of a controller developer. While that sounds good the finished products is flawed; the triggers feel a bit off in terms of tightness, the D-Pad is atrocious (which seems common place in today’s world), and face buttons get stuck under the face plate of the controller too often. While the last of the issues has been taken care of that doesn’t excuse the company for shipping out controllers that are essentially useless. With the last of those issues fixed that still leaves a controller that just doesn’t stand up to the competition in terms of quality and feel. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the controller has a small touch pad on the center of it that is used to control a mouse or tap in touch-based games. I found this feature to be unnecessary in my hours with the Ouya.

So many games!? (The software of the Ouya)

481 confirmed games. That’s what Ouya promised and that sounds really exciting. It sounds exciting until you realize that a large majority of the games are ports from Android platforms. Playing games like Saturday Morning RPG, Final Fantasy 3, and Bombsquad on a television is just strange. These are games developed for tablets and phones, stretching them out to fit a 50” television makes them feel unnatural and odd. The other issue with many of the games on the Ouya so far is that, with the exception of Final Fantasy 3, these are bite-sized games that don’t feel as though they warrant a sit down and play session. That isn’t to say these games are bad, quite the opposite, but rather that these games serve their purpose better on a small mobile platform rather than a television. As of now the Ouya is missing unique indie games that can make the console interesting and unique, it needs to become its own entity rather than a port machine.

Speaking of ports, the Ouya has gotten quite a bit of press for being quite good at running emulators. As of now there are a handful of different emulators that can emulate NES, SNES, Genesis, and N64 games as well. With a promise of playing those games on a TV many people feel interested in the Ouya for its “less than legal” potential. I am interested to see what becomes a product of the time when the open source crowd gets a hold of the Ouya and its possibilities. While emulators are fun I still have a problem playing them on a third-party system when downloading them to a PC is so simple, not to mention you can get a controller specific replica for $10 to $15 on Amazon and have the time of your life.

One of the best experiences I had on the Ouya, surprisingly, was launching up and fiddling with the TwitchTV app. The app was extremely easy to navigate in terms of specific games or specific channels and within a few seconds I could be watching a stream of DOTA 2, Dark Souls, or any other game that TwitchTV is showing at the moment. I hadn’t used TwitchTV a ton at that point but using it on the Ouya made it quite a fun and enjoyable experience.

$100 Ain’t so bad…is it? (What the Ouya is so far)

On June 25th the Ouya will become available at major retailers for $100. As of now I don’t see the product being worth the investment. That sounds harsh but I mean in more in the sense that the console isn’t properly finished yet. The model I received from Kickstarter still has some kinks to work out both physically and development wise. The controller is currently being fixed, both for future buyers and backers, but that doesn’t solve the main issue I have with the Ouya. As it stands the Ouya is much like the Wii U in my eyes; it’s missing unique titles that standout and make buyers say “I need to buy this console for this game!” With an open platform and the potential to become the “indie” console the Ouya has promise, it’s just not fully realized at this point and time.