Gadchick Reviews: Ouya

The idea for the Ouya was launched on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter a little over a year ago on July 10, 2012. The tagline for the proposed gadget was “A new kind of video game console.” The more you read about it, the believable it becomes that the Ouya was completely funded in the first 8 hours of its month-long Kickstarter campaign.

The Ouya is a micro console that runs on a modified version of the Android operating system. This means that the games in the Ouya library are downloadable, much like mobile games in a smartphone application store. It means that both the software and hardware of the Ouya are completely open to modification; in fact, the manufacturer encourages tinkering with the console. Even means that you can run a number of emulators on the device, which allows you to play games from vintage and handheld consoles like the Nintendo 64 or the Gameboy.

Operating system: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
System-on-chip: Nvidia Tegra 3
CPU: 1.7 GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9
Storage capacity: 8 GB internal flash memory
Display: HDMI (1080p, 720p)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce ULP GPU
Input: USB 2.0 (one), Micro USB
Controller input: wireless
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth LE 4.0; Ethernet port

Let's look at the pro's and con's on this new console. 

-It's cheap. At only $99 for the console with one controller, the Ouya is at a pretty sweet price point, plus with a library of free games and demos isn't something many will regret.
-Every game is downloadable. No more gas or time wasted browsing at GameStop or Best Buy. Whenever you’re in front of the television, you can be surfing through the Ouya’s library of games (360 and growing) and picking out new ones to try.
-Every game is free to try. Every game for the Ouya is free to download and play. Have a credit card ready on file to start downloading, but won’t be charged until a game is purchased. There’s no rule to how the purchasing itself works—some games are demos with a set amount to play before paying for more; some offer extras on a pay-as-you-go basis, like mobile games’ “in-app purchases”; others have flexible pay-to-play price point, more like a “pay-what-you-can-to-play”. If you don’t want to pay at all, it’s completely possible to get hours of gameplay without spending a penny.

-It feels cheap. Or at least, the controller does. The controller is made of light plastic and lacks the weight of popular controllers. It made annoying squeaking sounds when you pressed certain buttons, and the design of the controller, while innovative, could use improvements: the touchpad in the center is a cool feature, but it can get in the way of play, and just getting the batteries in was confusing because you have to pull the arms of the controller apart (they're held together by strong magnets).
-Downloading takes time. Waiting for downloads is unavoidable no matter what the context, but it’s still frustrating. I would start a download and have to stay on that screen until the game was done because any attempt to go back to browsing during that time would freeze the system and require a re-start, often at the loss of downloading progress. A recent update has enabled me to browse while downloading, but the Ouya will still freeze if I try to download several games and continue browsing all at once.
-The price points of games are unclear. There is a comprehensive range of options for paying to play, depending on the game, but no price points—in fact, no real information—is given to the user on any given game’s description page. A short description and perhaps a screenshot or two is all you get. This can make for a fun surprise sometimes, but it’s also frustrating if you’re looking for something particular or want to know what you’re getting into.

So who should try the Ouya? 

-New gamers or gamers with kids. Ouya would be a great starter system for someone who isn’t really a “gamer” but is curious.. It’s inexpensive and offers free games in a wide range of genres. It’s not a huge investment, and it could be a reasonable gift for a kid you want to keep off your more expensive consoles.
-Handheld or mobile devotees who want to try console gaming. Its form and function make it one step up from handheld systems like the Nintendo DS and the PSP, or smart phones with mobile games. Mobile gamers in particular will find the Ouya’s download-only system of purchasing games comforting and familiar.
-Gamers on a budget. As a college student,  myself, I can think of several ways in which the Ouya is perfect for gamers who are currently on a strict budget. Saving $100 for the Ouya is a lot easier than saving several times that for one of the “big” consoles. The Ouya can’t replace, or compete with, the PlayStation or the Xbox, but it could be plenty satisfactory for the poor college student needing a quick video game fix. The lower price also means you won’t be out as many if the console is stolen or broken.
-Gamers who love to travel.. The portability of the Ouya really comes into play here. Traveling and console gaming aren’t two things that can readily mix; you can’t really just throw your Xbox and a controller in your carry-on bag and be on your way. But the Ouya could fit in something as small as a medium-size purse, and since all you need to use it is a TV with an HDMI port, a power outlet and a WiFi network, it’ll be easy to set up in any hotel room.
From my experience with the Ouya, I’ve come to the conclusion that this game system is for a certain type of person—or several certain types of people, really. Which one are you? You can buy the Ouya here for $99.

OUYA Console


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