While Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo hog all the headlines with their consoles, other companies are quietly making consoles looking to sneak in as the next big thing. The OUYA would like to be the next big game system. The OUYA actually stole headlines in 2012 when it raised over $8 million on Kickstarter. When OUYA was finally released in 2013, it had its initial growing pains. Eventually the OUYA found its’ footing and has been gaining momentum at a decent pace.
Now OUYA Inc. is introducing a new 16GB model. The new OUYA has the same internal hardware, just double the storage and boosted WiFi performance. Never having played with an OUYA, OUYA Inc. was nice enough to provide me with a review unit to evaluate the OUYA experience.
The first impression of the unit is its size. It’s tiny. In the gallery you'll find a picture I took of it next to a coffee mug. It's teeny compared to the rest of the home consoles on the market. Internally it has an nVIDIA Tegra 3 - T33 Quad-Core Processorfor its CPU, 1GB of RAM, and the 16GB of previously mentioned Flash memory storage. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet capabilities and outputs via HDMI up to 1080p. It runs a modified version of the Android 4.1 (Jellybean) operating system (OS). It comes with one Bluetooth controller with a layout very similar to the Xbox 360 controller, the face buttons are labeled (starting at the bottom and rotating clockwise) "O," "U," "Y," and "A" as opposed to "A," "X," "Y," "B." While it's overall look is similar to the Xbox 360 controller, the handgrips on the OUYA controller are broader giving the user a bit of initial discomfort. As with most new controllers, the more I used it the less it bothered me. An interesting side note, because the OUYA chose to use Bluetooth connectivity for its controllers the Sony's Dualshock 3 controllers (also Bluetooth) are compatible with the OUYA and easily pair up. The Xbox 360 wired controller could also be used with the OUYA by just plugging into the USB port. The Xbox 360 wireless controllers can be used with the OUYA too, but only if you have the PC wireless adapter for them.
Setting up the OUYA was a snap. Plug it in, connect it to your HDTV, turn it on, set up the wireless, and create an OUYA account. I had the misconception that the OUYA was going to be a system full of phone apps, because it runs on an Android OS. Happily I was wrong. Out of the box the OUYA does not have access to the Google Play store, in fact it only has access to the OUYA store with games and apps specifically made for it.
One of the OUYA's selling points is that it is an open system. This means that it can be opened up, modified, and software compatible with Android can be loaded onto it. In fact if you wanted to you can "root" the system for complete control. None of which will void the warranty. One way OUYA Inc. encourages this is with the ability to create your own software for it right out of the box. Every OUYA unit is a developers unit. No licensing fees need to be paid; all you need is the programming know-how.
This brings us to the games. The games in the OUYA store run the gambit of quality and fun to cheap and silly, just like any phone or computer app store. This is especially notable with the fact that anyone can make a game or app for the OUYA. OUYA Inc.’s only requirement is that any app or game in their store must have a "free to play" element, be it a free trial or the entire game is free and has purchasable upgrades such as levels, items, or other types of downloadable content. This allows a "try before you buy" kind of system that I personally really like. This type of “free to play”system is uniquely suited for the OUYA store where some games can be really questionable. While there are some duds, just like in any other console market, there are some really great games too. Some big name game companies have also released games on the OUYA, like Square Enix with the HD version of Final Fantasy III. You can’t forget the smaller companies’ gems, like Tasty Poison Games. They have released two games I'm currently enjoying on there, the first person shooter Neon Shadow and the dungeon crawler Pocket RPG. The sound and visual quality of the games on the OUYA store are as good as anything you find in Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo's online markets.
Overall I came away very impressed with the OUYA system. It shows that it has the capabilities to be an excellent home console, plus with its small size and ease of set up it could easily be taken to a friend or family member's house. Additionally, the price is right. Hundreds less than the current gen consoles, you really can't go wrong. As more people program games for the OUYA, things can only get better. I highly recommend getting an OUYA.
The OUYA is available now in 8GB and 16GB models. For more information check out theOUYA web site.