Everything you need to know about Ouya, the new home console based on Android 4.0, costing only $99.
When last did the games industry, more specifically the console model see a disruption? You can’t remember. That’s how long. Can Ouya, the $99 Android-based video game console change the game and cause Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, the big three to alter their strategies in response? The people backing Ouya sure think so.
Here’s Ouya core creator and former IGN veteran Julie Uhrman:
“We don’t think the console-makers are dead. We just think it’s time to rethink how they do their business. We don’t like it when people pay $60 for a game and feel cheated. We don’t like it when developers can’t work on a platform because it’s too expensive.”
Ouya, a fully hackable console with the same Tegra 3 chip as the new Nexus 7 tablet and a twin-stick controller that also includes a touchpad, is being pitched as a platform for both indies and big companies, a console that is fully open to develop for and one on which every game will be free either initially as a demo or as a free-to-play game.
The new console however will only be made with crowd-funding, so today Uhrman and her team, which includes early Xbox pioneer Ed Fries and One Laptop Per Child designer Yves Behar, are calling on gamers the world over to help them on the crowd-funding service Kickstarter. They’re asking for $950,000 over the next 29 days. If they hit their goal, they’re promising their new console by March 2013.
The Time Is Right
Now’s the right time to release the console, contends Uhrman, the avid gamer and former boss of IGN’s downloadable games division recognizes a “brain drain” among console developers. She sees top talent opting out of the expensive business of making games for PlayStations, Xboxs, and Wiis, for more creative freedom and better profits. That market is mobile, where tablets and Smartphones rule the day – the problem with that is, those new games being made by breakaway developers don’t run on TVs, and without a controller.
Ouya would work just like an Android platform: “Every console is a debug kit,” Uhrman reckons, making clear one of many distinctions between her console and the big three’s.
The current model, Uhrman believes, stifles creativity and is out of sync with the current trend (simply take a look at Apple’s app store and Google play). “I see unbelievable indie content out there, and watching ‘Indie Game the Movie’ and watching their faces as they wait for Microsoft to approve [their game], it just didn’t make any sense.”
The new console will be open and its backers are looking forward to what geeks will be able to do with it.
“We decided, ‘let’s take this as far as it can go,” Uhrman said. “So if you want to go in and hack the box, go ahead and do it. We hope you do it.”
“The circuit board will have well-documented test points. People can swap out chips, add, etc. We may even publish the hardware design if enough people are curious. Because Ouya will also have Bluetooth and a USB, hardware hobbyists can also make their own peripherals (someone already suggested pinball controls to us). Regarding the software, you’ll be able to root the device easily. It won’t void your warranty. Every unit has a debug console. We are even working on the idea of a “plant”—which will restore your profile after rooting your device (reverse your root). Because it’s built on Android, you’ll understand the source code well, too. (Obviously if a hacker roots the device, our integrated user experience and game store will no longer be available while the device is rooted — so there is, as always, a tradeoff between customizing your device and enjoying the benefits of standardization. We expect the true hackers to be an elite, but small proportion of the total number of people who buy the box. Most people will probably just use the standard setup.)”
Ouya Specs: Ouya Specs
Tegra 3: Quadcore ARM CortexA9 + GPU
1 GB LPDDR2 RAM
8 GB on-board flash
HDMI connection to the TV at 1080p HD
Bluetooth LE 4.0
Enclosure opens with standard screws
No disc drive
Wireless controller with 2.4Ghz RF
Standard game controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button)
Touchpad, for porting mobile games more easily
2x AA batteries
Enclosure opens with standard screws
OS and Software
Custom TV UI
Integrated custom game store — find and download games (and other apps)
Includes SDK for game development
Ability to root device without voiding warranty
“We believe this is really the people’s console and we want to get their support,” said. “More importantly, we need the money. If the world does not support this we will not exist.”
Are you in? If so, show your support on Kickstarter.