The gaming industry has seen tremendous growth these past few years, largely precipitated by the increasing technological advancements of hardware and the ushering in of the era of the smartphone.
When developers and manufacturers began broadening their user demographics to incorporate gamers and tech-savvy enthusiasts, they had no idea that they were about to revolutionise the mobile game market forever.
Apple iOS and Android have made considerable efforts to appeal to people of all ages with their powerful devices capable of delivering addictive and awe-inspiring experiences to both the casual and hardcore market.
Today, the smartphone and tablet markets present gaming features as one of the most crucial attractions of their merchandise. Moreover, game companies are also trying to capitalise on the thriving mobile market in order to reap more benefits. Indeed, big budget releases on the smartphone/tablet market (Mass Effect: Infiltrator, Infinity Blade) as well as highly profitable casual games (Angry Birds, TempleRun) have shown plenty of potential.
Ouya – first Android gaming console
Julie Uhrman, a veteran in the video game industry who previously worked for GameFly and IGN, wanted to take things a few steps ahead. After creating the tech group Boxer8 and bringing onboard noted designer and founder of the Fuseproject firm Yves Béhar, Uhrman announced that Boxer8 would be developing a new gaming console that would utilise the Android OS to bring games right into your living room.
The project was dubbed ‘Ouya’ and a Kickstarter page was created on July 10, 2012. Boxer8 envisioned a console that would bring an open-ended and easy-to-develop framework within its core functionality, much like the mobile market, all for an extremely cost-effective price.
The basic principle was to have mobile content delivered straight to the comfort of your living room and pave the way for consumers to enjoy gaming on a platform that was built on over-the-air play. The Ouya console defied conventions by being completely open-source and guaranteeing accessibility not only to the consumer in terms of digital content, but also to the developers interested in tinkering with the system, both on the software and hardware level.
To this end, the Ouya advertised itself as a console that can be rooted and modded to any degree, making it a dream-come-true for plenty of tech enthusiasts.
Thus Ouya was born with its faithful adherence to the community, and the results were truly astonishing. Word spread quickly and Ouya began attracting more and more people to its pages. Within roughly eight hours of its inception, Ouya had achieved its Kickstarter fundraising goal, attracting a backer almost every six seconds for the first 24 hours.
The support for the new product was so immense that it paved the way for Ouya to become the eighth project on the website to raise more than one million US dollars and become the quickest-funded project to date.
With a price point of only 99 US dollars and promise of international shipping by April 2013, Ouya caught the eye of many budget gamers, which was further compounded by its policy to have games incorporate some form of free-to-play model.
It wasn’t just gamers who were excited about the console as numerous developers, publishers and service providers began pledging their support for the system. Most notable of these are Square Enix’s announcement of making Final Fantasy III a launch title for Ouya, Namco Bandai’s interest in developing for the console, and Robert Bowling’s new studio Robotoki developing an exclusive game for it.
Additionally, Ouya will have support for a number of popular services such as OnLive, XBMC, Twitch.tv, Plex Media Server and VEVO. The Ouya craze has taken the world by storm, with the console closing out its Kickstarter funding with a whopping 8.5million US dollars in August, making it the second-highest grossing product in the website’s history.
The nuts and bolts
From a technical standpoint, Ouya houses some pretty impressive hardware. The console is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip and a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, with 1GB of onboard RAM and 8GB of internal storage.
The system comes packed with an HDMI-out for 1080p display, an Ethernet port, one USB port, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. It also comes with a controller with the usual analogue sticks, d-pad, face and shoulder buttons and a touchpad.
The console itself is very small and lightweight, enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and can be easily opened with any normal screwdriver. Best of all, the Ouya system is completely open, meaning developers are free to develop for and modify their system as they see fit, with all the software tools needed to build your own program included with the console.
This eliminates the need for hefty licensing fees and costly SKUs that most other consoles require. Ouya also has its own dedicated online store where apps can be submitted, published and downloaded for the user, making it a great system for those wishing to get into the gaming or app-development market.
Ouya certainly is an exciting and innovative new platform on the horizon. The idea of a cheap and powerful console that truly puts the power in the players’ hands is definitely a step in the right direction for the tech community at large.
With the best of both worlds and support from major players within the industry increasing every day, Ouya seems all set to make its mark on the industry and create its own place in the future of gaming. Be sure to check in within the coming months as we bring you updates on this new piece of hardware.