Ouya Game Console: What We Know (and Don’t Know) So Far

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The $99 Ouya game console has finished its Kickstarter fundraising drive with more than $8.5 million in the bank, and its creators are now working toward a March 2013 launch for those who backed the project.

As I wrote last month, Ouya should be a wake-up call for the video games industry. By keeping hardware costs low and opening game development to anyone, Ouya will mimic the app store model that made phone and tablet gaming so popular. Unlike Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, Ouya isn’t entrenched in the business of $60 retail discs, so it’s in a better position to disrupt the market.

That’s not to say Ouya will necessarily be a major disruption. There are still a lot of details that haven’t been announced, and factors that have yet to be determined. In light of that, here’s a rundown of what we know and don’t know about Ouya so far:

We Know the Price and Estimated Release Date

For anyone who didn’t back Ouya on Kickstarter, the console is available for pre-order with an expected April 2013 release date. The console and one controller costs $99, though you can also get a second controller for $30 more, or three additional controllers for $90 more. Shipping costs an extra $10 within the United States, or $20 for international orders.

We Kind of Know What the Controller Looks Like

So far, Ouya has only shown a mock-up of its controller, which at least shows that it’ll resemble traditional game controllers. The Ouya controller will have buttons, triggers, analog sticks, a directional pad and a touchpad. The big unknown is whether the finished product will look anything like the pictures.

We Know a Little About Developer Support

Ouya hasn’t announced a games lineup yet, but some developers have either announced games on their own or pledged some kind of support. Other developers, such as Minecraft creator Mojang, say they’re interested, but haven’t made firm commitments.

Here are the games that have already been announced: Shadowrun Online, Final Fantasy III, Yummy Circus, Tropical Treasures 2 Deluxe, Super Retro Squad, Invaders Pretty Sure From Space Round 2, GunblitzSaturday Morning RPG and a prequel to the zombie apocalypse game Human Element. The publisher of Hawken supports Ouya but hasn’t announced any games. Namco Bandai says it’s in talks to bring games to Ouya, but also hasn’t given specifics.

Meanwhile, OnLive has pledged support, so users will be able to stream high-end PC games to the console.

We Know a Little About the Multimedia Situation

Although Ouya was announced as a games machine, the console will support media players from XBMC and Plex, allowing users to stream content from other networked devices. Vevo is also committed for streaming music videos, and TwitchTV for streaming eSports. Still missing, however, are streaming TV and movie services such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, and music services such as Spotify and Pandora.

We Have No Idea About Content Curation

The details on Ouya’s user interface are still unknown, but one thing I’m really curious about is how Ouya will organize and promote good content. Will there be a user review system to separate good from bad? Can Ouya protect against cheap knock-offs or other low-grade content? I’m all in favor of an open development platform, but it raises curation issues that Ouya has yet to address.

MORE: Ouya: A Wake-Up Call for Video Games

11 comments
Balram Trivedi
Balram Trivedi

We also don't know whether or not it even has top-side buttons (like PS3 has L1/L2/R1/R2 and Xbox 360 has LT/RT etc. etc.)

If the controller doesn't have that, the company's got a reason to fail, simple controller design out the window!

William Kestle
William Kestle

how is netflix missing? its running on android...ANDROID HAS NETFLIX

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

Yeah, sideloading is always a possibility, but then you've got to go digging around for an .apk file that you know for sure works with Ouya's controller and won't introduce bugs. It'd be a lot better if there was an official Netflix app for Ouya, but so far we don't know if that will happen.

AWM1983
AWM1983

 So far,  Ouya seems like a mobile device with TV output and a controller. I really don't need a console for Angry Birds or Finial Fantasy III. Being Android based, will it have full access to Google Play or will it be a glorified Roku with the addition of simplistic games? Don't get me wrong, if done well Ouya could be big but right now I am having a hard time placing it somewhere between my 360 or PS3 and my OG Evo and my Nexus 7.

StrippedDown
StrippedDown

We also know it's based around a Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC which contains a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.  We know that the GPU in the Tegra 3 is good, but it's definitely not as capable as the GPU in the current iPad.  We know that if it comes out in March 2013 as planned it might seem a bit dated as the Tegra 4 should also be out by then.  A $99 price tag should go quite some way to help with this perception though.

Performance-wise the Ouya will be somewhere between an Xbox and an Xbox 360.  It will significantly outperform a Wii.

Ben Kapferer
Ben Kapferer

We also know that the Tegra 3 included is the same downgraded model as in the Nexus 7, so it's slightly lower-end than most Tegra 3 devices.

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

Yeah I should have thrown some specs up there. Thanks.

Tegra 3 may seem a bit dated by next year, but even then I think it will be some time before you see games that are really optimized for whatever's next. From developers I've talked to (not about Ouya, but about mobile processors in general), the main drawback compared to current consoles isn't so much the graphics quality but the amount of stuff that can be processed at once.

For instance, you can always have visual effects that scale up based on processor, but as soon as you start adding tons of zombies on the screen at the same time, you're limiting the range of processors that can handle it. So for a while, I think, we're going to see games that work around this baseline of dual-core--quad-core chips that are prevalent in the market now. Total speculation here, but I figure a system like Ouya's got at least a couple years before it needs a spec overhaul to accommodate newer games.

StrippedDown
StrippedDown

The Ouya will date fast even if it seems fresh on launch.  This is to be expected as the mobile SoC market moves at a rapid pace.  We can expect to see a cheap SoC suitable for use in a pocket sized battery powered device that rivals the Xbox 360 in graphics performance becoming available by the end of 2013.

StrippedDown
StrippedDown

Actually, they are much closer than you think.  Products based around ARM's Cortex-A15 processor and Mali-T600 series GPUs as well as Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series 6 GPUs will really change things in 2013.  Desktop PCs have been more powerful than the Xbox 360 in both GPU and CPU performance for quite a while now.  Even laptops are available that surpass the Xbox 360.  2013 is the year the pocket sized mobile devices will catch up to the 360.  It's not a co-incidence the new Xbox will be released in 2013.

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

The bigger issue is that even if a high-end processor were to able to handle all those calculations, no previous processor on the market would. This, in turn, would severely limit the potential customer base for the app developer if they were to make a game exclusively for the latest chip.

Think of the PC market as a similar example: High-end machines enjoy better framerates and visual effects, but most games supports a much wider range of machines without any changes to the gameplay.So while I think you'll see some cosmetic improvements for Tegra 4 games in the immediate future, I'm guessing we'll see lots of backwards-compatible games for years to come.

Sam Trutna
Sam Trutna

I think Mr. Newman's point about quantity holds a lot of weight. You can say that mobile processors will have graphics performance on par with an Xbox 360, but that is stretching the truth a bit, and ignoring quite a lot of details to boot. I have no doubts that future mobile processors could render a car to look every bit as good as the ones in Forza 4 or GT5, however can it render 12-16 of them at once while (details here) also handling dynamic lighting and processing a realistic physics engine at a rate of several hundred times per second and control driver behavior with an accurate AI?

What I'm getting at here is to compare a mobile processor to the current generation of consoles would be an overstatement. Yes they have caught up in very specific instances, but they've still got a long way to go.