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Can Ouya Shake Up the Gaming Console Market?

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Tech Biz

Can Ouya Shake Up the Gaming Console Market?

The tiny Android-powered Ouya is already sold out at several U.S. retailers.

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign that captured more than $8.5 million, the world’s first Android-based video game console hit retail shelves and online marketplaces yesterday. Within hours, GameStop and Amazon were sold out of the tiny metallic cubes that more closely resemble taller Apple TVs than gaming systems.

The $99.99 Ouya may not have the brand recognition or hardcore gaming pedigree of the three industry heavyweights – Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony – but it just might make a big enough splash to cause them worry.

Why? Because the Ouya is the first device to span the gap between smartphone/tablet gaming and console/PC gaming. BestBuy describes the console as follows:

“Gamers occupy two distinct, staunchly divided worlds. On the move, app addicts tap away at the touch screens of their mobile phones, slinging birds at pigs or battling zombies with flowers and trees. In the living room, die-hard franchise fans disappear into the battlefields of blockbuster video games that explode onto large-screen HDTVs. From these two separate realities, we all want one thing – gaming's best. Ouya is a new kind of console that turns the gaming world upside-down – bringing the open mobile model to TV for the first time.”

According to Forbes, the popularity of lower-priced tablets and smartphones has ushered in a new era of mobile gaming. “Many of these new gamers aren’t coming to consoles, but to mobile and free-to-play,” Forbes indicated.

An NPD Group study further revealed that the number of American gamers rose from 205.9 million in 2012 to 209.9 million in 2013. Additionally, a study by IDC and App Annie discovered that consumers are spending three times more money on mobile games than handheld consoles, such as the 3DS and PS Vita.

The Ouya console incorporates a Tegra3 quad core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of flash memory. It has an HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV and offers full 1080p HD playback. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also integrated, as is an Ethernet port. Out of the box, Ouya is running Android 4.0 and is open-source – “hacker-friendly” – according to their Kickstarter page. It also comes bundled with a controller that somewhat resembles the current Xbox 360’s own, albeit with a touch panel in the middle.

All of the games on Ouya are free to try before a user commits to purchasing them (it’s a rule for developers). They also allow ordinary users to create their own games with the Ouya’s built-in SDK.  Mobile game programmers can easily port their titles to Ouya, and there are already about 180 games available for download.

Some non-gaming apps are also available, like streaming radio and video services. It is not yet, however, a replacement for set top boxes like Apple TV and Roku as far as movie and video consumption is concerned.

Early reviews for the Ouya are mixed, with most complaints centering on the controller. Many of the console’s Kickstarter funders received poor-quality units. Others are still waiting for the Ouya to arrive in the first place, despite company founder Julie Uhrman’s promise that early backers would receive their game system before a retail release.

Sascha Segan, a hardware reviewer for PCMag, shared the following advice regarding Ouya and crowd-funding in general: “Unless you light your cigars with hundred-dollar bills like John McAfee, don't spend any of them on mystery hardware that nobody has ever laid hands on, built by new teams. Let other people be the suckers, and reap the rewards later.”