I haven’t been to the Game Developers Conference. I wasn’t invited to the prelaunch. I haven’t even ordered the console (yet), but the intention is pretty clear that I don’t need to have been involved at that level.
Gamers and journalists alike wrongly compare this little box to the giants that Microsoft and Sony consoles are. Ouya is not supposed to be a launch with a triple-A lineup and massive development studio commitment. That’s not the point. In fact, if you look at the current console line-up, those machines didn’t exactly launch with that, either, and it’s only after a several years of wrestling with the formats that are we seeing them really shine.
Nintendo’s Wii U? Sony’s Vita? Nintendo’s 3DS? Current-generation distractions.
Ouya represents a new vertical for the games industry, being dubbed as the microconsole. It’s not a handheld. It’s not a main console. It’s something in between that serves real casual gamers and those now growing up with the likes of the Google Play and iOS App Store ecosystems. Ouya doesn’t even sit with the Steam box, either — that’s something else entirely.
Yes, Ouya’s built on an Android platform and sports a Tegra 3 processor, but that’s more than enough for what its true intentions — a $99 box that can stream movies, play games from a growing catalogue of smaller, simpler games for the TV and allow a new generation of developers to learn and create without a massive monetary or hardware investment.
Ouya doesn’t need to run Far Cry 3 or Crysis or become the cheap platform for World of Warcraft on the TV. Right now, Ouya needs to sort out its own marketing hype and quickly because these conversations and nay-saying are hurting the renaissance movement that could potentially spark: The return of the bedroom coder.
Do you remember when people were coding and releasing stuff on hacked Super Nintendo cartridges? Or swapping programs they’d made with their mates on a Spectrum typed out from a magazine? Ouya and microconsoles like it can bring that all back again if they remain open enough.
And why not? Gaming and learning about games development is not an art for the elite.
If Apple were to create a console, it would be like Ouya. It would play existing games from the App Store and scale for the TV (your TV and the oft-touted Apple Television, presumably with integration already built-in). The only downside to the Apple ecosystem is that it wouldn’t support homebrew like the Ouya could.
And that will be a deciding factor in this new war. Open development, ease, and — above all — cheap fun.
The war of the microconsole has only just begun.
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