First Impressions of the OUYA

Last week I was able to see and spend a little time with the OUYA console, courtesy of a good friend and fellow video game enthusiast who contributed to OUYA’s Kickstarter. Today marks the official retail release of the console. So I decided to share my first impressions of the latest entry in the next generation of game consoles.

“That’s It?”

Those were the first words that came to my mind when I glanced at the Rubiks Cube that presented itself as a game console. I could not remember another instance where I saw the size of the controller dwarf the system itself. Just what could this tiny box accomplish? Could the OUYA impress me when stacked against the promises of contenders such as the PlayStation 4?

Yes.

The Beauty of Demos

I remember how shareware versions of games dominated the hard drive space of my computer in the mid-90’s. Such demos feel like relics nowadays, to the degree that I can honestly sympathize with gamers who prefer to download a pirated copy of a game before investing anywhere from sixty to eighty dollars. Even though I strive to make a living off creating games I still would not want to spend such money on a title without any hands-on game time beforehand, with rare exceptions (e.g. I will purchase games from certain studios or franchises without a second thought).

So I love how the OUYA brings back demos en masse. All games are free to try before you buy. All of them.

That is a brilliant marketing decision. As a consumer I appreciate being able to play any game to determine whether or not I want to buy it based on actual, hands-on experience. Instead of wading through hyped previews and/or reviews I can base my purchases on personal experience, which I think is fantastic. As a developer that aspect of the OUYA business model gives me confidence that anything I create for the system will suffer less from piracy. As I previously said, I know people who download pirated copies of games to help decide whether or not to buy a game; I do it myself. That sounds like the type of behavior that a game developer should not endorse or engage in, but let’s be frank: if I am going to drop a non-trivial amount of money on a product then I want to be as confident as possible that I’m going to have a lot of fun with it. The OUYA facilitates this is a fantastic way.

As an Indie Platform

With the OUYA there is no need to purchase a dev kit, which has been the standard practice for a long time. The console is the dev kit. As the site says, “Your OUYA console is your dev kit—no license, fees or expensive SDK required.” For an independent developer like myself that is a wonderful proposition. The nicely-documented OUYA Development Kit and its pedestrian hardware give it the lowest barrier of entry for any current console. I salivate at the thought of what I could do with that tiny box. However…

Will it Sell?

That is a crucial question for developers, and something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Without games no one will buy the OUYA, and if no one buys the OUYA then developers will not make games. But I believe the initial crop of titles shows promise.

That said, it is too early to say whether or not the console will be a commercial success. As an indie developer I really hope so, because I would love to work on the system—I intend to purchase one and mess around with it regardless. But my limited hands-on time with the OUYA was not, and could not, be enough to give me a clear prediction about how much success may be in its future. Hopefully a lot, but we will have to wait and see.

After spending some more time with it I’ll tell you what I think about some particular titles, my thoughts on the controller design (a common topic of discussion it seems), and the quality of the development kit. But if you get the chance to play a OUYA then I certainly recommend it.

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