Ouya readies for competition with Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft with new console

Ouya, a new manufacturer hoping to break into the market for video game consoles, released its product on Tuesday. The device runs on Google’s Android operating system:

The underdog console had sold out on Amazon.com and on Target’s website by Tuesday afternoon. It is available at other outlets, including Best Buy and GameStop.

The Ouya game cube measures about 3 inches on each side and hooks up to a TV set. The console comes with a single controller. Additional controllers cost $50.

There are nearly 180 games available for Ouya, ranging from the likes of “Crazy Cat Lady” to the more established “Final Fantasy III” from Square Enix. The company says more games are on the way. There are also some non-gaming apps, such as online music service TuneIn Radio.

The games are sold through Ouya’s storefront, not Google Play, the app store where people buy games for Android tablets and mobile devices. Pricing is left up to individual game developers; many games are in the single digits. “Final Fantasy” is an exception at $16. Ouya takes a 30 percent cut from the game developers.

Associated Press

The company took an unusual approach to developing the console:

Ouya has a particularly interesting vision. The console is open to all developers. Every game has to have a free aspect to it, so that it’s entirely possible for users to try any game before they commit with their wallets. And, [chief executive officer Julie] Uhrman said, the company is out to make “rockstars” of its developers rather than big-name game publishers.

Having struck out on the traditional path, the folks at Ouya decided to try their luck with the Kickstarter crowd, a process that Uhrman described as the “complete opposite” of the “Field of Dreams” model — if they come, then you can build it.

They came. And clamored. Nine months before production had even started, the firm raised $8.6 million from over 63,000 backers.

Developers of all sizes have also jumped on board. Uhrman said they have 16,000 developers, ranging from first-time game makers to major developers such as Square Enix and Sega, who have both made titles for Ouya.

“We’re all about the content and the developers,” Uhrman said, “Especially the ones choosing to build for Ouya first.” And, she noted, for a lot of smaller developers, devices like Ouya are the only way to get their games on the television screen.

Hayley Tsukayama

Because anyone can write for the console, there is a variety of games available:

The offerings on the Ouya store vary wildly in quality and ambition. Android is an open platform, so anyone can write software for it. That means you have professionally executed games such as the beloved “You Don’t Know Jack” competing head-to-head with the sloppy trivia game “Quizania.” Some popular console games, including “The Bard’s Tale” and “Final Fantasy III,” have been adapted for the Ouya, but it isn’t the place for blockbuster titles such as the latest “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto.”

Ouya offers high-resolution displays in 1080p, comparable to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii U. Most of the Ouya’s offerings are fairly low-def, though, and if you’re looking for the wide-screen majesty of “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “BioShock Infinite,” you won’t find it here. If your video-game habit dates back to the 1970s, you’ll notice a distinct retro feel to the Ouya’s library. That’s not a complaint; there’s something refreshing about taking on a simple running-and-jumping game such as “Canabalt” after you’ve survived a grueling epic like Sony’s PS3 hit “The Last of Us.”

Indeed, some of the more satisfying indie releases of the last few years — say, “Fez,” “Hotline Miami” or “Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine” — have combined old-school graphics with game play that’s more sophisticated than most big-budget console releases offer. Nothing currently on Ouya matches the quality of those games, but if the system can attract that level of talent, it will be a console to be reckoned with. If you’re a hardcore gamer, it won’t replace your Xbox or PlayStation, but for $100 it’s a worthy supplement.

Associated Press

Ouya is competing with gaming giants Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft. Sony and Microsoft are both releasing consoles later this year. For more on their products, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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