I have a confession to make: As much as I love new technology, I couldn't give any less of a crap about having the latest smartphone. This Blackberry knockoff
is the phone I've had for the last five years, and I love it. I don't want anything with a touchscreen, and if I want to play a handheld game, I'll pick up my 3DS. But I've always been intrigued by Android. It's the mobile OS that's been sweeping the industry (and as something that's mostly controlled by Google, it's no surprise), and it intrigues me because of how open of a platform it is. You can seemingly do anything with it, and by rooting an Android device -- hacking it to access the really deep system files -- the possibilities are limitless.
When I heard about the Ouya, the dirt-cheap console that runs Android, I was skeptical. Mobile games were mobile for a reason: Because they couldn't really compete with actual gaming console games. But recently, Android tablets have been getting more and more powerful, and there are some really impressive games available for the platform. The Ouya has been branded by some as a "tablet without a screen," and this suits me just fine -- I'd much rather play my games with buttons that actually exist rather than the virtual equivalents. After sitting down and doing some research, I've gone from skeptical to wanting to preorder an Ouya almost right away, because I believe it's poised to truly become the first 100% open gaming platform we've ever had.
You see that? That's the inside of the Ouya, pulled out of its shell by the guys at Penny Arcade. It's not much to look at, but that's not the reason I'm showing it to you; I want you to see it simply because it's out of it's casing. This is because the Ouya will be held together by simple Phillips head screws, because, according to Ouya creator Julie Uhrman, the console is meant to be cracked wide open on both the software and hardware levels. The company WANTS their customers to get to know their hardware inside and out, and if you want to make any hardware modifications, you're welcome to do so. Seriously, name a single gaming machine other than the Ouya that actually ENCOURAGES hacking the hardware.
Speaking of hardware, the ability to use almost any peripheral out of the box is pretty enticing. The system comes with a controller, but, like regular consoles, controllers will be $50 apiece when they're released separately. It seems like a shame to not be able to use what you already ha-- WAIT. That's right, the PS3's DualShock 3/Sixaxis controllers and even the Xbox 360's wired controller actually work with the Ouya right out of the box. I'm honestly not too surprised about the PS3 controllers working, as pretty much every PC OS has had access to custom drivers for the controllers for years already. (And yes, the PS3's controllers will work with the Ouya both wirelessly and wired.) But the 360's controllers being compatible is nothing short of black magic. Microsoft did everything in its power to take something universal (it IS USB, after all) and lock it down to only work with Windows and the 360 itself, but the Ouya doesn't see this as a problem. Plug the 360 controller in and go to town. Seeing as how this is the controller of choice for most gamers nowadays, the decision to make this work is probably going to be the favorite feature of most customers.
Hardware aside, the biggest draw of the Ouya is its Android operating system. It really turned heads when it was announced that a mobile OS would be used in a plug-it-into-your-TV gaming machine, but I think this was a fantastic idea. I'm going to make a claim here that I don't think many people will like: I don't think the PC is a totally open platform. Sure, you can tweak a ton of stuff and hack to your heart's content, but go find a company that programs for the PC that actually approves of those actions. You think Valve wants people cracking their games, so they can run without the Steam client (you know, the way it SHOULD be)? You think Adobe wants you to get around their online license validation requirements? Hell, even Windows itself requires registration, or it locks itself down, becoming practically useless. People can tell me the PC is an open platform until they're blue in the face, but the consumer/corporation relationship is anything but. With the Ouya, this isn't an issue.
Rooting an Android device isn't hard, but the process varies from device to device. The problem with rooting is that when you do it, you immediately void your device's warranty. Uhrman has actually confirmed that not only will rooting the Ouya NOT void your warranty, but rooting instructions will actually given to the public BY the company itself. The Ouya company is actually ENCOURAGING us to hack the hell out of their system. You want to install apps unavailable in the Ouya store? Plug the system into your PC with the included data cable and sideload as many as you'd like.
That is the single coolest thing I've ever heard in my life.
If you've ever read ANYTHING I've typed on Destructoid, then you're probably aware of how much I hate DRM and being locked down. The Ouya is going to spit in the face of companies that decide consumers shouldn't have any freedom. We're going to be given complete and total control over what we're buying, and we don't have to tiptoe around the hardware manufacturer to do it. This system is going to be the first truly, completely, 100% open platform we've ever been given. The Ouya is going to be literally whatever we want it to be.
While the Ouya isn't going to be anywhere near as powerful as the Wii U, next Xbox and PS4, it isn't going to be a slouch in terms of graphics. nVidia is providing the Ouya with its Tegra 3 graphics processor, which can make even mobile games look amazing. Some games that have been tested on the Ouya are Sonic 4 Episode 2, Dead Trigger
and Rayman Jungle Run,
and they all look great. For a $99 console, I have absolutely no complaints, and I expect the graphics to improve as the console ages, the way it's supposed to be. With games like Shadowgun
confirmed for the Ouya, and, in theory, everything from TegraZone
being compatible, the future is looking good.
The attitude of the company making the Ouya, combined with how absolutely unrestricted EVERYTHING about the system is, makes me froth at the mouth to have one. The price is right, the functionality is already there, and the future holds limitless possibilities. The PS4 it ain't, but I honestly don't think it needs to be. June can't get here soon enough.