Ouya, the Open Source Android Game Console…

Sing along everyone, “Android, Android, Android, Android, android everywhere”. Android is slowly taking over the world, now it is preparing to invade our living rooms, taking its place on our big screen TV’s. The $99 USD Ouya Android based game console is the spearhead of this invasion.

While big screen gaming in the living room has been ruled by the big three consoles PlayStation, XBox and Wii, a new player has entered the scene. A new player that has bought a gun to a knife fight. Ouya have from the outset taken a different approach to console gaming, when compared the the established names, adopting an open source and mobile inspired approach.

Raising $4.5 million in 4 days Ouya is one of the fastest funded Kickstarter projects in history. With the majority of investors (29,000) pledging the $100’s required to secure a console. The huge amount of early interest and influx of cash has also allowed Ouya to increase the initial production run to 80,000, enough to make a decent impact on the market. Set for full release Q1 2013 Ouya is preparing to change the console world.

Taking free to play to the next level, this high value low cost console will introduce free2develop to the free2play model. Low development costs should help to keep game prices as low as smartphone and tablet games. Founder Julie Uhrman established early on that all games must have a free2play aspect, even if it is simply a demo mode. Urhman also hopes to leverage the best aspects of mobile game development and delivery into an affordable console for living room, for big screen gaming.

The Ouya controller.

While the console hardware and software are in the final stages of development Ouya have set the initial pricing for the console at the $99 USD mark. Even with the tight budget the console will include potent gaming hardware. The listed specifications include a quad core Tegra 3 CPU / graphics processor, 1GB of DRAM and 8GB of flash. HDMI out for TV connection, Wifi, Bluetooth and a USB round out the connector types.

Two wireless controllers will be included with the console. Much attention has been paid to the design of the controllers, Ouya realize that a good controller can make a console, at the same time a poor controller can ruin a console. In-house called the ‘the Stradivarius of controllers’ the two included wireless controllers include two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button and a touch-pad. With a sleek design and all the controls within easy reach only the hands on test remains to see if it works as well as it looks.

The hardware has been designed to be hacked, customizing your Ouya won’t void your warranty and is being encouraged. New devices and gaming experiences can be built by anyone with a good idea.

The use of a rootable (unlocked) version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has already drawn much criticism from the technoratti, here at Highpants we call it a gutsy move that will make Ouya a tweakers dream from the outset.

Every console will contain the required software for developers (SDK) to get to work. While the console will embrace the open source and free2play models, paid for gaming will also be supported, as long as some form of free play (demo) is included. Hoping to emulate mobile phone game sales the paid for games will be only a few dollars. The standard mobile gaming names are already talking up the console, Minecraft and Angry Birds being obvious instant hits and quick conversions.

Easy to develop for, Ouya has modeled itself after the portable gaming revolution. No licensing fees are required and games are released to the Android app store. All of the high initial costs for releasing a traditional console game are removed, developers hardware, licensing fees, retail costs, publishing fees, all gone.

From Ouya’s Kickstarter page “We’re handing the reins over to the developer with only one condition: at least some gameplay has to be free. We borrowed the free-to-play model from games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Triple Town, and many others. Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask you to subscribe.”

While its long term competitors will undoubtedly be the big three consoles, initially Ouya may completely change the living room media player market. Priced below many in the media player market Ouya will have all of Androids flexible media handling skills along with gaming and whatever other crazy ideas the community imagines.

After setting money raising records on Kickstarter Ouya is due to go on sale during the first quarter of 2013. The Kickstarter funding window is open for another 26 days, closing on August 9. With pledges passing expectation by the end of the first day, 4.5 million reached in 4 days, the project will be fully funded on the closing date.

Can Ouya return game development to the one man dev team and re-invigorate console gaming? Smartphone and Tablet gaming have irrevocably changed the face of gaming, how far that change will go is up to companies such as Ouya producing great hardware that people are willing to spend cold hard cash on.

Reference: Ouya Kickstarter