While the rest of the world is buying Xbox Ones and PS4s waiting for Titanfall, I decided to get myself a new console too – the Ouya.
I have been following the Ouya since it was in Kickstarter mode. A small, inexpensive game console targeted squarely at hobbyists and indie gamers…just the kind of thing I’d love to play with. The Ouya was released with somewhat less fanfare than everyone expected. It was underpowered, full of unavoidable flaws and a very crappy controller.
So why would someone want to buy one?
A friend of mine got one and explained to me that it was a little lack luster, bringing truth to many of the rumors, but he did say it did one thing pretty well – emulation.
Game emulation is something I’ve been chasing since I was in high school. Playing old video games on the PC has been as much of a past time for me as playing current video games. But lets face it, playing old arcade games on the PC is pretty crappy. Who wants to sit in their office playing Burger Time?
Getting emulation easily onto my TV seemed a never-ending quest so based on the promise of emulation, I bought a Ouya at Target. To my surprise it was even on sale for $80. At that price, even if the console sucks at every but emulation it would be worth it.
After a quick setup, I found the MAME4Droid app in the Ouya marketplace and installed it. I copied over all the MAME ROMs I’ve acquired over the years and just like that it worked. The Ouya app didn’t support every ROM in my library but that’s a reality on the PC as well so it didn’t bother. So there it was, on my TV, all my favorite arcade games…and without the need to hook-up my laptop. Wonderful.
And to top it all off, my Xbox 360 arcade stick works with the Ouya MAME app wonderfully, so I can play all my games as intended. I was a happy camper indeed. It was $80 well spent but it turns out the Ouya is worth more than just getting in touch with your old school self.
Indie gamers paradise
I’ve always been a fan of so-called “indie games” on consoles. Xbox Live’s Indie Games section was always a favorite place to shop and there were many gems to be found. I most certainly spent more on XBL Indie Games than any other games. Seeing someone’s passion play out in a videogame is always wonderful to experience. Sure, indie games rarely have the production values you find in AAA titles but that’s sort of the point. All killer, no filler.
Well, the Ouya is seemingly an indie gamer’s paradise. Since the Ouya runs the Android operating system, you can load any Android game or app you want and it’ll probably run just fine. Thus there is also a very low barrier to entry if you want to make your own game. There’s no App Store to filter games or tell you what to play, which is a blessing and a curse. It’s true that the Ouya Marketplace is a Wild West of the good, bad and ugly (mostly the latter two) but I’ve already found some great little games that have kept me entertained. Meltdown is a great third-person adventure shooter and Deep Dungeons of Doom is currently challenging me to get my button presses just right. You’ll find a few “big name” titles too, like Sine Mora, Canabalt and Sonic the Hedgehog, and all of them play just fine on what is essentially a console with just as much horsepower as a high end tablet.
Between Google Play and the App Store, the Ouya offerings are meager at best but that’s not to say you won’t find the seeds of great games. Just look at Towerfall. It’s a 4-player party game that got enough attention to warrant a port to the Playstation and on Steam later this year…and therein lies a huge attraction of the Ouya – it’s a game incubator.
The Ouya gives game developers a down and dirty place to test out their games, both technically and aesthetically without much risk. I have to say that the Ouya’s openness has inspired me to pick up game programming again. I don’t expect to create anything earth-shattering but if I can have fun learning to make a game and put it up for a dollar and have someone enjoy, why not?
The Ouya is not a console for core gamers or even casual gamers. It’s clear to me after only a week of playing that the Ouya is really for the indie gamers that don’t mind searching for game gems in a desert of less-than-average games. It’s for people that can see past basic graphics and simple production, and can have fun with the game itself. The Ouya doesn’t tell you how to play or what to play and that’s probably its greatest strength and why I’m loving it.