First Thoughts on the Ouya

Even while many Kickstarter backers are still waiting for their new Ouya consoles to be delivered I strolled into a nearby Game and picked one up. In the box was a controller and the shiny little cube of the Ouya. It’s smaller than my coffee mug but packs a quad core processor and 1GB of RAM.

But what’s it like to play? There are still some problems, even after the console boots up and installs a sizeable update, but the issues are hopefully small niggles that can be ironed out. In the meantime the potential to play some awesome games is very much there.

The Niggles

Most of the problems with the initial use of the Ouya are hopefully teething pains that aren’t going to stick around. Nevertheless they do put a damper on unboxing the ‘start of the gaming revolution’…

  • First step of getting the Ouya up and running was to Google how the hell you put the batteries in the controller! For those not in the know, the controller’s two front panels simply pull away from magnets. In the end, a nice little surprise.
  • I used the Ouya on both my office and home wi-fi networks. In both cases it had problems making and keeping a wi-fi connection. This was especially frustrating when trying to register and it kept dropping out. Although once the Ouya was up and running it now seems happy on wi-fi.
  • With all the fuss over Microsoft wanting the One to keep connecting to the internet for security, it’s worth noting that in order to get the Ouya up and running you need to be on wi-fi, have to register an account and, more worryingly, you have to add a method of payment. Either a credit card or voucher credit. I opted for credit that you can pick up from somewhere like Game.
  • I did have to restart the console a few times, mainly because of the wi-fi issues, but also because it did forget the controller on one occasion and I couldn’t pair them again.
  • Where are the built-in apps?! I was looking forward to seeing XBMC running on it but it was nowhere to be seen!
  • This being an independent platform means there’re no standard behaviours between games. This is especially noticeable when you try and exit a game as each one has a different way of doing it – with some having no option at all and you just use the ‘back’ button to get back to the Ouya menu. One game’s background music even kept playing despite quitting the game.
  • Most annoying is that the Ouya seemed very keen to keep turning itself on! After I shutdown the machine down using the controller it was only on standby. While I went back to watching telly it would keep turning back on – I’m guessing through some HDMI feedback. I had to kill the console completely by pressing down the ‘on’ button for a few seconds.
  • Doing the above you also notice how loud the thing is in a quiet room, with the fan matching any of the big boy consoles in terms of decibels.

The Potential

  • The first thing you notice is the slick interface the Ouya offers. Minimal design with bold fonts that look great on a big TV.
  • The console is tiny, almost portable, and barely noticeable.
  • There’s currently a limited marketplace but little indie games like Fist of Awesome, No Brakes Valet and Towerfall show the possibilities for fun games to play with friends. Although playing them on a big HD telly does seem a bit strange for the more lo-fi offerings.
  • There are a few apps ready to go like TwitchTV and TuneIn radio but once developers start building their own there’s a lot of potential to turn the Ouya into the one box you need to stream all your entertainment.

So the Ouya hasn’t got the polish of a Microsoft or Sony product but it should prove to be a tenacious contender to the big names. Everything has been done to empower developers and free them from the bureaucracy of large platforms – now they just need to get developing!

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