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Is The OUYA Worth Buying?

 

Back when OUYA first debuted on Kickstarter, I'll readily admit to being one of the people who was excited by the prospect. The console market was, after all, a primarily closed development space up to that point. Unlike on PC, console developers were generally forced to either play by the rules set by publishers and manufacturers, or not at all. For all intents and purposes, the OUYA sought to change this: it was a compact, easy-to-use, entirely open-source device with Android as its base.

It was shaping up quite nicely as the Kickstarter moved forward. Developers were flocking in droves to voice their support, and big names from all over gaming were trumpeting the virtues of the console. It looked like we might finally have a device which could definitively upset the balance of the console market. Then everything started to go south. 

Today, I'd like to look at everything that's gone wrong with the OUYA, and address a very simple question: is the console still worth buying?

The first warning signs surfaced when the OUYA dev kits shipped. Every developer who'd pitched in to get their hand on one almost immediately found fault with the controller, which was glitchy, unresponsive, and suffered from a rather severe lack of precision. To its credit, the OUYA team jumped on the problem in short order, and announced plans to redesign its controller based on user feedback; but the question yet remained: why did the OUYA ship to developers with such faulty hardware in the first place? Wasn't that something which should have been ironed out in the initial testing phase?

Still, the OUYA team stepped up, and solved the problem(at least, that's what we were told). I was still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, though the issue definitely cost them a bit of support.

 

There's also the fact that, as we drew closer and closer to launch, we saw relatively few unique, interesting, or entertaining properties announced. It lacked - and still lacks - any definitive 'killer apps' to draw users in. It certainly looks pretty, and is relatively low-cost...but that's about all it seems to have going for it at the moment. The claim has been made that there are over 10,000 registered developers working on the console, so hopefully this is something that gets sorted out by the time the device officially launches this June. 

More pressing - and more disconcerting - is a recent benchmark test, which revealed that the OUYA - itself a non-portable console - can't actually keep up with most of today's smartphones. The hardware it's running is already dated enough that it makes mobile phones look good.  To be fair, that isn't exactly a nail in the OUYA's coffin, right? After all, if old-school consoles are any indication, you don't need a boatload of processing power to make great games. In this regard, we can at least give it the benefit of the doubt, can we not? 

After all, if OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman is to be believed, the OUYA is going to follow a mobile release schedule. That is to say, there's going to be a new OUYA every year. Even if it does only cost a paltry $99.00, the fact that a new device, with new and updated hardware, is going to be releasing every year seems to put a bit of undue strain on both developers and the consumer market, even with backwards compatibility, does it not? I'll admit, it's a rather interesting concept...

But there's really no telling whether or not it's going to actually work.

It's a shame that a console which displayed such promise is running full-tilt into so many apparent pitfalls before it even hits the market. While we can certainly hope that these are all obstacles that can be overcome as the development team moves forward, I wouldn't keep your fingers crossed. For the time being, anyone who hasn't already supported this device should err on the side of caution - see how it performs before committing to buying one for yourself. 

After all, even if it's only $100.00, it'd still suck to be stuck with a lemon. 

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Nicholas Greene
Nick's Games Haven
InventorSpot.com
Follow me on Twitter @OmniscientSpork