10 Jul 2012

One new company called Ouya (pronounced ooh-ya) proposes to take on big companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.  The Los Angeles start-up wants to develop a console that offers "free" games popular on smartphones and tablets and bring them to the big screen.

Ouya is trying to raise money through Kickstarter.  Kickstarter is a site that lets people pledge money on various projects.  Ouya needs to raise around $950,000 to get going.  Among the investors include Jay Adelson the founder of Digg, Hosain Rahman the founder of Jawbone and Joe Greenstein the founder of Flixster.

Yves Behar, who has helped develop the Jawbone headset among devices has designed the console.  The console would be sold for under $100 and have a wireless controller with a touchpad.  The console will also have 8 GB of flash storage, have a quad-core processor by Nvidia and connect to the TV using HDMI.  The console itself uses Android 4.0 as the operating system.

Ouya would follow a free game model, where games only charge if there is additional content or items.  As with iTunes, developers would get a 70% revenue share from anything sold.  Any developer can launch and test the game on the console as well (without fees).

Ouya creators claim to have a functional prototype and would begin shipping it in March of 2013.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

Ouya creators claim that their console is more than just about playing mobile games on the bigger screen.  They claim it is designed to play creative content from the best known AAA game designers and indie makers.  The console is also modifiable or can be modded allowing third party applications and emulators to run as well.

At first glance this console seems to be just a way to get your mobile Angry Birds on to your home big screen TV.  The creators state otherwise, but for big game designers to jump on board it will take more than just a little kickstart. 

For one thing, offering a moddable console to the public will never pass copyright laws or have a hard time getting there.  This is the the one thing the big console makers frown upon and strive to filter out from their online networks.  Running a console that can be modded just opens up too many loopholes in the online gaming experience.  Hackers would have a field day making online gameplay unbalanced and unfair just for one.

While the idea of a free to play system seems attractive and long over due, its probably a lot further off than Ouya may hope, although their kickstarter campaign is actually about half-way where they need to be already, which in itself is pretty amazing.

There is the old adage that you get what you pay for.  This same motto will probably ring true in the gaming realm.  Even free isn't free.  To gain all the cool add-on features in some of these markets you have to spend some reasonable cash to get the game to the point where it's fully enjoyable.  At least from personal experience.  If nearly free is what you seek (at least at times when there are specials, usually games for less than $10 and console quality games too) there are alternatives such as OnLive, which is totally worth checking out.

Let's hope though, that Ouya may find its mark somehow and push gaming into a new frontier for both developers and gamers.  Until then, keep your smartphone and 99 cent apps handy.  What do you think?  Submit your comments and share your thoughts as well.

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