The latest Kickstarter project raising eyebrows all over the technology blogosphere appeals to gaming nostalgia. OUYA, an Android-powered gaming console, will sell for $99 and offer at least some gameplay for free – if it gets fully funded by August 6.
That's no mean feat. The OUYA project is looking to raise at least $950,000 – but they've already received $776,979 in pledges, as I write these words. In return, they talk about how the best gaming most of us has ever done happened in the living room: “It's how most of us grew up gaming...You busted your ass just to find out the princess was 'in another castle.” While acknowledging that mobile and social games are more developer-friendly, the folks behind OUYA hope to bring back those glory days.
Simple: the OUYA platform, running on Android, will be open, run free games, and cost only $99. It will be bundled with a Twitch.TV app. While the project is still in the prototype stage, it's generating a lot of excitement. Who wouldn't be excited about free games? It's a little more complicated than it sounds, though. Developers would be permitted to publish any game they liked, priced however they wanted to – provided that they offered some kind of free-to-play element.
OUYA founder Julie Uhrman seems to think there's still money to be made in this market. Speaking to Ars Technica, she said, “It's ironic, all the growth in gaming is moving to mobile platforms, [and] we're seeing a lot of AAA developers leaving their console shops to go mobile, yet three out of every four dollars is still spent in the living room, a majority of gaming time is still spent on the TV, and if you survey any gamer they'll tell you their No. 1 platform is the TV.”
The hardware specs for this platform aren't that impressive; then again, what do you expect for $99? It runs on top of a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor – the same kind you'll find in tablets like Google Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface. You also get 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of built-in storage. So graphically, you won't be getting an Xbox 360 experience.
Ah, but if you WANT an Xbox 360 experience, break out your screwdriver and get to work. Yes, I said your screwdriver. Ars Technica notes that “Ouya owners will be able to open the casing with a standard screwdriver to upgrade everything from the RAM to the memory chips, and even to solder additions onto the motherboard itself using 'clearly documented test points,' according to a fact sheet.” I can already hear the folks at my local hacker space rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation.
Even better, if you want to develop for the OUYA, that $99 console comes with a free SDK pre-loaded right on it. So if you know a thing or two about Android development, you can start developing your own game without having to pay any extra fees. Don't like the OS? “The operating system on the Ouya is fully rootable, as well, meaning we're sure to see a Linux distro for the box roughly five microseconds after it's available in the wild,” Ars Technica notes dryly.
Rory Young, writing for Neoseeker, sounds a note of caution. “Remain skeptical. Keep in mind just how out of the blue this project is, and how abnormal the rate of funding is. Consider how expensive modern consoles are...” All true, of course, and yet – great things happen when lots of clever people work together to make a project succeed. And plenty of people would love to see this project succeed. At the very least, it's worth watching.
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