OUYA is a game console in development built on Android 4.0 with a Tegra-3 quad-core processor powering it. It promises to be the next generation in big-screen gaming with sure-to-be-popular mantras such as "rooting won't void your warranty" and "all games free to play." The caveat is that while all games will offer some free play, this will likely be demo-based with full game upgrades available at developer-set pricing.
For those unfamiliar with the usual development of console games, a bulk of games released come through a very small group of software developers. These developers then must ensure that their games meet platform requirements regarding piracy and publication. Often costs are driven up by one primary thing: production costs. Printed materials, disc making, and advertising all drive up the bottom line. These factors often push individual game costs above $50. Introduce the Play Store/App Store model.
If a developer subtracts production costs and can simply build an app, release it to a large audience, and increase profit margins, app prices go down. Hence, the $.99 game. This is the basis for the OUYA console. They believe if you give app developers an open platform and low-cost approach, they will come out in droves to produce inexpensive games for the masses offering free demos along the way. I believe this concept is flawed in two ways.
Specs Don't Compare
The Tegra-3 is an impressive processor and is a giant leap forward in mobile computing. However, it is still mobile computing. Looking at the specs of the Playstation 3 (a 3.2 GHz processor) and the Xbox (a 3.2 GHz tri-core Xenon processor), I don't see much of a comparison. The Xenon processor is a server-grade processor and has given the Xbox several years of modern gaming. Most phones are considered dated within months of their release. Will mobile processing continue to put Moore's Law to shame? Probably. Will it catch up to consoles and computers that have the benefit of a much larger chassis, cooling, and real estate? Not any time soon.
People Want Mobile To Be Mobile
Mobile gaming has been a success for two reasons. Firstly, it invited traditionally nongaming people to play simple time-killing applications on their downtime, whether it be at the airport, subway, or while their significant other watched a particularly boring show. Secondly, because of its availability on the go. Our phones are with us everywhere we go. Many people are more apt to forget their wallet than their Galaxy Nexus. Tethering ourselves to an at-home console to play a small selection of OUYA ready apps seems unlikely in the near future.
What OUYA Needs To Be
In my opinion, OUYA has a lot of great things that can propel it to success if they tweak their marketing direction. We know that it is Android powered and has a decent processor. We know that gaming has some potential on it, even if it will never stack up to proprietary (and much more expensive) consoles. So my question is this. Why not go after the underdeveloped market share?
Google TV has done nothing but be costly and remain stagnant. Google, through hardware partners like Logitech and Samsung, has not developed a polished product that anybody wants. Apple TV hasn't done much better. If OUYA positions itself as an all-around TV media solution with an emphasis on gaming, it may cater to a market segment that is lacking. Imagine the sexy cube that does everything you want for a mere $99.
What they'll need for that to happen is streaming video support through suppliers like Netflix and Hulu, smooth internet browsing capability, and webcam compatibility to go after some of Kinect's perks. Without, I can't see the OUYA being more than another victim of the great mobile expansion even if it's already pulled in a cool $5 mil on Kickstarter.com.