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While mobile gaming continues to explode like so many plots of Angry Bird real estate, no tiny display can compare to the high-def, big screen experience of a home gaming console (or quality PC display, for that matter). That's why manufacturers are exploring ways to meld the mobile and living room gaming experiences (see Microsoft's polygadget SmartGlass system, or Nintendo's tablet-console mash-up, Wii-U).
Hopping on this synergistic trend, one spunky LA start-up has put forth its bid to combine TV and mobile gaming. They've certainly got all the necessary ingredients to be the next big thing: the buzz machine cranked to 11; a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign; and a minimalist, nonsensical name worthy of a modern start-up sensation. World, say hello to Ouya.
Ouya (pronounced ooo-yah) is a prototype Android-based console that hopes to reinvent the living room gaming experience. The company promises an open source (mobile-like) approach to home gaming as an alternative to the walled world of the big three console systems. Ouya's Kickstarter campaign has already blown way past its $950K goal, garnering over $4 million cobbled from over 30,000 backers as of press time. But is it worth all the hullabaloo?
The premise is simple: Ouya consoles will be available to the public for a low $99 and the open system will allow garage tinkerers and basement coders around the world to offer their interactive visions directly to the public. If you can develop an app for Android, you can build a game for Ouya. The one catch for developers (or benefit for gamers) is that all games must offer some form of free game time: Developers can charge for games or in-play goodies, but they have to offer some form of no-strings play. This distinction is likely what has contributed to such quick, widespread consumer enthusiasm for a company and console that no one had heard of before last week.
Besides all the try-as-you-may gaming you can handle, $99 will buy gamers a Rubik's Cube-sized console packing some impressive innards: a Tegra3 quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal flash storage, HDMI input with support for up to 1080p HD, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth LE 4.0, and USB 2.0 (unfortunately no 3.0). The system also comes with one wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, and a system button) and a touchpad for games that are created for (or incorporated with) a mobile component.
Ouya also promises to be "hacker-friendly," meaning the system could find a bevy of uses beyond gaming. As the company states on its Kickstarter page: "It's easy to root (and rooting won't void your warranty). Everything opens with standard screws. Hardware hackers can create their own peripherals, and connect via USB or Bluetooth. You want our hardware design? Let us know. We might just give it to you. Surprise us!"
The company has already teamed up with Twitch TV to allow gamers to watch games like StarCraft II and Diablo III on their TVs without a PC intermediary and "conversations with [other] potential partners are already underway."
Sounds promising, right? Still, Ouya is obviously in its itty-bitty infancy — no major press outlet has been invited for a test-drive, and no press pictures yet reveal what the controller fully looks like. Hopefully, the $4 million (and counting) in Kickstart moolah will keep the project on track so as not to become yet another promising technology-turned-vaporware.