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Are you hankering for some Android gaming action on your HDTV? Perhaps the OUYA — born from a successful Kickstarter project last year — is right for you. The device is aiming to disrupt the console gaming status quo by featuring a lineup of free games and apps all running on Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). The roughly 3" square box and wireless controller are available to preorder now for $99.99, although the official release date is June 4.
Should you be tempted? While final review units have yet to ship, Kickstarters who donated money have already received the console. As a result, there's early buzz surrounding its utility. And while the manufacturer claims that changes will be made come mass distribution, there's reason to hold off on buying an OUYA just yet.
Inside the OUYA is a 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. It also supports 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity, and it has HDMI, USB, Ethernet, Micro USB, and power ports in back. All in all, the OUYA is a significant step up from the budget Android mini PCs that are hitting the market, as its main focus is gaming.
The OUYA is described by its creators as "the first totally open video game console." That means you can open it up, customize it, sideload apps, and get access to free developer tools. The folks at OUYA are also committed to keeping its apps and games free at the point of download, but in-app purchases and subscriptions are a necessary evil to attract developers.
To say that the early reviews haven't been positive is something of an understatement. The Verge awarded the OUYA a 3.5 out of 10, with a damning verdict: "This is a product with some good ideas and a potentially promising future, but it's a million miles away from something worth spending your money on. Even if the concept is right, the OUYA misses the mark. The controller needs work, the interface is a mess, and have I mentioned there's really nothing to do with the thing?"
The crew at Engadget was a little more forgiving. "So, is the OUYA a revolution in console gaming? No, it isn't — not yet. But it's early days still. As of this writing there are roughly two months until the system launches at retail — time enough, we hope, to flesh out the interface, fix the controller, and maybe, just maybe, line up a few new games worth getting really excited about."
And while CNET wasn't exceptionally impressed with the console either, the writers relented that there are at least some consumers who may be satisfied with the OUYA. After a hands-on test, an editor explained that "those enamored with the indie gaming scene ... will find OUYA especially appealing, but if you have your heart set on the next Xbox or PS4, OUYA will probably not satisfy your cravings, especially at this level of graphical fidelity. But, as long as your expectations are reasonable, and you're cool with smaller, simpler games for the most part or are looking for a low-cost way to break into the games industry, it's hard to beat that $99 price."
Given the level of criticism thrown at the OUYA, a representative was quick to comment, telling Games Industry International that the early version of the OUYA had only been sent out to early backers as part of a "preview period" intended "to test our eco-system and fine-tune the experience" prior to the official launch. The company has made it clear, via a blog post at the OUYA website, that it is "constantly evolving and incorporating both your feedback and our learnings."
The OUYA in the hands of its Kickstarter backers is not the finished product, but with so little time until the official release date, you have to wonder how much can be improved before those preorders ship. Also keep in mind the swirling rumors that, upon the release of the newest Xbox console, the 360 model will drop to $99 MSRP, which might devalue the OUYA even further. Are you, dealnews readers, early adopters? Or do you plan on waiting to buy the Android-run console once it's fine tuned? Sound off in the comments below.