The Ouya, a cheap new gaming console that runs on Android software, was never meant to compete with the likes of the Xbox 360 or the PS3. According to a recent hardware analysis, it doesn't really compete with existing Android tablets or smartphones, either.
Futuremark, a website that compiles hardware specifications, released a list of 258 Android devices and ranked them according to processing power and performance. Most of these devices were smartphones or tablets, but outliers like dedicated MP3 players, eReaders and the Ouya showed up as well. Each Android device received a rank based on its processor's speed and power, rather than a comparative, hands-on test.
The results were not encouraging for the novel little game machine. Futuremark ranked the Ouya at #79, just behind the ASUS Transformer AiO P1801 tablet PC and just ahead of the Acer Iconia Tab A510 tablet. For reference, the ultra-popular Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone came in at #53, and the aging Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 came in at #116. (First place, if you're curious, went to the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S IV phone.)
The Ouya began as a Kickstarter project on July 10, 2012. Gaming industry veteran Julie Uhrman, troubled by the mounting costs of creating and purchasing console games, and the lack of console-quality mobile games, decided to marry the two disciplines. She presented the Ouya: a small, Android-powered console that would hook up to a TV and use a traditional console controller.
Uhrman sought $950,000 for her project; eight hours later, she had it. Over the course of the next month, the Ouya raised over $8.5 million. Funding in place, the console aimed to strike a balance between two design philosophies: the huge selection and accessibility of Android gaming, married to the complex gameplay systems and high-quality graphics and sound of console gaming.
Backers who pledged at least $99 (the retail cost of the device) have already started to receive their Ouyas, and the feedback has not been especially kind. All games in the Ouya store must be free-to-play; in practice, this just means that most games pester users nonstop for in-app purchases.
The most ambitious game for Ouya is Square Enix's "Final Fantasy III," which came out for other Android platforms in 2012, the Nintendo DS in 2006 and (to indulge in a bit of pedantry) the Famicom (Japan's Nintendo Entertainment System) in 1990.
Nevertheless, the Ouya system's comparatively weak specs may not be a death sentence. A $99 Android box is not targeting the same market as the diehards who tear their gaming PCs' guts out twice a year or who have already pitched a tent to await the PlayStation 4. [See also: 7 Revolutionary Mobile Games ]
Similarly, although Android smartphones and tablets have already outpaced the Ouya handily, these devices can easily exceed $100 before even factoring in a contract with a wireless provider. An Asus Nexus 7 tablet will run you at least $200, while a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone under contract starts at $150.
Still, users who already own mid-range or high-end Android devices may want to think twice before investing in an Ouya. Many Android devices come with mini- HDMI connections built in, which means that playing Android games on a TV is feasible if you have a cheap cord (mini-HDMI-to-HDMI cables start at about $6 on Amazon). It's a reasonable alternative to an expensive console. A number of Android controllers are also on the market, many of which cost around $30. For comparison, an Ouya with a controller costs $99, and each additional Ouya controller will set you back $50.
The Ouya will enter wide release in June, which means that it still has some time to clean up its interface and really differentiate itself from the competition, both in the console and mobile markets. In the meantime, you can buy over 70 devices that offer more power — and most of them also make phone calls.