Can We Finally Take OUYA Seriously?

By Nathaniel Mott , written on August 3, 2012

From The News Desk

Revolutionary. A flop. A disruption. Just another Kickstarter project doomed to a life of delays, cancellations, and a disappointing product. OUYA could be any – or all – of those things. We won't know if the OUYA will be a success until well after its debut next year, but we may finally be able to take the open-source console-that-could a little bit more seriously.

Besides committing to building an open platform, OUYA has recently partnered with some heavy hitters in the gaming and media industries, including "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest" creator Square Enix, Internet radio company iHeartRadio, Vevo, and OnLive, a cloud-based game streaming service. Any one of those partnerships would be a huge "get" for a company that doesn't yet ship a physical product, and the combination lends further credence to the notion that OUYA just might be on to something.

The mish-mash of gaming and media companies might seem odd for a game console, but the reality is that there isn't room for a single-purpose device in the living room. Google's Nexus Q, which recently was sent back to the drawing board for "improvements," is a fine example. By limiting the Nexus Q to media playback and requiring that another Android device be present before the Q can function, Google runs the risk of creating a one-trick pony.

That isn't an attempt to pick on Google, either. Apple enthusiasts have long speculated that the Apple TV will get a gaming element "soon," and I suspect that this has less to do with anything Apple has done and more to do with the fact that people want to be able to do more than just stream a movie.

OUYA seems to understand that if it's going to disrupt the console market, it will need to do more than play games. Not a single major console on the market today functions as "only" a gaming console. All three – the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii – have access to Netflix and Hulu Plus, and the former two can play DVDs as well as access a variety of content streaming "apps". The PlayStation 3 was, for a time, the cheapest Blu-ray player that money could buy. OUYA can't beat the consoles when it comes to blockbuster titles, of that there is no doubt. But it can attempt to match or better everyone else with media playback.

The other, not-so-secret weapon in OUYA's arsenal is OnLive, a service that allows users to stream games to their hardware of choice. The service isn't perfect, as The Verge points out in its review of the OnLive Universal Wireless controller, but it will allow OUYA customers to play at least some of the AAA games that the Big Three console owners are playing.

None of this is to say that the OUYA console will be a success. While I'm personally excited by the project and would purchase one if or when it hits the market, disrupting the existing console players with better hardware and a robust media offering is easy compared to gaining the mindshare required to make said hardware a success. If this encourages more competition in the console space, which has been dominated by a few big names for the last decade, gaming will be better off for it.