I start this article by saying that I’ve had the Ouya a few days now, and am thoroughly enjoying the emulation software on it. I’ve managed to get my collection of classic Sega and NES games running perfectly, and it really takes me back to my childhood having a dedicated experience for games. When I emulate games on a PC or laptop, I can easily get distracted due to the multitasking nature they inhabit, constantly switching to facebook to message people or jumping out of a game to look up a news article breaks the immersion video games offer. The Ouya fixes this for me by being on a TV like a dedicated games console, making sure I concentrate on just the game, nothing else. So whatever else I say about the Ouya, I do like it, and feel like has a great (if not scary) future. In this article I’ll go through the main points that have stuck out to me in my 4 days of owning the Ouya.
One of the first problems you’ll come across when setting up the Ouya is the lack of any good instructions. The instruction manual that comes with the Ouya doesn’t even tell you how to put the batteries in the controller, which in itself is a challenge. I pride myself in being tech savvy, but I couldn’t see a single way into the Ouya controller to insert batteries. Something as small as a little sticker that showed you have to take metal pads off the sides to insert batteries would have sufficed.
Following on from this I had a few problems when entering my card details in the set up screens (it just kept giving me errors saying it couldn’t communicate with the server.) a reset sorted this out, and I was soon onto the main interface.
The second problem I have to vent about is the store. It looks nice currently, but as others have pointed out, how well will it scale? With 200 games on there currently, it’s fairly easy to find what you’re looking for, but when there’s thousands of games all trying to get your attention? I can’t imagine the trouble devs will have to overcome to make sure their game stands out from the crowd. See below for how it looks, but I can’t help but think Ouya will need a dashboard update soon in order to get around this potential problem.
The search facility does it’s job, but that’s to be expected with only 200 games to search for. I can’t imagine this will change in the future, so there’s definitely a way to find specific games. I just worry for prospective devs that don’t make it to the front page. They’ll have to rely on people specifically finding their game, which can never be a good thing for sales figures. I suppose I see the discover store as a double edged sword, it can be used for good, but could also be a very dangerous place for new starters in the long run. Here’s to hoping Ouya successfully manages this.
One of the biggest problems I’ve come across so far though is pricing on the Ouya. Games are free to play at first, but then must be unlocked, which is a nice try before you buy mindset. At the end of the day though, the Ouya itself isn’t expensive, it’s the games that are. Now I know this isn’t Ouya’s fault, they allow developers to price their own games accordingly, but there seems to be a problem with value perception on the storefront, meaning most, if not all games are aggressively overpriced. Some examples are as follows:
- You don’t know Jack: $9.99 for 20 more question packs. (from what I can find, it’s free on Android)
- Towerfall: $14.99 to unlock the full game
- Little Crane: $5.99
- ATR: $4.99
The conclusion I’ve come to is that developers are hoping most consumers don’t know that this is a android console, and therefore perceive game value as similar to mainstream consoles. If this is the case, consumers are used to paying this much for content on Xbox’s and PS3’s, but where this theory falls short is the value to the end user. Most games on the Ouya at the moment are sub par, and I really don’t mean to be harsh, but they really aren’t worth as much as the developers are asking for. If developers were to charge the same amount they are charging on Android phones, then I’d definitely be more inclined to give them a few bucks, but not $10 and $15. Hopefully with time these developers will learn the true value of their games, and price them accordingly.
This is what the console is all about, and should be the core component in which the console shines through. The problem is, this is where the console is having trouble for me personally. Some games work flawlessly with the Ouya controller, where as others are clearly ported straight from a normal android phone and have problems with the controller and the console itself. Some games freeze whilst others just don’t run at playable framerates. (Vector is terrible for this, there are times where the game slows down to a snails pace.) I want to point to one game in particular that showcases all these problems: Shadowgun. Shadowgun was one of the worst experiences I’ve had on the Ouya so far, with aiming incoherent and terrible, framerate issues plaguing every second of gameplay whilst also causing crashes, it ensured I didn’t want to pay the $4.99 asking price, and also ensured I uninstalled it right away. These are just some examples of bad ports, and there are certainly many good ports (Hidden in plain sight is one of the best games I’ve played so far, providing hours of fun.) but I hope this isn’t a taster for whats to come.
This is a huge problem for a console trying to appeal to the mass market. Current owners of Ouya will give it a pass for these problems as most owners will be geeks and hardcore gamers that know what they’re getting, but the mass market won’t be as forgiving.
The Ouya does indeed have the potential to change the future of gaming, I just worry about how it goes about doing this. As mobile phones have shown, there is definitely a market out there for cheap, addictive games; Ouya has to make sure it capitalises on this market and not get confused with the hardcore console market. The reason people love gaming on Android and iOS is the cheap, reliable experience you get for such a small investment, Ouya risks alienating this market by trying to be the jack of all trades. It’s too busy trying to be the middle man, trying to offer a cheap mobile experience, whilst also charging premium prices.
For the coming months, Ouya needs to get a lot of mobile developers on board to make sure they have some quality games to sell the system. It’s the same problem Nintendo is having with the Wii U; you need good games to sell the system.