Review: “Ouya”? More Like “Ew, No”

I’m sorry. That pun was too great to resist. And it’s not entirely true. I love the idea behind the Ouya console. However, the reality isn’t as awesome as it could have been. Let’s talk about the pros of the idea, then the cons of the reality.

Ouya, An “Oh, Yeah!” Idea

The television gaming universe is ruled by three entities: Sony’s PlayStation, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo’s Wii. The consoles themselves are expensive. The games are expensive. Unless you have a subscription for GameFly (a bit like Netflix for video games), there’s very little opportunity for you to try out a video game before you buy it. Very few games are free or even cheap.

If you want to create games for one of the “big three” consoles, you need to work for an already established video game company. There is no environment for releasing indie games in the “big three” universe. Everything is proprietary. Nothing is open source.

That’s where Ouya comes in and attempts to change the universe.

Ouya is a video gaming console that, unlike the big three, does not read discs. Every game must be either downloaded via Wifi or sideloaded via the USB port. Anyone can create a game for Ouya and release it to “Discover”, Ouya’s online video game store. Anyone can download the developer kit for free via their website and start developing a game today.

Gamers can then try your game for free before they buy it. It’s up to the game developer to define the free-to-play limitations. Perhaps gamers can only play for a few minutes to a few hours. Or perhaps they can only play for a few levels. Or perhaps other functions are disabled within the game. Either way, power is given to the gamer to decide whether they like the game before they buy it.

The console itself is cheap. It’s only $99.99, which is less than half the price you’d pay for any of the other consoles, which are all more than $200 and some more than $300.

Does Ouya Deliver?

Yes, it does. And so do Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.

No. No. That’s not what I meant. Does it deliver on its promises? Does it fulfill its great idea?

Well, no. This idea sounds great in print, but the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the potential yet.

Yes, anyone can develop a game for Ouya. But that also means that there are nearly 500 games within “Discover”, most of which range from mediocre at best to downright terrible. Besides that, a search function and an “all-time most popular” list (though it does have a “trending now” section) are both severely lacking.

It’s a good thing that you can try a game for free before buying it, because if I had to buy all the terrible games I’ve tried, I would be pretty upset. All the games I’ve tried have been casual games. Don’t get me wrong, I usually prefer casual games, but unlike the “big three” (or rather the “big two”—PlayStation and Xbox), the Ouya really isn’t built for epic gaming. Since Ouya is built upon an Android system, the games that are most easily ported to the console are games that are already available to play on Android phones and tablets, which primarily translates to casual play-for-a-while games.

This is a good thing, because the Ouya can’t handle any lengthy playing time. The only game I eventually purchased on the Ouya was “Muffin Knight”, which I found rather addicting. However, addicting meant that I wanted to keep playing even when I should have stopped. Thankfully, the controller starts lagging after prolonged play, which was a great reminder for me to quit.

Actually, many games that I tried suffered from lag time issues right away—“Muffin Knight” was one of the only ones that I could play for as long as I did without experiencing those problems. Many times characters would move on their own without my even touching the controller, which would be a serious problem if I were a serious gamer.

Speaking of the controller, the ratio of price between the controller and the console is much greater when compared with the other consoles. Let me illustrate: the Ouya console is $99.99 (on Amazon), but the Ouya controller is $45.99 (on Amazon)—so 46% of the price. One controller is bundled with the console, which standard practice when selling consoles, but if you wanted to buy additional controllers, you’d have to pay $46 for each one.

I also own a PS3, which costs $249.96 for the most popular bundle on Amazon. However, the controller is $43.29 (on Amazon). Yes, the PS3 controller is marginally cheaper than the Ouya controller. But that’s not the point—the point is that the PS3 controller costs only 17% of what the console costs, so it “feels” cheaper and a much better investment, particularly since the Dualshock is a much better controller than the Ouya controller is. It’s responsive. You don’t have lag issues. You know, the important things.

Furthermore, both the Wii Remote Plus ($35) and the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller ($35.45) are much more noticeably cheaper than the Ouya controller, and despite the cheaper price, they too are better controllers.

Does Ouya Have a Future in TV Gaming?

Rumor has it that Ouya is working on a “2.0” console due next year and with it, they hope to address their biggest complaint: the issues with their controller. Let’s hope that they can! Have you tried the Ouya? Let us know what you think in the comments!