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E3 2013: Hands-on with the OUYA Android Console

On Tuesday during E3 2013, I headed over to OUYA's street party outside and across the street from the L.A. convention center. The company was serving up beer and beats, but it was the end of the (long) day and I wanted no part of that. Instead, I waltzed into OUYA's parked trailer that played host to three console units for a little hands-on time. Tunein Radio was also on hand passing out T-shirts.

For starters, the console's main menu is broken into four components: Play, Discover, Make, and Manage. The "Play" section is where all the installed apps are located whereas the "Discover" section is where OUYA owners will browse, search for and purchase new apps. This section is broken down into sub-categories like Featured titles, OUYA "VIP Room" exclusives, showcased apps and more.

As for the Manage section, this is where the console settings are stored. I also briefly glimpsed into the Make portion which is focused on developers wanting to push new games and tools on the console, and to download new builds of the software. Before hitting the Play section, apps enter into a Sandbox and must be "liked" enough before it can be dug out and listed as an official app.

Looking back, I didn't find anything peculiar about the OUYA controller, meaning it felt no different than those offered for the current consoles, which is a good thing. The only drawback is that I had to correlate between the on-screen action and the new buttons. It's a new learning curve that's no different than getting familiar with a PlayStation or Xbox controller for the first time.

That said, the controller features O, U, Y and A buttons, two analog sticks, a D-pad and shoulder buttons. There's also a start button that brings players back to the main menu when needed. Overall the controller provided in the hands-on demo was light and very comfortable, a great start for one of the first Android consoles on the market.

In appearance alone, you really can't tell OUYA is an Android gaming machine. However, the apps reveal its true secret, offering both familiar and new titles. I happened to play one of my favorites, Bard's Tale, which was extremely smooth in framerate and showed no stuttering. It can also be associated with Android smartphones and tablets managing other tasks in the background. The only problem I saw was a rather ugly rendering of one of the cut-scenes: it was almost like watching a blown-up 320 x 240 video on a 1024 x 768 screen.

As previously reported, OUYA will have a closed network, meaning anything you've purchased from Google Play or Amazon Appstore can't be used on the console. How this will affect unit sales of OUYA remains to be seen, but hardcore Android gamers may not care: it's not like their favorite titles cost $60 a pop. Every game is free to try as well… you can't say the same for Google Play.

The company's "OUYAPark" located across from the convention center during E3 2013 consisted of the demo trailer and five stations for developers showcasing games like Soul Fjord, Tower Fall, ChronoBlade, DubWars, Amazon Frog and a few others. Why setup outside the convention center? So that the general public can get excited too.

"Our mission is to open up E3 (and games in general) for the public to enjoy since traditionally the show has been closed to members of the industry only — at OUYAPark everyone is welcome — No credentials required (but shoes and shirts would be nice)," the company said.

The OUYA Android console is slated to launch on June 25 for $99 USD. It will go up against BlueStacks' GamePop and Mad Catz's M.O.J.O., the latter of which we also tested on Tuesday (stay tuned for that).

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  • xelliz
    I got my Kickstarter backer Ouya in the other day and it really very tiny. So far, I've played around with the menu's and what not, but I haven't had time to play any of the games. Need to get started with FF3!
    Reply
  • bustapr
    was soul fjord any good?
    Reply
  • Mike Honcho
    Rooted phone + synced PS3 remote + AV cable = no reason for this to exist.
    Reply
  • teh_chem
    10959328 said:
    Rooted phone + synced PS3 remote + AV cable = no reason for this to exist.
    Sure, except for the framebuffer issues that T3 has (not sure about other mobile CPU/GPU platforms) when it's cloned to a second (non-device) display. Cloning the output takes a significant amount of T3's bandwidth, which kills gpu performance (something that the OUYA doesn't need to worry about, since it only outputs to a single video port).

    Don't get me wrong, I'm hugely unimpressed with OUYA, and I'm dumbfounded that it's gone as far as it has. But it's very different than connecting your phone to a controller and video output.
    Reply
  • MrMusAddict
    I don't understand Android consoles. They cost $100, their OS will be outdated in a year or less, and with it they will not be able to play the newest games. This means you get a new console every year or two, just to play games that are available on your phone.

    My advice? Get a next gen console for $400, then renew your cell phone contract every 2 years to get the latest and greatest Android device.

    The OUYA is way underpowered compared to even a Galaxy S3 anyways...
    Reply
  • anthonyla65
    Whilst the concept is good, as said its kind of a bad idea as Android and the mobile hardware market moves at a very fast pace. By the end of this year we'll probably have Quad Core A15 past 2Ghz with Tegra 4 that is many times faster than T3 in Ouya. Next year, we could see Hex-Octa cores in phones and next generation Mali and Adreno GPU's

    A console like the Wii U would have better developers for games and longer support. Heck theres no reason to get a Ouya considering the price of a PS3 these days with a massive library of games. Tegra 3 is really obsolete now, not every game and everything was smooth on my Nexus 7. And thats only running on 1280x800. 1080p would kill the Tegra 3.
    Reply
  • Scrotor
    I was overjoyed that there was going to be a gaming console that I could play all my Play Store and Amazon Apps on a big screen. Doesn't support either. I did manage to install the Amazon store with a little tinkering, but the controller usage on normal Android apps is functional...kinda... Side loading the Play Store OUYA just refuses to run it. I want to love this thing, but rebuying all the apps I already own on Play and Amazon sucks. I support you guys and good luck, but unless you see the light like Barnes & Noble did with the Nook realizing that they need Google, my OUYA is just a little brick sitting behind my TV. Also the external HD support needs documentation on how to get it to work and which hd's work.
    Reply
  • Scrotor
    I was overjoyed that there was going to be a gaming console that I could play all my Play Store and Amazon Apps on a big screen. Doesn't support either. I did manage to install the Amazon store with a little tinkering, but the controller usage on normal Android apps is functional...kinda... Side loading the Play Store OUYA just refuses to run it. I want to love this thing, but rebuying all the apps I already own on Play and Amazon sucks. I support you guys and good luck, but unless you see the light like Barnes & Noble did with the Nook realizing that they need Google, my OUYA is just a little brick sitting behind my TV. Also the external HD support needs documentation on how to get it to work and which hd's work.
    Reply
  • Scrotor
    Compared Bards Tale on my Nexus 4 (rooted to get full screen via video out and usage to a PS3 controller) to the OUYA. Nexus 4 wins. Surprising amount of apps support multiple Bluetooth control options (if you are willing to tinker with your phone), and most (android) phones have a video out option now. I really want to love OUYA, I really do, but after fiddling with it for a week, it's just not doing what I wanted it to do, and was expecting from it.
    Reply
  • teh_chem
    10968043 said:
    Compared Bards Tale on my Nexus 4 (rooted to get full screen via video out and usage to a PS3 controller) to the OUYA. Nexus 4 wins. Surprising amount of apps support multiple Bluetooth control options (if you are willing to tinker with your phone), and most (android) phones have a video out option now. I really want to love OUYA, I really do, but after fiddling with it for a week, it's just not doing what I wanted it to do, and was expecting from it.

    What was it you were expecting? It sounded like OUYA was pretty clear with their platform and capabilities from the get-go.

    Of course the N4 wins--the Nexus 4's CPU and GPU are superior to the T3 in the OUYA.

    One advantage over using a phone is that it's a giant pain to connect power, video, and and external controller to a mobile device like a phone. Plus, and especially with modified Android, the confidence in a good user experience goes out the window.
    Reply