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).