Ouya: The Upcoming Console Wars’ Not So Small Player

Matt Hawkins gets his hands on an Ouya.

Everyone's talking about the PlayStation 4 and the next big console war, understandably. And unlike in years past, the living room will have more than just three principle players, as its been for the past twelve years (which, by most people's accounts, was too big of a number as is).

In addition to the three traditional home video game console manufacturers, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, you also have the PC poised to finally dominate the living room, thanks to the Steam Box. And let's not forget Apple and its mythical iTV.

But of course, there's one additional player: Android. As we all know, in recent months, we've seen a slew of low cost, yet moderately powerful console alternatives, all driven by Google's mobile operating system. Some are still in the midst of their Kickstarter campaigns, but at the end of the day, the one name that will become synonymous is the Ouya, because it led the charge last year.

And, it happened to make an appearance in New York City not too long ago, at the inaugural IndieCade East. Which is where I was able to give it a pat down. Or at least the controller.

Ouya dev console

Sadly, the Ouya rep would not let me touch the console itself. Which is not the final retail version, which will be draped in silver. Instead, it sported a see-through plastic housing, which is what developers all recently received.

The first thing that struck me was how big it was. Not that's it huge or anything, but I recalled that one image, of multiple hands all cradling the console, which left the impression of the Ouya being teeny-tiny. Oh well. But again, it's not like it's gigantic or anything, far from it.

I was allowed to pick up the controller. And the following is based purely upon the developer version, which again is covered in clear plastic, and not whatever they'll be using to create the retail brushed aluminum surface, but it needs to be said: the Ouya controller is one of the most fantastically comfortable controllers I have handled in recent memory.

Everything about it, such as the weight, and most especially the design, is simply a joy to behold. Much like the system itself, it's deceptively larger than what the picture might indicate. But the way one's hands wrap around the thing feels incredibly natural. The rep told me how team agonized every single nuance, and it absolutely shows.

One very nice detail was how the letters of the system itself is on the buttons. Though the big surprise was the touchpad in the middle of the thing. Perhaps this was a detail that was commonly known beforehand, but I was shocked to know of its existence.

It would be foolish to compare the Ouya controller to the just unveiled PlayStation 4 controller, but they are more similar than dissimilar. Though the touch surface of the Dual Shock 4 does seem considerably bigger than the Ouya's.

As one might guess, its use entirely depends on the game or software you have running at the time. At IndieCade East, there was a very rudimentary action game that had a man in a jetpack that you controlled with the aforementioned input device. You had to avoid falling rocks, and the tricky part was dealing with inertia.