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5/20/2013

A few days ago I received my OUYA, a small, brand new video game console that has been funded through a sensational Kickstarter campaign last year. As an early backer I was lucky enough to get a unit early on and was eager to take a look.

The first thing that will strike you when you look at the OUYA is just how small it is. It's tiny, really, and yet it is a high end machine that produces high end graphics and has enough horsepower under the hood to keep games running smoothly. It is a bit of a miracle of technology.
Another big difference between the OUYA and, say, the Playstation, is that it is an open platform. This means that it is open to developers to create content and make it available to the public, without any walled gardens or barriers of entry. Anyone can write software for OUYA and anyone can develop hardware for OUYA. It is that concept that made me back the console during its Kickstarter campaign.
Upon running OUYA for the first time, however, I also got the impression, that, over time, this may also become OUYA's Achilles Heel. After I set up the console and booted it up for the first time I decided to download a few games, just to give the device a spin. I found the OUYA's user interface a bit clumsy. In fact, text descriptions ran off the screen and were clipped, making it impossible to read at times, without awkwardly scrolling the desktop around the screen. I would have thought the console could detect the resolution of my TV set - especially since it was connected through an HDMI port - but for some reason it renders the screen to wide, hiding information off-screen. Well, eh, okay.
After clumsily trying to locate a suitable game for a first impression I decided to grab an arcade game, downloaded it and was greeted by some horribly upscaled title screen with upscaling artifacts and hand-drawn arrows for instructions that looked like a five-year-old's first attempts at Photoshop.
The game itself didn't fare much better and was deleted within 30 seconds. Okay, that impression was not that great and while the second and third selection of games fared somewhat better, I could already tell that quality will be a major issue on OUYA.
We are currently in the roll-out phase where the company should really try to put showcase products on their deck, games that people truly want to play. Instead, it appears as if the deck consists to a large degree of games that have been ported from mobile devices to a video game console. The reason is clear, of course. OUYA runs Android, one of the major operating systems in the mobile space and it seems an easy step to just port it over real quick and join the party.
That mentality could backfire horribly, however, for everyone involved. Unless OUYA can prove that it is a desirable platform with high quality games, I fear the console may just be obsolete before it even came out of the gates. But we'll see, I do not want to be too harsh, the coming months will show us which direction OUYA is headed.

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