The Ouya game console is almost upon us. The little Android console that could is about to prove whether or not is has what it takes.
Barring any last minute changes or manufacturing errors, the Ouya will finally launch to consumers on June 25. The "micro-console" will be available at a number of retailers for the super low price of $99. For that price, you get the console and a controller.
For those just joining us, you may be wondering what's up with this Ouya thing. In short, it's a game console, just like the Xbox 360 or PS3. The major difference is that it's a completely open platform so anybody can make games for it and sell those games without any kind of restriction. Think of it like the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, but on a game console that connects to the TV.
What may interest consumers even more, however, is that every game on the Ouya must be free in some way. Whether it be free-to-play or just a free demo - every game must have a free option.
Like most modern consoles, the Ouya will not just be about the games either. The console will feature media support in the form of XBMC, TuneIn and iHeartRadio. The openness of the console means that anybody can do anything they want it in the future as well. Mozilla is already said to be working on a version of Firefox for it, and other software developers are undoubtedly experimenting with various ideas on how to bring their software to the television.
All of the above sounds nice, but will the Ouya really be able to compete in the increasingly competitive gaming market? Do people really want to pay smartphone games on their television? Over 60,000 believed in that vision last year when Ouya smashed Kickstarter records, but things aren't so peachy anymore. The PS4 and Xbox One had their big reveals at E3 just this week and everybody is excited about the next generation of consoles. Will gamers get behind a console sporting outdated, even by mobile standards, technology?
The Ouya is testing uncharted waters with its release later this month. The Wii proved that you don't need sophisticated graphics to sell a system, but the Ouya doesn't have an easily understood gimmick that looks good on TV or in advertisements. It will have to convince consumers that openness trumps visuals and sophisticated gameplay. That's a hard fight and one I'm not sure it can win.