Realistically, if you’re a console manufacturer looking to coin it big in the market, there’s one thing to consider: you are not going to pick a fight with the Xbox or the PS3. Maybe you’ll go toe-to-toe with the Wii or the still-selling-in-ridiculously-large-numbers Playstation 2 Slim. The fact of the matter is that its just not a viable market for new companies to enter right now, not unless you’re going to; A) make a tablet or, B) Launch some kind of game streaming service for your local area.
Ouya might make it work for them by building up an Android box and as Miklós mentioned, there’s a great deal of talent on board. But what could be powering the $100 cube?
UPDATE 11/07: Tegra 3 hardware is now comfirmed and the console is being funded by a massive Kickstarter campaign.
Firstly, you’d have to actually own an Android device to even glean the kind of potential this little console has. I reported during E3 that there was a smorgasbord of new Tegra 3-optimised games for the Android platform being shown at various booths, with several of them grabbing my attention when I saw them online (remember, I’m too poor to afford to get to E3, so I wasn’t actually there). If you’re building a console for an Android OS, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 is definitely the way to go, especially if you’d like to offer good quality settings at 720p, the default resolution on many 4-inch plus handsets and tablets that were released this year following the Mobile World Congress.
Also possibly pointing to Tegra 3 hardware is the fact that Tablets using the SOC can be had for $200 or less thanks to Nvidia’s Kai platform. Kai represents a big sales push by Nvidia to get Tegra 3 tablets made on the cheap, allowing manufacturers to push them out at a faster rate and also to get them in the hands of more customers that would like to do more than regular tablet activities. Chuck out the screen, the larger chassis, the battery, the cameras and the unecessary hardware and you’d probably drop the retail price for the final hardware to around $100. Nvidia’s Tegra 3 consists of five processing cores running at 1.3Ghz each, with four cores active in more demanding applications and only one core active during low-demand workloads like web browsing and navigating through the Android GUI. Its a very effective and efficient platform and games using it have more processing power for extra effects and better visuals.
I was working in a retail store during the Tegra 3 release last year and missed the whole thing completely. Up until now I’ve been reading reviews and opinions all over and its a great platform even compared to the consoles of today – its a really, really good design and performance is great even at 720p resolution. The biggest thing that I missed, though, is the capabilities of the platform when using an external screen. One of the things shown in a demo during the Tegra 3 release to journalists was the use of the chip in gaming consoles. One of the scenarios was plugging in your tablet to the TV, turning it into a portable gaming console and even offering support for various wireless game controllers.
A lot of tablet manufacturers today offer support for gamepads from Logitech, the Xbox 360 and PS3 wireless controllers and even the Wii controllers, albeit without the excellent motion sensing control. This is another reason why I’m lead to believe that there’s Tegra 3 hardware inside Ouya’s offering and that it might actually gain a lot of traction, even stealing market share from set-top boxes from Google and Logitech already offering the Android platform to consumers.
The mere fact that Tegra 3 is a Nvidia solution also means 3D Vision capability. If you’re using the tablet or a console with a HDMI 1.4-compliant cable and TV, you’re able to play games in 3D assuming the title or video is 3D-compatible. Currently this is limited to 3D-capable games from the Tegra Zone as well as 3D Youtube videos, but the option is there. Its a pity that AMD didn’t jump on the mobile gaming bandwagon sooner, as this is the perfect market for them to get into right now.
If Ouya is sticking to that $100 price point then its the cheapest gaming console to pick up at launch. Not only can it play games with great visuals, its also compatible with your existing controllers, can easily replace your set-top box and handle all your media, it also will probably sport a wireless card so that there’s less cabling to run to it. Ouya also mentioned that the console will come with a SDK that allows for consumers to create their own programs and games – this is likely to be Nvidia’s Tegra 3 SDK, currently available for free.
It just makes more sense for Ouya to go this route rather than start everything from scratch, as all the hard work has already been done for them – they now just need to negotiate licenses, get developers on board for the console’s software (likely modified versions of Android) and they need some clever marketing to get the word out there. With Nvidia’s Tegra roadmap promising up to 100% performance improvements in 2014 compared to Tegra 2, this is going to be a very exciting time for manufacturers looking to launch their own console in a previously uncontested space.
I’ve said many times over that consumers prefer convenience over a product that might need a bit more fiddling or technical knowledge that can be set up to perform better. A console that fits neatly into the lounge, works with all your existing hardware and peripherals and simultaneously offers you better media or app capability without you doing any heavy lifting to set it up is going to sell well.
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