The Ouya Is An Android Tablet Without A Screen

The Ouya Is An Android Tablet Without A Screen

No discussion about the exciting open-source Ouya console passes without someone inevitably comparing the Kickstarter sensation to a mobile phone or Android tablet without a screen.

Defenders rush to defend the great indie console hope, arguing that it’s much more than that. This is all-new hardware packed inside a small-but-sexy design by Yves Béhar. They say it’s the future of console gaming.

Which side is right? Both of them.

The tiny console that’s generated more than six million dollars of crowd funding is, essentially, not that different from several Android devices currently on the market. I like to use the example of the Asus Transformer Prime tablet (my Android device of choice), mainly because the specs are so similar.

Let’s take a look.


A couple of key differences to note, the Ouya is slated to use the 1.6GHz Tegra 3 T33 processor, which Asus uses in its Transformer Pad Infinity, while the Prime uses the 1.4GHz Tegra 3 T30. Other than the processor difference, storage size, the main hardware differences between the two devices involve accessories, the display and dependence on battery power. The Ouya has no screen and uses AC power, so the meagre resources normally dedicated to managing such things can be repurposed towards providing additional processing power, as pointed out to me by Ouya’s Tiffany Spencer.

And then there’s the price.

While there are cheaper Tegra 3 devices on the market than the Prime, nothing comes close to the value offered by the Ouya. If anything else, it’ll be the cheapest way to play Android games on the market (yes, your phone might have been inexpensive, but try buying one without a contract).

The Ouya can and will run any game available on the Android Market, which is why many people scoff every time a new game or service is announced for console; games like Final Fantasy III and the streaming OnLive service already function on Android, so of course they’ll be available on Ouya.

What these app developers are really saying when they announce plans to provide their work to the Ouya is that they’ll be placing their items in the console’s custom front end. Like the Kindle Fire, the Ouya will have its own front end, where developers both independent and corporate will be able to display their wares, provided that their offering is available in some sort of free form. Square Enix is creating the first demo version of Final Fantasy III in order to comply with the mandate, and that’s definitely a move in the right direction.

Conversely, any Ouya-exclusive game, like Robert Bowling’s Human Element prequels, will also run on any suitably powerful Android device.

“Yes technically the games will run on any Tegra 3 hardware,” said Spencer, adding “Performance will depend on how that particular system is configured.”

While hooks may exist that tie exclusive titles specifically to the Ouya, the open source, hacker-friendly nature of the unit almost ensures that an enterprising technomancer could easily create a workaround, bringing us right back around to the piracy problem.

And don’t expect any perfect console ports for the Ouya. While there are some immensely impressive games available in the Tegra Zone, they’re still a far cry from AAA titles on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Having a unified platform with a strongly-defined user base might convince publishers to make limited versions of a Call of Duty or Final Fantasy for the console, but technical limitations are technical limitations.

When someone says the Ouya is a phone or tablet without a screen, they are correct. This is fairly standard technology. The difference, as Spencer put it, is in “how we combine the tech, the relationship we have with developers, and our biz model.” The Ouya gives the muddled Android gaming scene a focus, both for players and developers. It could transform what began as a phone platform into a major player, bringing an entire army of mobile gamers into the living room.

I’m saving a spot on my couch.


  • Kind of a dumb comparison.
    A console is much more than its processing specs.
    Giving developers a standardised format (720p and 1080p) and a standard constroller with standard buttons gives them the ability to create better games.
    Sure touch screens are great for swiping and some games, but the majority of gaming still needs a physical input device with more than 2 bottons (your 2 tumbs on a touch screen).

    Ive backed this, and for $100 even if it DOES flop i still have a little console i can use as a HTPC or to tinker around with 🙂

    • With so much ‘hack-ability’ it’ll be worth buying one of these even if it is a flop. I’d be happy to have it set up next to the TV just running emulators with a wireless controller. I know this is something you can do with a PC today, but I’d rather keep my PC on my desk.

  • So let me get this right, if i have an android tablet I could concievably download Ouya (the app) and just use my tablet in lieu of spending $100+ for hardware that duplicates my pre-existing capability?

    I’m getting more and more confused about Ouya is doing that is worthy of so much time , money and effort.

    The games native to the system will be stock standard games you can get in the android market place. Whilst for OnLive there is no exclusive nor any reasons why I couldn’t run OnLive on any other platform that plugs into my TV at the moment.

    So this platform provides me a capability to play games I already play via my Android system, or via OnLive (which I can access if I lived in the US).

    I’m really really struggling to work out what Ouya is doing that justifies any money from my cold dead hands. Sometimes I weep about our plant. In 20 years time (probably 12-24 months) Ouya consoles will litter our rubbish dumps as people realise what a piece of duplicating duplicitous pieces of crap they were.

    • As far as i have heard Ouya wont be an App that you can just download onto your Android Tab (although im sure someone will be able to hack it onto a device).

      As for the rest of your comments see my reply above about hardware standardisation.
      Also Ouya might be the first (and only) android device with those specs someone owns. Also you will find that devs who develop for Ouya might not have versions that play on any other hardward configuration (as per the article above).

      Your thinking is a bit simplistic. Ouya IS NOT a tablet, its a standardisted android powered console that will plug straight into a TV.
      Think of it as comparing an iPad to all the Android Tablets. iPad is 1 device with 1 set of specifications and 1 piece of hardware. Android Tablets are vary ALOT in specs and hardware.
      This makes it very difficult for any large (or small) developer to make 1 version of a game or software that works on all devices.

      Ouya gives those Android devs a chance to simplify their dev processes and costs.

      • and then it all comes down to how secure, policed, reviewed and well designed the app/game ecosystem that 1 system is on both the dev and consumer end. Is Ouya going to pull that off? We’ll see

      • It wont be an App, it’ll most likely be a modified version of ICS/Jb with support for the accessories. and a custom App market place.
        so its a ROM rather than a App. im sure someone (probably XDA) will remake it so it’ll run on T3 tablets but i really dont see the point

      • Exactally, standardisation will be just like with Apple products and may make it simpler to develop for. But that doesn’t exactly make it anything new. It just pretty much turns it into a jail broken iPad without the screen. Nothing new and only really gives it a slight advantage comparable to what Apple products may have over Android. But wait… “any Ouya-exclusive game… will also run on any suitably powerful Android device” games will still need to be compatible for EVERYTHING else that is suitably powerful then.

  • I support OUYA because they will generate new exciting content, at least that’s the plan. A lot of creative games are created on mobile right now (some of you may hate Angry Birds, but it’s still an innovation in my perspective. Maybe what comes next would be more of your taste), but mostly not on consoles.

    I think the industry needs this because for me, console games are getting dull. I’ve never finished games nowadays, because it’s not engaging anymore. Well, not all of them obviously, but great games are becoming very scarce.

    So I’m hoping that the creative minds of both console and mobile world would come together, and create great games on this piece of Hardware.

  • Also, not everyone owns an Android Tablet, nor does it tempt me at all. Where as Ouya has piked my interest because it’s a format that will allow me to play games comfortably. Tablets and phone touch screens just don’t cut it.
    My TV has a DVD player, and an Xbox 360 plugged into it, I see neither able to run OnLive.
    Just because one person has a set up that works, doesn’t mean everyone does.

  • Great article with much more anthusiasm then most of the articles I’ve been reading about the Ouya. It’s amazing how cynical poeple are these days. It’s ok to believe in a romantic idea sometimes. Romantic ideas turn into great inovations.

  • if all else fails, i see the Ouya as a very cheap alternative to those media devices that gives you smart TV capabilities.

  • This would all be great, except:

    “The Ouya can and will run any game available on the Android Market, which is why many people scoff every time a new game or service is announced for console; games like Final Fantasy III and the streaming OnLive service already function on Android, so of course they’ll be available on Ouya.”

    The CEO lady on reddit yesterday said that the Google Play store would not be available; not only that, any games currently there would need to re-submit for classification in the OUYA store before being available. There’s a likely chance a lot of them won’t resubmit.

    OnLive? Only in America, and maybe the UK. It doesn’t work and is not available in Europe, Asia, or Australia.

    They’re not even sure if they can get the OUYA store running if you root your device – they’d like to, but don’t know yet, due to supporting DRM.

    There’s also a huge range of features that she’s confirmed “We’d like to have, but may be some considerable time after launch”.

    Also, that price comparison is laughably bad. If he can show a cheaper tablet that matches specs, why doesn’t he? That’s blatant bias and extremely poor journalism.

    • Sure, if you just want a core computer that runs Android and plays games. Heck, Raspberry Pi has it’s own Android 4.0 version coming out and it’s only $35. It’s what you don’t get that determines whether the Ouya is really the better option.

      You need a screen, you need a keyboard and mouse (bluetooth), you can’t take it on the train with you, or read in bed with it, and then there’s the question of whether you can run your existing apps if you already have an android device. You also only have 8Gb initially, but most people will probably have external storage to plug into the USB port.

      The Transformer is designed for people who want a tablet device, the Ouya is designed for people who want a machine dedicated to playing games or watching movies, etc. at home in their lounge room.

  • The Transformer Prime is overpriced. Asus thinks of it as a competition to the iPad, and pricing it much lower than it would make it seem substandard. A better comparison is the 8 GB Nexus 7. The Ouya gets rid of many of the parts from the $199 tablet, like the screen, battery, camera, GPS, and motion sensor, and adds a controller. I think $99 is pretty close to right, for selling it at a modest profit.

  • Considering the Android market has Nintendo and SEGA emulators to make ROM files (back ups of course) work on Android enabled devices, this technically means that these games can be once again played on your television…. Oh but wait a minut, I just had a thought!

    “If OUYA is an android based OS and people have already managed to create applications to emulate old consoles to play ROM files, then what the heck is stopping them from doing the same to OUYA on mobile devices considering it’s OS is native to tablets and mobile phones?”
    Yes, it’s called sarcasm.

    The creators of OUYA want their device to be hackable or open source or however you want to put it but if people want to play android games on their OUYA console using the TV, how does it differ from Google TV? Essentially we haven’t heard much details about what the OUYA will offer but new TV’s are having Google TV built into them which supports the Google Play market so you can download games , rent movies or use the many pointless apps on your TV.

  • Mike, glad to see a relatively sensible look at the Ouya compared to a tablet. Unfortunately, I think you missed the single most important point: The Ouya Is An Android Tablet *with a traditional controller*. Since most people bag on tablets for having rubbish touch controls it boggles my mind that people don’t get how much of a difference this will make. Angry birds, fruit ninja, and other great little phone games will *suck* on Ouya, meanwhile many traditional genres like platformer, FPS – which only have pretty rubbish options on tablets thanks to touch controls – will thrive on Ouya.

    Also, as Garrick pointed out, a standard hardware target to developer for is a big advantage. If Ouya sells as well as I think its going to, it will be a huge standardised platform .

  • Ya, so lets just forget about the fact that
    A. Your computer does what the Ouya does
    B. Your computer is more powerful that an Ouya
    C. You probably already own like an Iphone or a samsung or any other smartphone which will let you plug into a TV
    D. A modded PSP 3000 does what the Ouya does
    E. A modded Wii does what the Ouya does much better than the Ouya and the WIi has games
    F. There are mini USB android PCs that does what the Ouya does and cheaper
    G. By just using your PC to do what the Ouya does better than the Ouya which you already own and are using to view this you can save 100 dollars.

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