Why I still love my OUYA (and don’t care they failed pretty miserably)

The OUYA has had a pretty interesting lifecycle, if one could call it that. I won’t go into the sordid details of their rise and fall (that’s a simple Google search away), but I will admit, when they announced they’d been funded on Kickstarter, I was intrigued.

A home console, running Android, for a mere $100, you say? Sounds like a deal too good to pass up, as long as you’re not expecting them to deliver on any of their promises to revolutionize the home console market (and I wasn’t).

This might sound silly, but I wanted one and one thing only out of the OUYA: emulation. I grew up on the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, N64, and all varieties of Game Boy. I didn’t really keep up with consoles past the GameCube, so I like to play those games not only for the nostalgia factor, but also because what they lack in graphics, they more than make up for in story (in this humble writer’s opinion), so if I could get a small, inexpensive, console powerful enough to easily emulate those games, it’d be perfect!

I didn’t back the Kickstarter, and I waited until people had figured out how to flash a recovery, sideload the Play Store, and fix the overscan issue, but once all those boxes had been checked, I pulled the trigger. Two days later, thanks to Amazon Prime, a shiny, new OUYA was on my doorstep.

I did all the requisite stuff, got everything sideloaded, and proceeded to install my emulators of choice. They ran like a charm. It was bliss, being transported through time back to the mid-90s, when polygon counts were low, but damn, those games were cool.

Yes, the OUYA’s controller sucks. Bad. I knew I didn’t like it when I was using it, but it was functional, to put it nicely. The lack of a Start button seemed utterly absurd, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a middle school band director. Anyway, once I picked up a PlayStation 3 controller, I relegated the OUYA controller to putting the thing back to sleep when I was done.

What sweetened the emulation deal even more was FolderSync. Prior to buying an OUYA, I knew I wanted to keep my save states in a Google Drive folder, so, if I happened to have a minute, I could play the same game on my phone, and the states would sync in the same folder. Why have two different versions of the game going when you can have one?

FolderSync was a little bit janky to get installed (I ended up having to sideload a backup from my phone to get any of the settings to take), but again, once I’d crossed that hurdle, it worked. I could play FF7 or Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together on my OUYA, sync the states, and pick right up where I left off on my phone. For $100, that ain’t bad.

Add in XBMC for OUYA (which lets me do P90X3 without any streaming a la Plex), and this little box does everything I need it to. Let me be clear: I don’t think it meets the potential they claimed it would, nor do I think it’s offering of in-house games are good (I tried absolutely one, some Aliens vs. Predator game, it sucked), but for the few relatively simple tasks I require of it, it knocks it out of the park.

As for OUYA and Friends transitioning to a software-only company? Best of luck, but I think Sean Hollister of The Verge put it best:

What is Ouya without its hardware? It’s not a console anymore: it’s a subset of the Android operating system that will necessarily have fewer games, due to its smaller install base and extra hurdles, than Android as a whole — only without the previous benefits of a single hardware platform for developers to target.

So, yeah. Even more dead in the water than it was before it even launched, when people were claiming then that it’d be DOA. Oh well.

You’ve gotta hand it to the people who had the vision to try, though, even if it ended up becoming a comedy of errors early in the process.

Thanks to them, they took (some) of the hackery and work out of getting a little XBMC/emulator box going for me, and based on the rumblings of the internet, I might be their only happy customer.

Thanks, OUYA and Friends.

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