Ben Kuchera

The OUYA kind of sucks right now, and that’s okay

The OUYA kind of sucks right now, and that’s okay

Reading The Verge’s review of the OUYA hardware is an interesting exercise. The OUYA is a combination of the hardware that plays the games, and the software that allows us to download, pay for, and buy those games. The Verge isn’t very impressed with the OUYA experience right now, and I can hardly blame them, but I also don’t think their review tells the entire story.

I have an OUYA dev kit at home, and I’ve been playing with it for the past few days. The whole thing kind of sucks right now, but that’s okay.

A living console

It’s important to realize that, while some people may have their console, the OUYA has not been released yet. People who backed the Kickstarter are receiving their hardware, but the actual launch of the system isn’t until June 4. That’s the date when anyone can just walk into a store and buy a unit, and until then many things are going to be changing.

This soft launch is very much a beta test, and my conversations with OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman were peppered with things that were going to be added later, or that will improve, or that the team is looking at. Right now the interface is laggy, and there aren’t that many games to play. Not all the features are there, and many that do exist work in their most basic forms.

Keep the system away from your kids, because buying content is incredibly easy. The system works well, but it’s far from finished; the firmware and the feature set, not to mention game and app selection, will hopefully improve quickly once thousands of fans, developers, and enthusiasts begin to descend upon the hardware and the ODK. What the OUYA team does is important, but their job has always been merely to deliver the skeleton of the system. I want to see what developers and modders begin to do once the hardware is out in the wild.

This dependency on developers and Android enthusiasts is as much a weakness as it is a strength. What if they don’t show up? Almost all the complaints from the Verge review, and from my own testing, are fixable. There are no deal breakers here unless everyone drops the ball and stops fixing the issues. The hardware is powerful for the price. The UI is easy to understand, and should only get better as features are added. There is no reason the OUYA can't become a great media box with strong gaming features.

So I agree with the review: the OUYA kind of sucks right now, but that’s okay. These are the first units going out to customers, and developers have only begun to explore the space. If the system still has these issues in June, then it’s time to get out the torches and pitchforks. Right now I’m happy with my dev kit, watching the service evolve, and seeing what will happen next. It's bound to be an adventure, and the current state of the service and system is the first word in the system's life, not the last.