Is OUYA a Better Mouse Trap?

So the gaming world is all atwitter about the new, $99 console that’s set to turn the industry on its boring, old ear. Gamers are tired of the same old consoles, they want the excitement of another consumer opportunity. Which is why we were all so excited to jump on the Playstation Move and the XBOX Kinect, right? Oh wait…

I find myself completely baffled by the excitement everybody has for a chance to spend their hard earned money for a thing that basically does the same stuff their current consoles already do. Frequently, the gaming industry confuses me. Nobody’s jumping down my throat to hype me for another microwave, or blender. Even my computer, which is definitely an appliance with a shelf-life, gets to wirrr out the rest of its days on my desk without much threat of being pushed out by The Next Big Thing before it’s short career is at an obvious end. Yet the gaming community seems to be enamored by a past where consoles went in and out of style like polo shirts. In his Engadget editorial, Tim Stevens laments the dullness of the industry, and decrys the domestication of gaming systems. He pines for a time when “videogame consoles were put to pasture just as they hit their stride.” In my opinion, the console industry isn’t getting borring, it’s maturing, and I am glad for it. The level of constant device turn over and product waste of the past is appalling.

Maybe it’s because while Stevens was deep in the heat of the console wars, I wasn’t allowed to play video games, and then family situations changed and we couldn’t even afford living room furniture let alone videogame consoles. After that, I was on my own, and food was my main priority. So the idea of buying a system, waiting until it got awesome, and then throwing it aside for the a newer system is altogether baffling to me. It’s like buying a hamburger, loving it like crazy, but throwing it in the trash half-way through and going back to buy a cheeseburger. Not that you shouldn’t get the cheeseburger after the hamburger is done, and when you’re hungry again, but double fisting burgers is weird and people will stare at you. Especially if you’re fat.

We have what I consider to be a really nice TV. I’d never bought a TV before, but it became a necessity when the TV we inherited from our old roommate grew increasingly impossible to play videogames on. Batman Arkham Asylum was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I thought I hated that game when I first played it, but it turned out that I couldn’t see anything because our ancient TV’s resolution was so low, half the graphics were just blurs. I tried to give the TV away, but even our youngest and poorest friends turned their nose up at our old CRT. Eventually, it went to a Goodwill in Hollywood where it was likely turned into an art installation by some uninspired undergrad.

What does our shitty old TV have to do with the OUYA? Frugality. which is why I hate the idea of the OUYA, but it’s also why I like the OUYA itself. Let me explain: I like that I haven’t had to buy a new gaming console in 7 years. I like that the XBOX is our entire entertainment system. Want to watch TV? Turn on the XBOX. Listen to music? XBOX. Movies? XBOX. Gaming, socializing with my friends online or at a party, even exercise: XBOX, XBOX, XBOX. I love that stupid box, and you can pry it from my cold dead hands. I feel, as a frugal gamer, that by some miracle, we’ve managed to convince console developers that we won’t be buying another $500 piece of hardware anytime soon. Veterans of the console wars have grown fat with console satisfaction in this protracted and beneficial peace. Others of us who are new to the scene are spoiled by the lack of turn-over. We are familiar with our one or two consoles and we don’t see the need for anything else. Ever. You should have seen me when we had to switch from original XBOX to the 360. There was much crying and rending of garments. It’s as if my pet had been run over and my boyfriend tried to pretend that this younger, healthier purebred was really my same dog. Fool me once….

I don’t like change. It usually costs me money. And I know, the whole gaming culture is based firmly in consumerism, which makes me very much an odd duck. But since we’ve become more serious about gaming, we’ve actually saved a ton of money. The XBOX360 and the PS3 combined cost about $1000, the Kinect was free because we were beta testers. Our cable bill was about $100 a month when we turned it off after we bought the 360. In just 10 months, both consoles paid for themselves (although I should mention that the PS3 was actually purchased years after the XBOX). A game costs about $60 new, but aside from Bioware titles, I’ve never met a game I couldn’t wait for the price to drop on. So, for $40 at a time, we get literally hundreds of hours of entertainment, when any other non-free activity would cost at least $10 bucks an hour.

Which is where my liking the OUYA comes in. The entire system costs a cool hundred bucks. As cheap as I am, I’ve spent more than that on a romantic steak dinner… twice as much once if memory serves me. The fact that every single title will either have a free demo, be free to play, or have some sort of subscription model really catches my eye as a consumer. Not to mention that the console is extremely developer friendly. It’s no secret that the big three haven’t exactly courted the developer set. They’ve never needed to. Until now, which brings me back to hating the OUYA. If OUYA is anything close to successful, it’s going to jump start the industry, and I’m not interested in seeing what kind of Bing-style crapbox Microsoft rushes through development in order to compete. I’m especially not interested in having to buy that after all my favorite developers start making games for it and abandon my beautiful XBOX.

From where I’m sitting, the OUYA is going to be a great thing for independent developers, casual gamers, and low-income families who can’t afford to invest in expensive consoles or $60 games, and need an alternative source of entertainment to paying ever-increasing cable and satellite bills. We know that because it’s an android system, players will have access to android apps, like netflix and hulu in addition to their games. I’m going to be watching this system, and the big three with interest as it develops further. My hope for the OUYA is that it will find a niche in the aforementioned categories, that the big three will maybe learn a valuable lesson in developer service, and that none of it will cost me a dime.