Early Ouya reviews highlight panoply of problems

The Verge and Engadget point to issues with hardware, OS and game catalogue

The early reviews of the Ouya console are out, and they are less than encouraging about the Android console's chances of success.

The first public version of the hardware started shipping to Ouya's Kickstarter backers on March 29, opening what CEO Julie Uhrman has described as an " exclusive preview period" while the team adds and refines features.

However, that hasn't prevented some of the more prominent, taste-making tech websites from posting reviews - specifically The Verge and Engadget - and their appraisals are far from positive.

A common pain point is the controller, which suffers from problematic lag, though only on occasion. Both reviews also complained of sticky buttons and triggers. However, the console's re-skinned Android 4.1 OS is a greater concern, with both Engadget and The Verge highlighting a number of important missing features and counter-intuitive design choices.

"This is a product with some good ideas and a potentially promising future, but it's a million miles away from something worth spending your money on"

The Verge

But the biggest problem is the games. There are 8,000 developers signed up to create products for Ouya, but neither site was impressed by the quality and variety of the 104 games currently available: for Engadget, anyone with reasonable experience of smartphone games will be familiar with the "vast majority" of the current catalogue, while The Verge pressed the need for either exclusive or name-brand products to sell the device.

"A surprisingly large number of high-quality games are available in the [Google] Play Store," the Verge said in its 3.5 out of 10 review. "But Ouya's going its own way with the Ouya Store, and it pales tremendously in comparison."

A related issue is the initially promising idea of every game being available to download for free. However, the reality is different: Engadget complained that there is no indication of how much any game costs until you're playing it, and prices range from freemium all the way up to $15.99 for Final Fantasy III. For The Verge, the need to offer free content led to every game suffering from an unpredictable stream of in-game prompts and pop-ups urging the player to spend money.

The one high point for The Verge - by far the most negative available review - is the way Ouya has delivered on its promise of being the "most hackable" console in history. The site's reviewer managed to get Netflix, Plex, Shadowgun, Mario Kart 64 and Angry Birds Space running on his console. But, he stressed, the complicated process required to do do will be beyond the capabilities of even its 60,000 backers, let alone a mass audience hungry for content. "They'll just want to turn it on and play some games," he said. "Boy, will they be let down."

Engadget finished its review with an acknowledgement that this version of Ouya should be considered "a beta release", adding, "It's simply not ready for retail." And with the console due to launch in June there is still time to make changes to the controller and interface.

However, The Verge suggested that the console is simply too far from its stated goals to realise them in the remaining months.

"This is a product with some good ideas and a potentially promising future, but it's a million miles away from something worth spending your money on.

"To its credit, the company says loudly and often that this is only the beginning of a long road for Ouya - and I'll be watching its progress with interest. But the device is currently being sold as a product, not a prototype, and that's just wrong. Ouya isn't a viable gaming platform, or a good console, or even a nice TV interface. I don't know what it is, but until Ouya figures it out, it's not worth $99."

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Latest comments (16)

Christophe Danguien games developer 7 years ago
I really wonder who didn't see that coming....
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
Yes, there are many many issues from what I'm hearing but this wasn't going to be an easy ride.

Luckily the system is flexible and there is time to improve things, some of them before the 'official launch', others further into the future looking at on-going improvement.

I do hope that for the project's sake, things can be salvaged before it becomes too big a problem for the long term success and percepetion.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 5th April 2013 12:25pm

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Caleb Hale Journalist 7 years ago
I'm just wondering why Ouya built a business model that was essentially, "Bear with us on this."
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Show all comments (16)
Stephen Richards Game Deisgner 7 years ago
It's almost as if having an ex-ign editor on the team makes it easier to get a console overhyped in the media.
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matthew bennion Web Development 7 years ago
I still fail to see where a console who's library mainly comprises of mobile phone game ports is going to fit into the market.
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Norman Tajudin Operations & Strategy 7 years ago
There's a reason why the console market is dominated by Xbox and Playstation. The OUYA beta is evidence of the complexity of bringing together core competencies in CE design & manufacturing, Software, OS, community, etc. to delivery a successful platform product like a game console. Hype and crowd funding can only get you so far in this space...
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
>> "I'm just wondering why Ouya built a business model that was essentially, "Bear with us on this."

Caleb, I've not really been following this so don't specifically know what you refer to. But I will say this, it's a refreshing change if the people behind this are putting their hands up and being honest about problems and promising solutions. It's not ideal, but its way better than listening to the slick patter you'd get from a big corp exec spinning away with 100 words and saying nothing at all.
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If this can't access the google play store it will fail. I can connect my phone to my TV now and pair to a Bluetooth controller and play all those games on a TV. Ouya needs to do more not less.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
I never had any real interest in teh first place but was curious to see how well it would fare in the real world. So far they aren't starting out too well but I'm still waiting for the opinions of the people who buy it for $99 starting in June.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
"They'll just want to turn it on and play some games"

Annnnnnd, there you go. Well, that needs to be sorted out or I'm betting a lot of those backers who aren't hackers will be not too pleased with their purchase... We shall see, I guess.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 7 years ago
If this can't access the google play store it will fail.

I can connect my phone to my TV now and pair to a Bluetooth controller and play all those games on a TV.
You clearly have not actually tried to do this yourself with a typical modern mass-market phone. The whole thing is fantasy.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
yeah, like big hardware makers allow you to see products months before general release. Maybe those have writing the reviews had the experience developing for a prototype platform before?
Also, Ouya is not a massive company with Microsoft-like resources either.
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Anybody remember the early HTC touch phones running windows mobile? Clumsy, often didn't work without a stylus, came preloaded with solitaire. It took Apple to take the concept and develop it into the iPhone for smartphones to really take off.

Hopefully it won't be 6 years until these devices sort themselves out, but if only because devices like the Ouya and the Gamestick are potentially much better alternatives to current smart TV's, I don't think we can discount them.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios7 years ago
I backed it, so I'm admittedly biased in favour of Ouya - but I think It's a bit harsh to review it as finished during the beta period. Issues with the controller hardware are worrying, though.

I expect the initial crop of games to be ports, obviously. What I'm hoping for is experimental stuff like Journey or Flower or The Unfinished Swan that is still fundamentally a console experience, but doesn't necessarily demand high-end graphics hardware. The open platform makes projects like that a lot less risky, providing Ouya finds a decent audience - although if PS4 is really as open as Sony claim, it could fill that niche without the hardware compromises. We'll see...
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Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
Most of the hate directed at Free-to-play models comes from customers feeling they're going to be hoodwinked in-game because of the opaque pricing policies, especially when assessing a game's worth up-front. How many times have we heard this?

You can't found a retail service without putting prices front and center. Transparency of pricing is the most important thing from the customer's point of view.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
If I'm not mistaken games have to be free to try not 'free to play'.
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