Will OUYA allow for true multi-platform Android gaming?

by Phil Owen

You might remember OUYA, the Android-based home game console created by Julie Uhrman, from its legendary Kickstarter campaign, which pulled in more than $8.5 million against a goal of $950,000. When any Kickstarter pulls in millions of dollars more than its goal, you might start to think things are getting real, but you don't know what real is until you can pre-order the thing on Amazon.

Guess what? You can totally do that now. If you're into putting in an order for an item five months before its likely release, you are more than welcome to go to Amazon and commit $99.99 to the cause. Because we are reaching a heretofore unknown level of readiness with the OUYA, it's time to start pondering what the thing will really be able to do. And how, as an Android system, it will interact with the smartphones and tablets you already have. OUYA will, after all, be a completely connected device, as every game you obtain for it must be downloaded. Folks have long been skeptical about the thing, and for good reason, but if it can enhance or add to our existing mobile experiences then it might be worth your allowance money.

What’s all the hubbub?

OUYA, I should point out, is a completely open platform. It will come with proprietary software based on Jelly Bean built in, but this software will not restrict developers. When one builds a game for, say, the Xbox 360, that version of the game can only live within the Xbox Live infrastructure. It can't interact with the versions made for the PlayStation 3 or the Wii U or the PC. This won’t be the case for OUYA.

What this means for the games and media-based apps that have already been announced for the OUYA is unclear, but developers will take cues from the geniuses at Spacetime Studios. Those folks have created several MMOs that are truly cross-platform, where users can switch between mobile and console platforms at will without losing progress.

Being an Android platform, OUYA will have a number of games and apps that have either been released on Google Play (Final Fantasy III, VEVO, XBMC, TuneIn, iHeartRadio) or will be (Double Fine Adventure, Saturday Morning RPGAirMech, Shadowrun Online). Sony recently pioneered the idea that you can play the same AAA game on both a mobile platform (PS Vita) and a home console (PlayStation 3) without missing a beat, and if the OUYA wants to find true life beyond the folks who funded the Kickstarter, developers must take this and Spacetime's philosophy to heart.

Learn more about the OUYA media system via this video:

As of today, though, your options for going back and forth between a mobile and home version of a single game is very limited. You can do that with Pocket Legends and its derivatives on phones and the Chrome browser, and there are are only a small handful of titles that allow you to switch seamlessly between the Vita and the PS3. This is because its unusual for developers to create a single version of a game built for mobile and home. The magic of Android, though, opens the door for developers to experiment with this mostly untapped form of multi-platform. With OUYA, we have a platform on which developers can easily port games they've already been making for mobile.

OUYA is crucial for the future of gaming

Put simply, it is absolutely necessary for gamers to be able to play OUYA games outside the home and then pick up where they left off when they plop down on the couch. We already have too many gaming ghettos in our lives, and it's time for the mobile and home experiences to truly come together in a way that only OUYA can provide.

In order to truly take off, though, the OUYA team will need to sell this idea to some name brands. Many Gameloft games already support gamepad controls with the MOGA controller for Android, and so it would probably be relatively simple for them to drop, say, Modern Combat 4 on this new platform. Thus far, though, we haven't seen much endorsement for the OUYA from real names within the mobile community.

The OUYA, when combined with mobile platforms, has the potential to pose a real threat to the traditional home consoles, because it will come with exclusive games. Android gaming is already thriving, but the OUYA could push it over the top with the right kind of connectivity. They could literally usher in a new age of gaming, one in which mobile and home experiences successfully blur together. It's an exciting prospect, but game developers need to collectively step up and make it happen.

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