Ouya's launch day has finally arrived. After being delayed by a few weeks (June 4 was the original Ouya launch day) the Kickstarter darling is finally available on retail shelves nationwide. Amazon has apparently already sold out, and there are reports that plenty of folks who pre-ordered on Kickstarter still don't have their hands on one yet.
And, after my hands-on time with an Ouya at E3 this year I would like to assure those people they are not missing much.
I was honestly thrilled to be able to get my hands on an Ouya. I mean, what kind of gamer wouldn't be? This is the first viable console alternative since the Xbox launched in 2000. A plucky upstart company that got its funding from the people and is trying to deliver an affordable, Android-based alternative to the Two and a Half titans dominating the living room right now (Sony, MS, Nintendo duh!). I really, really wanted to like the Ouya.
Then I played it and ... oof.
Before I talk about the few titles I played, I can say unequivocally that the number one problem I experienced with the Ouya was controller lag. BAD controller lag. Like, hard-to-navigate-freaking-menus-let-alone-game controller lag. This is no small thing for a console trying to pull gamers away from one of three virtually flawless machines. I mean, you might have a preference for an Xbox or a PS3 or a Wii U but you can at least play a different console with a reasonable expectation for its performance. Controller functionality is an unsung hero of sorts. Like Joni Mitchell said "you don't what you got till it lags like a hammered donkey." (I'm paraphrasing).
Ouya is aware of the controller lag and, based on this thread from their site, they don't have a lot of answers for people experiencing the problem.
But an Engadget report is claiming that the retail version has addressed the Ouya controller lag and that the retail consoles perform much, much better. And the good news is that many games support PS3 and Xbox controllers which apparently perform better than the Ouya's.
Ok, so Ouya controller lag aside, what else has killed my enthusiasm for the system? One word: games.
The Ouya is launching with something like 170 titles for gamers to enjoy. But there are a few problems. First, a lot of them are not that good. The biggest "get" for the Ouya was the port of Final Fantasy III which, according to Wired, "happens to look like steaming garbage when blown up onto a big screen TV."
The game I spent the most time with at E3 was an F-Zero racing clone that was a big bowl of "meh." My colleague played Assassin's Creed on one and, along with controller lag, complained that the game itself felt slow and choppy. I just haven't seen a whole lot of rave reviews about any Ouya title or titles. Yeah, there are some quirky titles that sound like fun, but I haven't come across anything that makes me want to spend $100 just to play.
Further complicating the Ouya launch day are the growing number of unsatisfied customers who actually believe in the project enough to have given it some Kickstarter money and have yet to get a console that was promised to them months ago. And disappointed backers are already leaving negative reviews on Amazon like this one:
This device is not ready for prime time. The processor is barely adequate right now. The controller has serious issues. Given that The OUYA team has shown little regard for those that backed the Kickstarter campaign with lies about shipping and poor communication, and they have already talked about a second generation device, my suggestion is to wait and see if this one is successful. If it is, and they fix all the issues, it might be a system you can invest in. If not, you won't be out $100. But for now, I would say don't buy it.
Until these issues get resolved, or until the Ouya manages to land a system-saving title like Halo, it looks like Ouya the idea has a long way to go to sync up with Ouya the reality.