This past week’s OUYA Dev Support Office Hours show didn’t just feature Super Pixalo‘s Phil Royer, it also featured Bawb Mills answering viewer mail. At the 26:44 mark, a question comes in about the OUYA ever having the Tegra K1 chipset. After the group jokes around a bit, they state that they can’t speak about a chipset “for the future” and directly reference the OUYA 2. On the status of the next Ouya, “when we’re ready” response was stated by Jared Yeager before going on to refer to it as the “Ouya 2.” The K1 chipset was first announced about six months ago, and the upcoming NVIDIA Shield tablet will use it. One might question the need for a microconsole using as price is a concern there. The tablet itself is $200 at a minimum and $300 at a maximum, while the controller is $60.
That means you’d need to spend $260 or $360 to get a console-esque setup and hook it up to your TV with HDMI. That price point is what turned me off to the MOJO, which offered up more power, but didn’t promise anything beyond Google Play Store support, which you can already get on the OUYA with a bit work. There’s no guarantee a game will run well on the MOJO even if it has controller support, and reviews from tech heads like Lon Seidman have cited interface issues due to the CTRL-Rs lack of a trackpad. Both the OUYA and Shield Tablet controllers have one, and it enables for a much more user-friendly experience, even if the OUYA’s trackpad isn’t perfect. Beyond pricing, device size is an issue there as it’s a bit like hooking up a laptop to your TV. Sure, you can do it, but you still need a fairly large area to set the device down on. Microconsoles have the benefit of small form factors, and in the case of the original OUYA, you can put this thing in a small nook in your entertainment center and still hook it up to your TV without an issue. Device weight is a bit of a problem though, and hopefully the OUYA 2 features a weightier bottom because the current one gets tugged around quite easily if you don’t have a really long HDMI cable with plenty of slack in it.
The OUYA’s Tegra 3 chipset was impressive two years ago when the device was announced, but the MOJO’s Tegra 4 instantly put it to shame hardware-wise, which wound up being a longer-term benefit. Since Tegra 4 is able to run anything the Tegra 3 can, it made emulating the OUYA via the OUYA Everywhere program and MOJO firmware update possible. As a result, people who didn’t buy an OUYA can still gain access to its games, and the game developers have one more piece of hardware they can make money on. The MOJO’s increase in power really hasn’t meant much though, and the lack of exclusive games on it has made it more of an emulator box than gaming console. Sure, that’s something the OUYA is known for as well with the inclusion of NES, SNES, N64, Genesis, Sega CD, Dreamcast, PS1, and MAME emulators, but it does have a lot of original games as well. Emulation may be frowned upon, but I’ve used the OUYA for it to play things like fan translations that I can’t play on my still-functioning SNES from ’91 (no red rings of death there) and pay tribute to my late mother by playing games that I have fond memories of playing with her — like Classic Concentration and Vegas Dream on the NES, and Vegas Stakes on the SNES. Sideloading enables emulation for the PSP, and it works shockingly well. However, like the Dreamcast, it’s not emulated perfectly just yet. The MOJO does seem to be a better emulator machine in theory since it runs things like Reicast and PPSSPP with more horsepower behind them, but it hasn’t even caught fire with retro enthusiasts on Youtube, as popular groups like the Super Beard Bros. use the OUYA for that purpose instead.
Digital Foundry recently took a look at the K1 and found that it was so powerful, it could actually boost the performance of games without them being made to do so. While the K1 may seem a bit too advanced for the OUYA company, it’s been around in some form for six months now. NVIDIA said when they first showed it off that it could run console-quality games, and when you see the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo running on K1, it’s impossible to not have your mind blown to some degree imagining games with higher-end console graphics running on a mobile chipset. Assuming OUYA actually implements K1, the pricing of the device would be fairly interesting. The original system made waves at $100 because it was such a low-risk price point. I love my OUYA, but I honestly doubt I would’ve taken a gamble on it has it been $200 or more. A higher price point nixed my interest in the MOJO, which was originally $250. While $100 is a gamble, it’s not much of one, and that $100 sold me on the concept of Android microconsoles being a viable platform. Titles like Towerfall gaining acclaim on it before getting a much bigger audience on the PS4 also filled me with joy. The OUYA itself was a proof of concept, and here was a game that showed how a seemingly underpowered device could still deliver a must-play gaming experience.
The OUYA 2 having more horsepower behind it would only help the cause of Android microconsoles as it’s the only one that’s gained any traction. If the OUYA’s successor was to include a K1, it should future-proof it quite a bit. That’s one thing that has really hurt the perception of the system — the hardware is downright archaic. We talk about the system a lot on our podcast as both myself and Lee Cooper own one. I love the system, but it isn’t perfect — there’s a ton of shovelware on it, much like the Xbox Live Indie marketplace where you have to wade through a sea of sub-par titles to find good ones. However, that has led to me discovering games like Super Killer Hornet and getting a lot of mileage out of the so bad, they’re good games on the marketplace like The Amazing Frog and Man Boobs Are Candy Corn HD. There’s a lot to love about the system thanks to titles like Shadow Blade, Super Pixalo, Duck Game, So Many Me, Soul Fjord, Whispering Willows, and LAZA KNITEZ. Most of those games showcase the system as a local multiplayer device, while Soul Fjord is a perfect gateway Rogue-like since it’s so action-heavy and Shadow Blade provides the best action-platforming found on the system. However, none of the system’s showcase games have been 3D. There hasn’t been a game that makes the most of the hardware’s 3D, and that’s quite understandable — developers are at best going to make something that would’ve looked good 10 years ago, but it’s not likely going to look as impressive as a 2D game. Plus, pixel art and 2D gaming are more “in” than a retro 3D look, which only Minecraft has really succeed with.
This situation would drastically change if the K1 chipset was used for the OUYA 2, and with NVIDIA trying its best to get people on-board with K1, having it used in a microconsole would open it up to a console-centric audience for both developers and consumers. An OUYA successor has been rumored for a while, and with the emulation of the original OUYA over the summer, it seemed like an announcement of one would be forthcoming fairly soon. Perhaps we’ll see an announcement made at PAX Prime next month in Seattle, where we’ll be covering all of the events live.