The Ouya

Like horses being led to a stable, the latter part of this year will be the starting bell for a gaming race. With the likes of OUYA, Project SHIELD, Project M.O.J.O., Gamestick, XBox One and the Playstation 4 all being readied for wide release, the landscape is changing.

While not all of those consoles listed above are in direct competition with one another, they are just that: consoles. As such, they want to dominate your gaming experience. More to the point, many of them want to dominate your living room. That presents a challenge they’re prepared to face at some point, but they have to navigate past bigger players to truly succeed.

The Android crew

OUYA has done a fantastic job in setting the stage for the rest of the Android gaming crew. It’s just about everything we could hope for; inexpensive, highly portable, and has a physical controller. In assessing our gaming needs, it has the capacity to cover all the bases. It is Android based, meaning we can probably get our favorite “time wasters” on it with ease, but also dedicated to gaming. That should mean it’s good enough to handle larger, more in-depth games without stuttering or failing us.

With so many unproven consoles in Android gaming, developers have no reason to support one over another. Yet.

What OUYA has given us so far is compromise. The build quality is suspect, and it’s been lagging with what many consider rudimentary tasks. The funding is solid, as it annihilated the kickstarter campaign goal set. What stands in the way is what it vowed to us, which may ultimately be too ambitious.

Like the rest of the Android crew, OUYA is promising us a great gaming experience for next to nothing. For many people, $100 is a small investment. Its only real competitor right now is Gamestick, which promises much of the same functionality, but also has many of the same issues. Cheap, promising, but with suspect build quality.

project shield

The wildcard

Project SHIELD from NVIDIA was the surprise darling of CES, mostly because we didn’t see it coming. Never a hint, or a leak, or even a suggestion that NVIDIA was working on a larger scale project. We were taken aback by the hardware, and found the small screen a surprise delight. It’s essentially portable gaming as it should be.

We want quick bursts of fun, dovetailed with some TV and movies.

What SHIELD has over the other Android based platforms is Steam. The popular PC gaming platform is supported by SHIELD, meaning those who would otherwise shy away from portable or Android gaming no longer have to. They can play their games away from the PC, or non-Steam games, which is a big step moving forward. This also represents a market sector the other Android consoles can’t readily get involved in at this time.

M.O.J.O. workin’

Project M.O.J.O. could very well end up the class of Android gaming consoles. Made by Mad Catz, there is a long lineage of device manufacturing involved. Going back to early arcade days, Mad Catz has a history of design and build quality. They also built some specialized arcade-style gaming equipment for the home. If you bought the Street Fighter IV arcade joystick, that was Mad Catz, and they’ve been doing that since the SNES days.

While no pricing or availability have been announced, we can expect the console to be competitive. Supporting the Play Store outright is impressive, but still lacks in one key area. Their lineage of manufacturer and developer support may end up carrying the day for them, and is a very important ‘foot in the door’.