A new level

Android-based Ouya console nears release

Elliot Bentley

March will see the release of the first ever games console able to run games written entirely in Java.

March will see the release of the first ever Android games console – the first able to run games written entirely in Java.

While powered by Android, the Ouya plugs into TV sets and features an Xbox-like controller in an attempt to open up the traditionally closed market, which mostly use C/C++ and are expensive to develop for.

After a wildly successful Kickstarter last year – raising over $8.5m and an initial 46,000 pre-orders – the console should go on general sale next month for $99. It runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean powered by a Tegra3 quad-core processor and 1GB RAM – identical to the Nexus 7 tablet and more powerful than the Xbox 360 (Editor’s note: Eurogamer has a good comparison).

The Ouya console.

Ouya is far from the first Android-powered set-top device, but it’s the first to be marketed as a mainstream games console, with considerably industry support and a dedicated controller, recently updated to be “as honed, fast and precise as possible”.

However, it takes most of its cues from mobile platforms, rather than traditional game consoles: it features an open-source SDK, a “game store” said to be very similar to the Android marketplace and the option to root the console without voiding its warranty. More controversially, every game must include a free aspect, such as a demo (or entire ‘free-to-play’ model).

The SDK is available now and should be compatible with existing Android emulators and tablets. As well as Java, the Ouya can also run games developed using the Unity engine, which supports Boo, C# and JavaScript.

The only question now is how well the Ouya will sell: can it crack the mainstream console market, or be stuck as a niche enthusiast device?

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