While perusing the Internet’s wares last week, I came across Rev3Games’ (one of my new favorite gaming outlets, by the way) Casual Friday segment where they chatted up the forthcoming OUYA console. In it they got into a discussion about what it was and who it was for. Obviously, as gamers and industry folk, they were a bit baffled by its stance; neither next-gen or niche or far-reaching enough – all of these true, mind you. And while I wholly agree with the arguments they make, there is a crucial audience they never really addressed: The Extra-Casual.
This is where I will break from Rev3. You should watch the video I dutifully embedded below because they make completely valid and totally gamer-centric points throughout that will definitely pertain to most of you. Me? I’d like to talk about where the OUYA can excel.
The system – due to ship at the verrrrry end of May – is a new entry into the market. Sitting pretty at a cool hundred bucks, it houses a NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Gently put, it is a lean machine.
However, when talking about specs and connectivity, we seem to forget where we came from. We grew up gaming on machines inferior to the OUYA by generations of tech. Technology does not make good games, it might just enable it. In other words, it shouldn’t matter much to gamers and it doesn’t matter at all to the Extra-Casual.
Now, the Extra-Casual, who are they? I just kinda made that term up, but it’s the people who only want to game tangentially. People who only might get the itch to have a gaming experience once a week or so, not at all willing to drop the cash on a Wii U (the undoubted namesake of casual this generation). This is the audience that should flock to the OUYA, not us gamers. And it makes sense.
Why drop hundreds of bucks on a new system when your interest only extends to Infinity Blade, Puzzle & Dragons or Bad Piggies? I’ll go out there and say it: The mobile version of Need For Speed: Most Wanted is just about as good as the console one. If you don’t have the time, money or interest to go whole-hog into gaming, this might be what you’re looking for. (Also, there is quite a stable coming to the system.)
Moreover, parents should be eyeing the OUYA up. Sure the kids love their phone games, but how can you play them together? Most times you just can’t. The OUYA can give the communal, friendly gaming experience for such a low cost risk. Assuming kids still go over other kids’ houses in 2013, this is a real option for the shortening attention span of children.
To that end, the OUYA’s not trying to usurp the console experience, merely imitate it – and I think there is serious potential there. Who wouldn’t love if his mom gave him five bucks to spend on any game, accessible for immediate download? It’s empowering and a great alternative to dropping money on a full-priced game. And we won’t even get into the pain of spending that amount of cash on a game that ends up being a disappointment …
Finally, there is no nice way to say this, but those with little disposable currency should really consider the system. Extra-Casual is their group not by choice, but by necessity. Still, there is a ton of content to be had for very cheap (relatively, of course). The PS2 had a huge lifespan because of this. Remember when it dropped to $100? It’s a magical price point, in between luxury item and reasonable expenditure. I doubt those below middle-class would care if the highfalutin stuff we wax over was absent from their gaming experience.
So, maybe the OUYA will catch on and gain some ground. I have high hopes for it and want to see it grow over the next few years into something I would want to buy. It’s certainly not there yet for us *cough cough* hardcore gamers, but that doesn’t matter. There are the Extra-Casual and they finally might get to dip their toes in the pool of gaming – a pool that traditionally has been quite a costly pastime. And this is where I hold my highest hopes.