Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about Ouya, a new Android gaming console that is expected to see release in 2013. There was an article yesterday on several Android outlets talking about how Ouya, listening to customer feedback, made some changes to the controller. This got me thinking…does this really matter in the grand scheme of things?
The answer is no, it doesn’t. The Ouya and other upstart Android consoles will be completely dead on arrival and will be a distant memory three to four months from now. Between Nintendo launching the Wii U back in November and Sony and Microsoft launching the “PS4″ and “Xbox 720″ this year, there simply is no room in the console marketplace for an Android console. Why is that?
It’s simple, really. Android does not provide the gaming experiences that people expect from modern-day gaming consoles. Hardcore gamers – traditionally the people who keep consoles a viable business – have consistently shown their willingness to pay top-dollar for games that are immersive, full of content, well written, and beautiful to look at. These gaming experiences do not exist on Android. This is not to say there are not great games for Android; quite the contrary, in fact. Let’s examine this more in-depth.
First-person shooter games are very, very popular. There are some good ones for Android such as N.O.V.A. 3 and Shadowgun: Deadzone. I play both of these games regularly and enjoy them thoroughly. That said, however, these games cannot hold a candle to the “800-pound gorilla” franchises like Call of Duty or Halo. Games of that size, scope, and beauty do not exist on Android. Let’s move to other types of games. You will never find a 3D platform game on Android that would come close to matching the brilliance and sheer joy of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Android has no adventure games that can come close to rivaling established franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Darksiders, or Prince of Persia. Even when major publishers make installments in a major franchise for Android – Mass Effect: Infiltrator and Dead Space come to mind – they are incredibly neutered games that don’t have graphics, stories, or gameplay mechanics that are nearly as satisfying as their console counterparts. While not Android, another example that applies to this conversation is Resident Evil 4. Has anyone ever tried playing the iOS version of Resident Evil 4 and compared it to the original GameCube or Playstation 2 release? That makes my point for me.
Now, there is one segment of the gaming world where Android (and iOS for that matter) have it all over consoles. That would be the “Free to Play” games that have loads of in-app purchases. Consoles, as a business model, don’t go for this since gamers are more than happy to pay $60 up front for the entire game. When people sit down to play a game on a console in their living room, they expect the kind of experience that mobile platforms like Android simply do not and cannot provide right now. Nobody wants to sit down and play Where’s My Water (another fantastic game) in 1080p HD on their 42″ plasma TV. While console gamers such as myself are likely to play mobile games as well, the reverse is not necessarily true. The average casual game player who plays games on their phone is probably not likely to buy a game console.
Games are what sell systems. A console without games people want to play in their living rooms may as well not even exist. Until Android can deliver the types of experiences that people expect, and receive, from Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and 3rd party publishers on modern gaming consoles, Ouya and other upstarts are absolutely pointless and will not generate anywhere near the excitement required to get people to separate from their wallets. We could revisit this conversation in 5 years and have a drastically different take, but for now, good luck if you buy an Ouya.