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The Android Microconsole Reference Guide for Game Developers

August 26, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next
 

It’s easy to group all Android-based “microconsoles” into one big bucket, but if you look a little more closely, each one of them offers its own unique features, whether you’re talking about hardware, software, business models or developer support. Some of them might be a better fit for your game than others.

That’s why we’re kicking off our microconsole-themed week with a reference guide to the most notable offerings that are both announced and currently on the market. This guide will inform you about the background of these consoles, specifications, pros and cons, monetization, how to get started on development, and more.

This is meant to be a living document -– something that you can use as a continually-updated reference. We’ve collected a good amount of information here, but if you have anything else you’d like to add to our Android microconsole reference guide, just mention it in the comments below or email me, Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft, at kgraft@gamasutra.com.

Ouya

Official website: ouya.tv

Background: Ouya’s console is basically the microconsole as of now, and is the product that kicked off today’s interest in Android-based boxes that connect to a TV. If you’re reading this article, you probably already know that its 2012 Kickstarter campaign generated $8.6 million (the funding goal was $950,000), on top of millions of venture capital funding. It captured the attention of players and developers with promises of low-barrier development, publishing and distribution, a low retail price ($99) and a pick-up-and-play living room game experience. Ouya describes it as "A New Kind of Video Game Console."

Price: $99

Availability: Out now.

Pros

Ouya apparently has great, personal developer support. We polled a bunch of developers, and they had nothing but good things to say.

It's open. Mostly. It's not totally open -- there is still a basic review process -- but the walls of this garden are about shin-high.

The storefront's curation is pretty decent, with game picks from Ouya developers, journalists and Ouya staff, among other traditional categories.

It's leading Android microconsole mindshare. The console has received a lot of coverage, particularly in the tech and games press, and it's available at brick-and-mortar retail. Ouya's almost synonymous with the Android console movement.

Cons

The pack-in controller is cheaply-made, and it shows. This is something that came up when talking to Ouya developers. Fortunately, your players can connect a PlayStation 3 controller or a wired Xbox 360 controller.

The console itself needs polish. It’s a nice, small package, but there have been some reported wi-fi reception issues (I haven’t personally had any), stuttering menus, input delays (which seems controller-related) and other rough edges.

Discovery needs improvement. We mention that storefront curation is "pretty decent," but like virtually all digital storefronts, there is still work to be done to help highlight the best content. It’s still easy for a game to get lost.

Low software sales. Software sales and conversion rates are low on the Ouya. Full-game sales are reportedly sluggish, and the Ouya doesn't have the installed base to make the free-to-play, microtransaction-driven business model very effective.

High friction for buying games. Related to low software sales and conversion rates, you cannot buy games straight from the Ouya storefront. You have to download the free component of the game first, then purchase the game through the game's menu. That's not optimal for fast, impulse buys.

Getting started on Ouya

The Ouya website is turning out to be a great resource for developers, with Ouya's staff updating with blog posts and videos, as well as forums for developers to interact with one another.

The best place to get started is here: https://devs.ouya.tv/developers/docs

Review process

Ouya bills its console as "open," and while it's almost as open as a game console gets, there is still a basic review process for games. Developers must submit their games to be reviewed for inappropriate content, basic technical guidelines and payment methods.

Read all the details here: https://devs.ouya.tv/developers/docs/content-review-guidelines

Monetization

Ouya requires that every game has a "free component." You can implement free-to-play with microtransactions and in-app purchases, a demo with a full paid download, or even give the whole game away for free. It's up to you. As mentioned above, a drawback for full paid games is that they cannot be purchased straight from the storefront, but instead must be paid for from within the games themselves.

Revenue share

70/30 (Game dev/Ouya)

Specs:

Console

Tegra 3 quad-core processor

1 GB LPDDR2 RAM

8 GB on-board flash

HDMI connection to the TV at 1080p HD

WiFi 802.11bgn

Bluetooth LE 4.0

Enclosure opens with standard screws

Controller

Wireless controller with 2.4Ghz RF

Standard game controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button)

Touchpad, for porting mobile games more easily

2x AA batteries

Enclosure opens with standard screws

OS/Software

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Custom TV UI

Integrated custom game store — find and download games (and other apps)

Includes SDK for game development

Ability to root device without voiding warranty


Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

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