The Ouya went on sale Tuesday. The indie console, which got its financial backing from the website Kickstarter, runs Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Android operating system and costs just $99.
Later in the week, NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) will roll out its SHIELD handheld gaming machine. It costs three times as much as the Ouya, but also runs Android.
To date, one of Android’s major weaknesses has been its lack of gaming support. While these new devices might not take the gaming world by storm overnight, they could help Android continue its growth as the world’s next dominant operating system.
The indie sensation
At a fifth the cost of Microsoft’s next Xbox and a quarter the cost of Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s next PlayStation, the Ouya lacks the raw horsepower, online capabilities, and entertainment features of today’s modern consoles.
That said, there’s still a market for it. The company was able to raise millions of dollars from thousands of small donors on Kickstarter. Big name developers, like Square Enix, have already pledged to bring their games to console, as have dozens of small developers.
Of course, it’s crucial to note that the Ouya doesn’t run standard Android. Like Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s lineup of tablets, the Ouya is running a heavily modified version, and lacks direct access to the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play app store.
But that said, the console is said to be easily “hackable” — getting Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play onto the system shouldn’t be too difficult for enterprising users.
Moreover, given the base operating system, it’s likely that popular Android games should make their way to the Ouya (and vice-versa). Square Enix’s Final Fantasy III Ouya launch title has been available on the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play store for some time.
Of course, the Ouya isn’t the only microconsole in the works. Mad Catz, a publicly traded small cap company, is working on its own Ouya competitor called Project MOJO. Like Ouya it runs Android, but unlike Ouya, it offers direct access to Google Play.
NVIDIA merges PC and Android gaming
In the traditional sense, NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) is not considered to be a gaming console company. But without its video cards, many PCs would be incapable of playing the most demanding games.
Now, NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) is planning to take its gaming expertise into the handheld arena. The NVIDIA SHIELD, which goes on sale Thursday, is a handheld console running Android. It has direct access to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play, the company’s own Tegra 4 mobile chip, and a 5-inch touch screen.
While SHIELD might be a gimmick intended to get people to buy more NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) graphics cards, the company maintains that it’s taking Android gaming very seriously. The company’s Jason Paul told Forbes that mobile game development is quickly surpassing both PC and console development, and Android is quickly asserting itself as the most popular mobile platform.
Google is taking gaming more seriously
Android’s parent company, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), is also stepping up efforts to increase Android’s gaming capabilities. Back in May, at Google’s I/O Conference, the company unveiled Google Play game services.
The upgrades to Android allow developers to incorporate a number of popular features like real-time, online matchmaking, leaderboards, achievements and cloud-based saving.