Right about now you are likely asking yourself “what the heck is an Ouya?”, and rightfully so, as pretty much the only people familiar with this system are avid gamers, developers, and those who happen to frequent Kickstarter.com.

Before getting into the details of what Ouya is, we should first look at the idea behind the console, and how it got started. OUYA was founded in 2012 by Julie Urhman, a veteran of the video game industry. She realized that there was an opportunity to create a game console that would be played on the television, yet maintained the open development nature of mobile gaming. Her logic was simple, gamers were migrating away from the television to play on mobile devices like cell phones and tablets because of the large number of inexpensive, and often free games available.

Game developers are able to create and distribute their games on an open development platform like Android for a fraction of the cost of a Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony console due to cheaper development kits and smaller licensing/distribution costs. In turn this leads to a larger quantity of games being made available and at a fraction of the cost to the consumer.

The next step for Julie was to figure out how to fund her new idea. She began with some private investments: friends, family, former colleagues, etc. In the end, she turned to kickstarter.com to raise the necessary capital. On July 10th, 2012 they started their kickstarter project, with a goal to raise $950,000 through the website. Within the first 8 hours and 22 minutes they had passed $1 million. By the end of the campaign they had raised nearly $8.6 million from 63,416 backers; 904% to the goal.

With the extraordinary success of the kickstarter campaign Julie and her team got to work on making the Ouya a reality.

What they came up with a game system containing an Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad-core processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, 8GB of flash storage, built in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth all running on the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. This translates into a system capable of displaying games in full 1080p HD visuals via HDMI.

The controller, featuring a unique built in touchpad, has been designed from the ground up (with many modifications throughout the process). It has many of the common buttons you may find on an Xbox or Wii U Pro controller, but has been specifically design for optimal comfort and functionality.

When Julie set out to bring an open gaming system to the market she wasn’t just looking out for the game developers. As an incentive to gamers, she requires that developers must offer some free functionality in order for their game to exist on Ouya. This could mean a free trial of the game, or an entirely free game, where developers make their money from the sale of additonal in game content (like weapons, levels, costumes, etc).

This allows gamers to try a game to before they buy it to decide if it is worth their hard earned dough. This should have the effect of forcing developers to create quality games, or face poor sales.

Another huge selling point for the Ouya is that it is able to handle many multimedia based functions. Music streaming applications like iHeartRadio, TuneIn and VEVO as well as Media center programs XBMC and Plex have already signed on to be available for the Ouya. The applications may not hit home with you, but the gist is that you will be able to stream audio, radio stations, and video through this device to your television and home theater system, in addition to being a fully functional game console.

This is just the beginning for Ouya though, as the variety of applications and games that may make their way to the system are near limitless. Anybody who has ever owned an Android based smart phone can tell you how vast the library of games and applications at the Google Play store is. With Ouya running on a modified version of the Android operating system on your smart phone, porting these games and applications from the Google Play store to the Ouya should be inexpensive and relatively simple.

Sold on the features, but what to know what it’s gonna run you? Well, the news gets even better. The console plus one controller can be yours for a reasonable price tag of $99.99. No official release date has been set for the Ouya yet, but look for it to be available in the first half of 2013.

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