Ouya's $100 Android game console will begin shipping to Kickstarter backers in just over two weeks, but it will be missing one potentially important feature. Here at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, company founder Julie Uhrman tells us that the device
won't support online multiplayer games — not even by the console's retail release in June. It's coming, though: she says that the feature will arrive "sometime this year."
"We're locking content behind servers."
Though the tiny console is predominantly open, running Android games on an off-the-shelf Tegra 3 chip, those games themselves are slightly more controlled, requiring a simple screening process (for pornography and intellectual property violations, among other things) as well as server authentication to prevent piracy. "We're locking content behind servers," she says. As far as multiplayer is concerned, it might be about control, or it might be a matter of standardizing leaderboards and achievements for games, two other features that Uhrman says will arrive later this year.
Either way, local multiplayer is still a go, so you'll need to stock up on Ouya's $49.99 controllers and invite friends to sit around your TV if you want to play games with them at launch. "I think Ouya is going to bring back couch play," says Uhrman.
Speaking of the television, Ouya's CEO says there's no reason that future versions of the Ouya would have to be in a tiny silver box. It could be built right into your next television set, if Ouya's dreams come true. "At the end of the day, I'd like Ouya to be on every single television, every single tablet, from every single OEM you can think of," she says, and hints that talks are already underway.
"I would love for it to be built into a television."
Update: Ouya tells us that the console actually will support online multiplayer at launch, contrary to what we heard. "We will definitely be supporting online multiplayer — developers just need to build in the functionality," a representative said. Ouya PR clarified that online chat, friends lists, and achievements are the items that won't be available until later this year.
Laura June contributed to this report.