Ouya game console confirms yearly updates

If you’re excited about Ouya but skittish about getting in on the ground floor, you might just want to wait it out until next year.

Julie Uhrman, Ouya’s CEO, confirmed to Engadget that the $100 Android-based game console will be replaced by new hardware on an annual basis. “We’ll take advantage of faster, better processors, take advantage of prices falling. So if we can get more than 8GB of Flash in our box, we will,” Uhrman said.

The first-generation Ouya, which will arrive in stores in June, has an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor inside. Uhrman didn’t talk specifics for future hardware, but Nvidia’s Tegra 4 chip would be an obvious candidate for the next version.

Although a traditional game console might risk the Osborne effect by confirming future hardware plans ahead of time—and thereby causing would-be buyers to put off purchases here and now—Uhrman said Ouya is just following the same model as mobile devices, where new hardware generally arrives on yearly cycles. Just like new phones and tablets, future Ouya consoles will be backwards compatible, allowing users to re-download their game libraries by signing in with their existing accounts.

This is one example of how low-cost, small-scale game consoles like Ouya can stay more nimble than established industry players. With yearly hardware cycles, Ouya can take feedback and current technology into account and decide what it needs for each refresh; users can upgrade if they like, without spending a lot of money. Companies like Nintendo and Sony, by comparison, must try to future-proof their hardware, guessing at what features they might need for the next five or ten years. If they guess wrong, they’re stuck.

The long-term challenge for Ouya won’t be backward compatibility, but forward compatibility. As it refreshes its hardware, Ouya will need to convince developers to take advantage. And Ouya can’t do that unless it keeps up the enthusiasm that made the original console a crowdfunded hit. Even if you don’t jump in right away, it’ll be fun to watch what happens.

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