As reported on Yahoo earlier today, soon consumers will have more than just Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft to choose from. With Ouya and Oculus Rift both having tremendously successful Kickstarters (Ouya received over $7 million than it's requested goal, with Oculus Rift receiving over $2 million), both are expected to hit shelves this year. Ouya had stated on their Kickstarter that they currently plan to release the console in March, and while the Oculus Rift developers have made no concrete announcements, at least one prototype tester over at PC World stated that the headset, "Works so well it's a little scary".
These aren't the only systems that the "Big 3" have to worry about, however. Nvidia plans to release their new gaming system, called Shield, sometime this year as well. A console targetted at Indie gamers called Gamestick, as well as the gaming tablet, Razer Edge, plan to join the shelves this year. You can point out that the latter, Edge, is a tablet, not a console, and probably shouldn't be in the list. With that in mind, we'll just examine the other four systems.
First up is the Ouya. The system aims to bring the costs of gaming down. It will do this, according to their Kickstarter page, by handing complete control over to the developers, on one condition: "...at least some gameplay has to be free. We borrowed the free-to-play model from games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Triple Town, and many others. Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask you to subscribe."
"That's all well and fine," some of you may be thinking, "but what kind of specs will it have? After all, I don't want to go back to 8-bit just because games will be free again." (Note: I have nothing against 8-bit. In fact, I still love most 8-bit games (that I can recall, anyway), and play them fairly regularly.) Well, to answer that question, we'll take the specs right from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The Ouya will feature aTegra3 quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal flash storage, HDMI connection to the TV (with support for up to 1080p HD), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth LE 4.0, USB 2.0 (one port), a wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, and a system button), a touchpad, Android 4.0, and ethernet. The team announced that they've added streaming via OnLive, as well as an exclusive title. In addition, Final Fantasy is promised to grace the platform.
Next is the Oculus Rift. This headset aims to bring Virtual Reality gaming to us, despite failed attempts to do so in the past (Virtual Boy, I'm looking at you). While official specs have not been revealed (that I've seen), it uses technology similar to what is used in smartphones to track movement and orientation. It also features a 7 inch LCD display that is viewed through the two lenses. The prototype testers were quite pleased so far, with one stating that it is the only VR machine that hasn't made him motion sick after 15 minutes of play.
Third is the Indie-targetted Gamestick. Aiming to bring Android games to the big screen, Gamestick features a Amlogic 8726-MXS processor, 1GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB NAND Flash memory, a 32GB Micro SD upgrade slot, HDMI connection, 802.11 b/g/n wifi support,
LE 4.0O/S Bluetooth support, the Android Jelly Bean operating system, as well as a full-featured Bluetooth controller with support for up to four additional controllers.
Finally, we have the Shield. This console aims to allow you to take gaming anywhere you wish to go. Like Gamestick, it features the Android Jelly Bean operating system. It also has, or so Nvidia claims, "The world's fastest mobile processor," a Custom 72-core NVIDIA GeForce® GPU
Quad-core A15 CPU. It features a fairly standard controller, with a 5 inch, 720p multi-touch display. Finally, it has 802.11n 2x2 MIMO wifi capabilities, so you shouldn't experience much, if any, lag while gaming online.
Can any of the four upcoming consoles put any sort of dent into the profits that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo receive? Honestly, I doubt it. They may indeed hurt sales of each slightly, but likely nowhere near enough to cause what we could reasonably consider a dent. The four systems also bring both good and bad news to gamers. The good is the additional variety. The bad is what those who like to own every system will be feeling in their wallets by the time the consoles all hit store shelves. If you thought your wallet would be in trouble with the 720, Wii-U, and PS4 releases coming up (I'm not saying they'll hit this year, mind), then you're in even more trouble once these four hit.