The first Ouya $99 video game consoles are expected to ship next week to customers who backed the team’s Kickstarter campaign. Users will be able to download and play games on their TV using the small Android-powered game system.
While most of those games will be Android titles optimized for use with a gamepad and TV (instead of a phone or tablet with a touchscreen), you may also be able to play games that were never intended for Android at all — because the Ouya supports emulators.
Developer Paul Lamb has ported his Mupen64 emulator to the Ouya platform, which will allow users to play Nintendo64 games with an Ouya.
Other developers are also working on emulators for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and possibly other consoles as well.
It’s no surprise that you can use emulators on the Ouya. After all, folks have been designing and running game console emulators on Android phones and tablets for years. And users will be able to side-load any of those apps onto an Ouya.
But the Ouya team is also taking a pretty liberal approach toward emulators in their app store.
In a nutshell, as long as developers don’t offer any copyrighted games or other content, they can distribute their apps in the Ouya store. Lamb’s Mupen64 emulator, for instance, was already approved (although he needs to remove from copyrighted artwork from his screenshots and submit it again).
If you already have an Ouya (or pretty much any other Android device), you can also download the latest beta version of Mupen64 from Lamb’s website.
Theoretically it’s possible for folks to buy a PlayStation, Nintendo64, or other game disc or cartridge and use special hardware and software to rip a video game ROM for personal use with this sort of game emulation software. Most people don’t do that. Instead they download games illegally from the internet, which is why emulators tend to hang out in a relatively gray legal area.
But it’s good to know that in addition to supporting a growing number of Android games, Ouya’s $99 game console will also be able to play hundreds of classic games that were always meant to be used with a TV and gamepad.
The Ouya game console features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage and comes with a wireless game controller. While the first units should ship on March 28th, if you weren’t a Kickstarter backer you’ll have to wait until June to get your hands on one.