The hottest topic blazing through the gaming industry today is indie developers’ pleasantly profitable “freemium” business model, made quite successful through the evolution of gaming via mobile devices. It has been the combination of these two modern gaming dignitaries that have had most expert analysts claiming the end of the in-home video game console as we know it. With so many independent game developers in the market, who now have an efficient and profitable vehicle to bring those games to the masses without having to go through traditional game publishers, the writing is definitely on the wall for the likes of EA and Activision. And if all of that wasn’t enough for major game publishers everywhere ”Here Comes a New Challenger!”, and that challenger comes in the form of the latest Kickstarter sensation, the Ouya. Developed by the Southern California startup company Boxer8, the Ouya is a gaming console designed with these two contemporary juggernauts as the focal point of their success.
Ouya and Controller
Today’s gaming market finds itself amidst a majority that has grown fed up with the stagnation that inevitably comes with the end of the “big three” current consoles’ shelf life. A common occurrence after the glitz and glam of the latest in-home system has worn off and the games for said systems begin to lose their luster. This outlook may seem a bit indulgent considering just how far gaming has come in this day and age, but those are the hard facts as reflected in video game sales across the board. Another major contributing factor that has jaded gamers more and more over time has been the business models big-money publishers have adopted in order to maximize profits for the “suit” side of the industry, while the hard working creative talent is left with the short end of the stick. This perfect storm of discord that seems to have settled over the average gamer has left the door wide open for something new – something innovative – something more emulous of our (the illustrious consumer gamer) perceived standards and identity. And boy, have the driving minds behind the Ouya recognized this growing sentiment and pitched a product that seems to be the guiding light of consoles we have all been waiting for, right?
And If You Don’t Know, Now You Know
Let’s get down to brass tacks here. Just what exactly does a $99 dollar investment buy if you were one of the many optimistic investors who decided to thrown down on the ground floor of this venturesome venture? Here are the specifications as laid out on Ouya’s Kickstarter page:
- A Tegra 3 quad core processor
- 1 GB of Ram
- 8 GB 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)
- Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad
- Android 4.0
In short, the Ouya is taking the modern day tablet, squeezing it in a box about the size of a rubix cube, and in true console fashion, feeding the picture directly onto your TV. Powered by the Android operating system, a big plus to the Ouya is that it comes prepackaged with a library of games already released and available on the Android Marketplace. Granted, a number of those games will not be available right off the bat due to a few minor compatibility issues. But then again, all of those developers will have ample time to work out the kinks even before the first few consoles are shipped. And, because one of the core principles of the Ouya is to make the process of creating and exporting games as streamlined as possible for the “at home” developer, the creators are relying on those independent entities to keep their inventory fresh and full of top-tier gaming titles.
Oh Yeaaah for Ouya!
There is plenty to like about the theory and principle of this daring undertaking. The essence of the project alone is enough to have any disenfranchised gamer up and on their feet, proudly donning Boxer8 fan wear, and anxiously awaiting to see if David can triumph over Goliath. But idealistic imagery aside, Ouya offers a radical approach to the gaming model as we know it today. Cheap, brazenly accessible, and fairly comparable in power to most of what is out on the market, the Ouya is geared to be “The People’s Console”. Set to address all of what is wrong in the world of gaming today, this system bravely breaks the industry standard by not only making their console’s hardware as transparent and open as any major corporation would dare allow, but also encourages the masses to manipulate their product with no repercussions. In fact, the makers of Ouya champion the effort of hackers, encouraging the collaboration of producer and user alike to individually create their own gaming experience while simultaneously promoting the advancement of the Ouya community as a whole. With such an innovative and refreshing approach that anchors the overall success of the franchise to the very people who invest and participate in its growth, it’s no wonder this venture has raised over 5 million dollars within two weeks of its exposure to the public.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
Let’s face it, if successful businesses were built on hopes and dreams, I would still be selling glasses of homemade lemonade on my street corner, banking on retirement at the ripe old age of 35. However, we need to consider the facts; with over five million dollars contributed by the public, Ouya has yet to distribute one console, let alone offer a working model to display even on its debut to Kickstarter. With a deadline to distribute its product to all invested parties in eight months, this monumental undertaking would be a tall order even for the most seasoned of gaming companies. The endeavor of simply assembling the consoles themselves, much less shipping them across the globe, is a task that could take a company years to accomplish. This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that any current successful system to date has built that success off of at least one AAA gaming title designed specifically for its launch. Even though Ouya potentially has a built-in game library, it wasn’t until recently that a major player in the industry came forward to develop a title geared solely towards this system. Just a few days ago, Robert Bowling (one of the 40,000+ investors from Kickstarter) of Robotoki announced the first Ouya exclusive. They will be designing a prequel to his latest project, Human Element, which will allow gamers to experience the storyline that unfolds after the game’s zombie apocalypse. This would be all well and good if we had the slightest idea of any of the details surrounding this game. Unfortunately, we have only been provided with a brief description and a few artistic renderings that give us an all too obscure depiction of the world the game is set in. This seems quite fitting for a console that has been presented to us in the same abstract manner. I would hate for this to come off as cynical, but in a world run strictly off of facts and numbers, the Ouya and all its intentions leave us with more questions than answers. As much as I would truly like to see a project of this magnitude gain traction and thrive in today’s cutthroat gaming environment, unfortunately, I feel this endeavor may ultimately lead to nothing but an unrealized aspiration.
Ouya Marketplace Screenshot
“Disruptive Innovation” Or Just Wishful Thinking?
Julie Uhrma, a driving force behind Ouya’s creation, has been quoted as saying, “What people will buy into is the idea.” I honestly couldn’t think of a better quote that more perfectly summarizes both the current status and overall inception of the Ouya. An idea. A very noble and forward thinking idea. Something the majority of us can rally behind and support regardless of the challenges set in its way. Whether or not the Ouya succeeds is somewhat irrelevant in my book. The mere fact that the gaming world is abuzz talking about something of this nature is already a giant leap forward for the evolution of gaming and can only stand to benefit the industry as a whole in the long run. Even if this console fails to deliver on its somewhat grandiose intentions, to think that this project has not reached the eyes and ears of the top brass at established game companies everywhere would be folly. Throughout human history, it has not been uncommon for one person to find great success in an area where many people have previously failed. But more often than not, if not for the trials and tribulations of the people who attempted and fell short before hand, such success may never have happened. Will Ouya blaze a trail and leave the “big three” in a scramble to catch up? Or will it fizzle out into nothing more than just a million dollar idea? It seems only time, and more importantly your support will tell.
The Humble, But Potentially Mighty, Ouya
tags: opinion , ouya