Given my opinion about Kickstarter and its use in attracting investors, you can probably guess my cynicism about the Ouya. Oh, a ‘new’ kind of console that is being made by a start-up and is aiming to tie mobile Android gaming to a television? And you want a lot of people to gift you money to make it happen? Why?
The price is right. A console for under $100? Even at its low specs – at a time when there are some loud voices in the industry wanting console specs to be improved substantially through a new generation release – there’s a basic value appeal there, and being able to leverage existing Android games meant it was easy to mention known IPs in relation with the Ouya. Plus there is the plan to release it early next year, so there’s barely any waiting. That’s right – a completely untested company aiming to set up a low-end console (we all know how gamers loved the Wii) that’s going to be available worldwide in about eight months. If only I could find my credit card.
Others have already pointed to the numerous issues that raise red flags about the Ouya. Of course, a lot of people disagree with this assessment, given it raised over US$8.5m at the end of its Kickstarter. Obviously the words “hackable” “open console” inspired images of … well, whatever turning mobile Android games and tying them to a TV screen means.
To me that’s a step backwards. Mobile games are great because they are mobile. Even portable TVs aren’t that portable (and arguably have been supplanted by high penetration rates of smart phones, able to play high quality video). You can play mobile games anywhere. While the ‘real’ size of the screen on an Android phone is smaller than a TV, when you play a mobile game you bring the mobile screen closer to your face, so that’s not a big issue in relative terms. Plus mobile game graphics are generally optimised for the smaller screen, so blowing them up to larger sizes isn’t going to be pretty.
I’m sure that Ouya will have some kind of account system that will let people play Ouya-purchased games on other Android devices (probably not vice versa though) and Ouya-exclusive titles will look better than current Android mobile titles, but it is questionable about how many Ouya’s will actually be sold. In a world where 70 million PSPs can be sold and it can be considered an underperforming platform, I’m not confident a new company (that has to set-up a quality-controlled commercial assembly line, not just build a working prototype) is going to be able to build a player base large enough to get developers excited.
The Ouya Kickstarter will go down as a huge marketing success, but it’s a long way from clear if it is going to be a gaming success or the next, say, Pippen.