You may have heard about this new console on the horizon called OUYA. We reported last week how it far surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $950,000, to go and raise over 4 million in a matter of a few days. Well now after some more time, their Kickstarter funds have gone over the 5 million mark. Amazing right?!
There is something to be said for that. Overall, it's very clear that gamers are itching for another player to enter the fold and possibly take a little bit away from the "big three," Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. But what about the developers? Are they excited about this possible new avenue to bring their games?
There has been a lot of praise for this new console idea, as well as backlash. However, the backlash does bring up some good points. Rich Stanton of Eurogamer had this to say:
The whole video is a cleverly edited confection, with more time spent watching a saw cutting a piece of wood with a controller drawn on top (seriously) than anything resembling a functional games console. The most impressive bit of mock-uppery Ouya has is a sexy-looking controller facade, though it also has an interface featuring game logos like Madden. Do you think Madden is going to appear on Ouya? Of course it isn't, and we'll come back to why - but it's interesting that the pitch is all about small developers and AAA console titles. Because the two don't have any crossover whatsoever.
It's one of the multitude of things that make no sense. Take the controller: nearly every single Android game is made for a touchscreen. The pitch begins by pointing out that gaming is moving away from the television towards portable devices. True enough. So Ouya's going to reverse this? I can't think of a single mobile phone game I'd want to play on my TV, controller or not. Not even a tablet game. Good designers make good games, and good games take account of their host platform - even if they upscale well, most mobile games are mobile games. They're snacks. I love Tiny Wings, but I don't want to play it on the TV.
I would have to agree with Rich on this point. Take a VERY succesful game like Temple Run for instance. Many co-workers and myself battle to beat each other's scores, and it has remained as one of the apple store's top games. So it goes without saying, people love to play it.
But could this game where you swipe in all directions work on a console? The whole game is built on your reaction speed, and whether or not you will swipe to either make a turn or slide under a barrier. So how would that work on a console controller, just by using the d-pad? That would get immensely boring after a while, don't you think?
Even Ben Kuchera over at Penny-Arcade got in on it and made a very good point about how developers are quick to get behind the good idea, but no one is stepping up to the plate:
The entire system hangs on the ability that you want to play ported Android games on a cheap system, with an unseen controller, on a television screen. While many developers are willing to provide quotes about how great the OUYA could be, so far no one is willing to put their money where their mouth is and announce projects for the hardware. No one involved in the project has experience launching products even close to the complexity of the OUYA, in terms of either gaming hardware, software, and services.
With that said, we here at GameTyrant contacted many indie developers. Many of them declined to comment publicly, but for the most part said they are waiting to see more before they can truly give an opinion. This is very unstandable, I mean, who wants to put their name behind something they have no clue about?
Here is what Miguel Sterberg from Spooky Squid Games had to say about the kickstarter:
The idealist in me loves the concept of the Ouya. I'm a fan of open hardware and distribution and I share their love of gaming on the TV. Also any platform that actively encourages local multiplayer is good in my books. So I'd love to see it succeed and disrupt the current system.
However as a game creator I'm less optimistic for a number of reasons. While it has been very successful as a Kickstarter campaign, the install base we're looking at is not very high (I heard 20,000 a couple days ago, I imagine it's higher now). If we're looking at developing for a platform we know we can only count on getting sales from a fraction of the install base. When Steam has something like 40 million active users, 20,000 or even 200,000 does not look good.
That may sound dry and businessy but picking a platform with a small install base really effects the games we can make in a very direct way. The larger the platform we aim for the more risks we can take. That can take the form of larger more ambitious indie games or creating more niche experimental experiences. When you're aiming at a large install base like Steam you can make a game that may only appeal to a tiny fraction of users. But with a small one (like the Ouya is likely to have) you have to aim for the broadest possible audience.
The other option is ports. Unfortunately because it's based on Android the easiest games to port will be existing phone games. So we're likely to see a lot of upscaled gamepad ports of touch games that don't really make full use of the hardware.
I would love to be proved wrong, but right now the most optimistic outcome I see for the Ouya is that it'll be another XBLIG. A great place for hobbyists but not a very viable platform for professional indie game development.
Although Miguel may sound all buisness-y, that's what it comes down to in the end, the bottom line. Why would a company invest the time and effort into a console like this, when the user base is just not there yet. It would be no real return from them. For many of these smaller indie developers, they would be wasting money in a sense.
Nick Puleo over at Blue Shield Alliance has a more optimistic view though:
I think the concept is pretty cool and there's some potential, but the platform doesn't feel fully realized yet. That said, with the Kickstarter over 3 million there's a lot of potential there and there's obviously a lot of interest. As an indie developer you go with the consumers are - and it seems like the OUYA is going to have a pretty sizeable interest/install base at launch.
So I guess that only leaves one question and Julie Uhrman, the CEO of the company, gave the masses her answer in a recent interview with Engadget:
Will OUYA be able to deliver product to all of those who have pre-ordered?
We know that we can deliver the goods.
The hardware is doable. We’ve shared our tech specs and everyone knows by now that we aren’t reinventing the wheel here. It’s standard stuff that we’ll be maximizing to bring great games to life. (And that’s why the cost works-putting this stuff under the lid is totally doable for $99.) We’ve already got a functional prototype-in our Kickstarter video you see me playing Shadowgun on it.
It’s really the developer proposition, the business model, and the design that are innovative. As for the developer proposition and business model they are new to the console space, but some of our best ideas we grabbed from the mobile market. Beyond that, the concept of Openness-that was important to us. But that isn’t something we invented. If anything we felt that was the way tech was headed. And we wanted to bring it to a new place: console gaming.
We crunched a lot of numbers before we got on Kickstarter. We vetted the bill of materials with experts. We vetted our plans with our advisors, including Amol Sarva who developed the Peek email device at a similarly low cost. If all we’d done was hit our goal, we could have delivered – but now we can promise developers so many more gamers to develop for.
We have also limited the number of consoles we can make available for March. We could have launched with an unlimited number – but we have only listed what we are confident we can deliver. (80,000 consoles at the $99 reward level on Kickstarter.) What’s available is already almost half sold out.
Listen, we know that there are going to be people who try to kick the tires. And, until we have a product on the market that people can put their hands on, we’ll have to get comfortable with skepticism. There are so many folks out there who want to review us now-like we are a final product on the market-and it’s just not realistic. We have made it very clear that we are an early stage project and that we turned to Kickstarter to take us from functional prototype to OUYAs in the living room. This has been public for just one week. We’d love to fast forward too, but we can’t. For now, we are just going to stay the course: We are laser focused on delivering the best possible game experience on OUYA. We aren’t going to let a handful of naysayers distract us from the army of nearly 40,000 backers cheering us on. We want to make them proud.
So in the end I guess this leaves us all in a bit of a holding pattern for now. Now is the time for the people over at OUYA to buckle down and make a great product that can "wow" everyone. Because as of now, no one is really willing to get behind this virtually unknown product. Sure, that's what Kickstarters are all about, making the unkowns into the knowns. But in these past few years, finances have been cut across the board for many companies, and banking on an unknown is just something you can't gamble with now.
Do you think that the people over at OUYA have a chance at becoming a power player in the console world?