Earlier today The Verge reported on a surprise entry into the home console market called the “Ouya”. It’s usually easy to ignore such a device but it has quite a few positive things going for it that should put this hardware on your watch list.
Why you should care:
The first reason you should pay attention to the Ouya is that the device is priced at a paltry $99 and runs the Android OS. Inherently, where there is the Android OS there is “rooting”. Rooting is a very simple process that allows users to effectively create the admin (or “root”) account on their hardware. This allows the user to adjust the fine details of how the OS operates. This will enable users to continually be improving and tweaking their settings so that the system runs exactly the way they want it to. The developers have gone so far to say the machine is “Built to be hacked.”
Another strong reason you should keep your eyes on this machine is because of its focus on “Free-to-play” games. This puts everyone on equal footing, ensures that no developer will be able to adjust prices to strong arm a competitor, there won’t be different tiers of pricing based on the game’s size and people will be more willing to try your game with the barrier to entry is low/free.
The low price, rooting and business model aren’t the only reasons you should be interested in “The little box that could”. The Ouya has some serious talent behind it as well. Yves Behar may not be a big name in the game industry (designer of the “One Laptop Per Child” project) but Ed Fries sure is. Ed was partially responsible for the original Xbox’s success as well as landing contracts with Bungie, Ensemble and Rare. There are plenty of other names attached to the project such as Amol Sarva, Peter Pham and Julie Uhrman, but Ed is the one who has been through the process of launching a home console and has some insight in how to succeed in that market.
Why you should be scared, or not care:
First thing’s first, the details are scarce. Although the screen shots would indicate it supports a controller, we don’t know what kind of control scheme the system will support. We don’t know if the system will support multiplayer, we don’t know the graphical power of the device… we really don’t know much of anything right now.
Another reason to be weary is that we don’t know if this thing will be the “Super GameBoy” of the Android world. If the system is dedicated to new and original games, that’s reason to be excited. But if the system is simply a way to port and play existing Android apps, then the market is already overcrowded and bursting at the seams with shovelware right out of the gate.
We mentioned that since the system is focused on Free-to-Play, developers will be on pseudo equal footing. While this brings many benefits, this can also be a bad thing. Having a low price is a powerful weapon in a small developer’s arsenal, and with the Ouya that weapon is inert. Big name publishers can throw tons of money at a game and easily overshadow the little indie teams that simply don’t have the budget for marketing, flashy particle effect systems and grand orchestral soundtracks.
With details being so scarce, it’s hard to tell if you should care about the Ouya. If we had to make a decision right now we’d say, “Yes, you should”. There is simply too much potential in the system and the talent behind it is top notch. Now we have to hope it actually makes it to market and isn’t the Phantom 2.