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Ouya — A New Kind of Video Game Console?


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Ouya — A New Kind of Video Game Console?
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2012-08-06, 05:06



Kickstarter link

I know Wyatt and I tweeted about this when the Kickstarter was first launched, but has anybody else been following this? The concept is an interesting one: a cheap (sub-$100, at least for Kickstarter backers), Rubik's-Cube-sized game console — essentially Tegra-powered cell phone guts sans battery and screen — running a custom version of Android with a ten-foot UI and non-Google store. Unlike traditional game consoles, which require hefty fees for developer kits, anyone with an Ouya can develop an Ouya game and publish it on the Ouya store.

As I write this it's at about $6.8 million with about 68 hours to go, so there's clearly a lot of interest. The concept reminds me more than a little of the Kindle Fire: hardware sold very nearly at cost with a heavily customized (and notably de-Googleized) version of Android built around a custom store, where Ouya will hopefully make money on content. This razor-and-blades business model has been a mainstay of console gaming for decades; the difference is by opening up development to anybody, there's potentially a lot more blades to make money on.

Speaking of money, a unique requirement of the Ouya store is that all games are required to have at least some gameplay to be available for free. This isn't the bold "all games will be free!" move it's been played as, though, as a demo qualifies as "some gameplay." What Ouya's really doing is formally requiring developers to make demos available for their games, which everybody really should be doing anyway. So it's worth noting that, while some games will be free-to-play, others will only really be free-to-try, and this isn't a bad thing: the "freemium" or ad-based business models really suck for some games. Like Final Fantasy III, which is presently the only confirmed Ouya game with a set release window (it will launch with the system in March).

This lack of confirmed content — indeed, the lack of confirmed anything — has led to the harshest criticism of the project, with some commentators calling the whole thing a bunch of smoke and mirrors and others questioning the feasibility of Ouya's claimed timetables. And it's true that very little has been confirmed at this stage: the Ouya will get a customized version of the Android port of Final Fantasy III and have access to a few streaming services — Hulu+ and Vevo and twitch.tv — and that's about all we know at this point. The "screens" of the interface show game tiles with names like Minecraft and Madden NFL, but those are really just concept mockups, leading some forumites to charge Ouya with trying to mislead people. (In the Kickstarter video, Ouya founder Julie Uhrman breathlessly says "You'll be able to play Minecraft on it!" If you read Notch's actual comment, it's more like "If people are interested, we'll put Minecraft on it, sure." Just optimistic or intentionally misleading? You be the judge.)

So what will people get for their $99? A beautiful (it's designed by Yves Behar!), hackable box without many confirmed games but with a world of potential. For some people, like me, that's enough. (They've already pre-sold about 50,000 of the things, and if there's that many people who like the concept enough to pay for it sight unseen months in advance on promise/hype alone, I have to think that they won't have trouble attracting interest from at least the indie and mobile-focused devs.)

I'm not saying it'll outsell the PS3 any time soon, but I could see it taking off as a Roku-style media streamer with more gaming prowess. The Roku is a tiny box made by a tiny company, too, and you can buy them at Walmarts and Targets and you can play Angry Birds on them. So this whole "startup making a games console" thing probably isn't impossible. In fact, there's clearly so much pent-up demand for a device like Ouya that I'm kicking myself for not having started a games console startup myself. (If I were Roku, I'd be watching Ouya very closely, checkbook in hand.)

In any case, Ouya is interesting as yet another example of a company taking Android and essentially routing around Google. I'm waiting for someone like Samsung to do the same. Why wouldn't they? At this point, it's clear that most people aren't exactly buying Android phones for access to Google Play, and the geeks who are are the same geeks who are going to root their device right away anyway. Samsung should pull an Amazon and just put Galaxy Store or whatever on their phones. They'd get much closer to that Apple-style whole widget experience, and they'd get 30% of their users' app purchases (and for a company with much lower hardware margins, that extra revenue could be a Big Deal). Google wouldn't be happy about them piggy-backing on top of Android while taking control of the important bits, but so what? As long as they had the biggest apps available right away, it's doubtful most users would care.

Anyway, this post is already too long, so whatever. Has anybody else been following Ouya? Anyone else bold/stupid enough to back it? For me, the biggest concern is that the whole "open development of TV apps on a mobile-style platform" is the exact space that the app-enabled Apple TV is going to occupy. I can see that murdering this thing.

But I figure if nothing else, it'll be a pretty paperweight.
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drewprops
Magnificent Basturd™
sagacious-d
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2012-08-06, 08:19

This is a neat idea, and as you've said: the ecosystem can afford players like Roku AND AppleTV. The only problem with this brave new world of homegrown upstarts is Balkanization. Many mouths means reduced majority, but for these folks a small following is sufficient.

And exactly how SMALL is that thing?


...

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alcimedes
I shot the sherrif.
 
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2012-08-06, 09:34

So, on a scale of 1 - 10, where one is total vaporware and 10 is "they're already making this it's just a logistics issue.", where does this project stand?

With so many kickstater projects going on, its' hard to tell which are real and which are scams. I wouldn't mind a console like this, the concept certainly sounds appealing, but would I just be tossing money down a dark hole donating to their kickstarter project?

It seems like outside of the big three, consoles are proposed somewhat regularly but don't materialize.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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RowdyScot
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2012-08-06, 11:28

I've been reading up on it - if the right emulators are made for it, I would be down as having it be the classic gaming console. I don't need a 4th version of FF3, and haven't seen much in which I'd be interested for other games, but if it would let me emulate all the classics in one console? Sure.

Authentic Nova Scotia bagpipe innards
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2012-08-06, 12:07

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes View Post
So, on a scale of 1 - 10, where one is total vaporware and 10 is "they're already making this it's just a logistics issue.", where does this project stand?
The PA Report had an article about the OUYA a few weeks ago: (linky). It's a great read and addresses a lot of the questions being asked.

Not being a console gamer it's not a thing that interests me, but I've been following the info off and on because the idea of the "little-guys" making a mark in such a huge industry really does interest me.

Besides, if I want a pretty paperweight I'll get a Nexus Q.

So it goes.
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alcimedes
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Join Date: May 2004
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2012-08-06, 13:24

ooh, Penny Arcade is living up to their stated dream of having "ARS Technica style writing for games topics."

I love it, that was a great read and exactly what I was looking for. Sounds like more hype to me then, I'll hold off on opening my wallet until the units are shipping and there are games in place to play.

Google is your frenemy.
Caveat Emptor - Latin for tough titty
I tend to interpret things in the way that's most hilarious to me
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Mugge
Thunderbolt, fuck yeah!
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Denmark
 
2012-08-28, 14:57

Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprops View Post
This is a neat idea, and as you've said: the ecosystem can afford players like Roku AND AppleTV. The only problem with this brave new world of homegrown upstarts is Balkanization. Many mouths means reduced majority, but for these folks a small following is sufficient.
(...)
*bump*

Just like back in the 80's

I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing because the requirements, both in terms of licensing and technical development are much lower on new platforms that enter the market though the low end. Just think about how technically simple the first native games for iPhone were compared to the average Xbox game. This allowed a lot of new upstarts to enter a market where they previously couldn't afford to even buy a developer license, but then they got the opportunity to grow with their platform. And entry costs don't come much cheaper than this Ouya thing. Also, the market for this stuff has grown by a lot since Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo last rearranged the market between them and with digital downloads all you need to move physically is the console itself which happens to be conveniently small to that end.

Besides, if you can Kickstart a new console platform, then you can also Kickstart a new game which it appears is happening quite a lot. Sure players won't get big franchises like Call of Duty, but I'm sure somebody will produce a knock off (not necessarily as shameless as Samsung) once demand is ripe for it.

Off-topic (click to toggle):
Shameless Kickstarter plug: I was actually searching the forums for a dedicated Kickstarter thread in order to announce my first pledge to a project: $ 25 to Project Giana. Ok, I know it used to be a Mario konck off, but I've always liked it more than Mario, so ban me, Brad.

Rather than creating new thread just for that, I decided to tie it into this one since the project has a stretch goal for an Ouya version, which they will never make, but maybe they will give it another try later if they survive the first round.
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Wrao
Yarp
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2012-08-29, 12:49

Quote:
Originally Posted by 709 View Post
The PA Report had an article about the OUYA a few weeks ago: (linky). It's a great read and addresses a lot of the questions being asked.

Not being a console gamer it's not a thing that interests me, but I've been following the info off and on because the idea of the "little-guys" making a mark in such a huge industry really does interest me.

Besides, if I want a pretty paperweight I'll get a Nexus Q.
Hugely popular kickstarter for mythical vaporware wunderkind is probably bogus? no way, I refuse to believe it. /s
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