Clearly, the Android-based Ouya console announced earlier this week has got people thinking about a possible new direction for systems that you plug into your TV. Regardless of whether you buy into the concept or not, there's no denying the support it drummed up through its Kickstarter campaign. As we post this story, the company has crowd-sourced over $4 million on an ask of $950,000 (you can check the running total of how much the company has raised so far in the widget on the right), and it has attracted support from numerous games industry luminaries including ThatGameCompany's Jenova Chen, Xbox alumnus Ed Fries, and Interplay founder Brian Fargo.
Because the device doesn't actually exist yet, we can't assess anything specific about the console outside of the idea put forth by founder Julie Uhrman and designer Yves Behar. So let's use this as a conversation starter, rather than a definitive argument. So, here are five reasons why we think it could be a winner, and five why it may not be. Our lists are just a starting point--let us know what you think in the comments.
5 Reasons Why Ouya Could Be a Winner
1. They've already raised $4 million on an ask of $950,000, and they've consequently upped production capacity from an initial run of 5,000 to 84,000. They're off to a good start.
2. It's based on technology that lots of indie developers are increasingly familiar with. The hackable nature of the device will drive innovation, in terms of both how the hardware evolves over time and how the user interface, storefront, and distribution model adapts. It puts the evolution of the ecosystem into the hands of the people creating the content and nurtures a strong connection between the creators and the audience.
Hackable stuff is always good for the emulation and homebrew scene. It has the potential to rekindle the kind of hobbyist culture that existed in the late '80s and early '90s around home computers
3. Hackable stuff is always good for the emulation and homebrew scene. It has the potential to rekindle the kind of hobbyist culture that existed in the late '80s and early '90s around home computers. This could be the retro-box we always dreamed of.
4. Development kits are going to be cheap, and this is really good news for indie development studios that aren't flush with funding. If all goes according to plan, this could lead to Ouya becoming the platform of choice (alongside the PC, obviously) for indie studios. There are no licensing fees, retail fees, or publishing fees. It also means that Ouya and Android phone/tablet development can be hand in hand so indies have a way to position "console" and "handheld" SKUs of each game if they choose.
5. What this means for you is a cheap console with (potentially) lots of free games, which in turn will help the free-to-play model continue to mature. How so? With more and more engaged gamers contributing to the ecosystem, the thinking around microtransactions and subscriptions will evolve based on gamer behavior.
And 5 Reasons Why It May Not Be
1. While more than 30,000 people have given it a vote of confidence and have demonstrated that by pledging millions of dollars, the console technically doesn't exist yet, and no games have been confirmed for it. It may look like Minecraft is confirmed, but it's only kinda-sorta, as demonstrated by the mostly noncommittal quote on the Ouya Kickstarter page: "If Ouya delivers on the promise of being the first true open gaming platform that gives indie developers access to the living room gaming market, yes that is a great idea. We will follow the development of Ouya and see how it resonates with gamers. I could see all current Mojang games go on the platform if there's a demand for it," said someone at Mojang that's not Notch.
Given that the model for everything is free-to-play, and on average only around 5 to 10 percent of players (at best) cough up any cash for these things, that means launch games are relying on 4,000 to 8,000 paying "whales" to make some money.
2. As with any new marketplace, content discovery is potentially an issue. The early glimpses given of the Ouya user interface show a Windows 8/Xbox Live "Metro"-style arrangement, which presumably will be subject to some kind of curation on Ouya's end. Much like the Kindle Fire, or some of the cheap (and nastier) Android tablets, Ouya's storefront is completely separate from the larger Google-maintained Play Store, so though this is an "Android console," that doesn't mean you'll automatically have access to the thousands of Android games currently available. No Angry Birds for you! Unless Rovio chooses to produce a specific version.
3. The last thing the Android scene needs right now is even more fragmentation. While there's plenty of incentive for studios working on an Ouya game to also want to think about porting to phones and tablets (scale, being the most obvious), there's currently little incentive for them to port the other way. Despite the success of the Kickstarter campaign, the launch day installed base is only going to be around 84,000 units. Given that the model for everything is free-to-play, and on average only around 5 to 10 percent of players (at best) cough up any cash for these things, that means launch games are relying on 4,000 to 8,000 paying "whales" to make some money.
4. The flip side of the hackable coin is that hackable = pirateable.
5. People love their tablets; why would you buy an Ouya if you already have a tablet with an HDMI out on it? The Nexus 7 is a comparably powered device, does everything you'd need, plus it's a proper Android tablet--so it's portable, flexible, and runs everything that's in the Google Play Store.
Now it's your turn. Is this the kind of new hardware you want? Do you like the idea of something cheap, open, and hackable, or are you more interested in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720? Do you think the whole thing is bunk, and people should just play on PC? Let us know below.