An open platform is all well and good but what are the real reasons behind OUYA’s success?
Microsoft and Sony have already dropped the ball this coming console generation. Why? Put simply, they’ve waited too long.
Rather than making the most of the momentum their respective consoles have created over the last few years, they’ve waited for the PC to outpace their hardware several fold and even allowed third party developers to come out – like Square Enix, Epic and others – and criticise the console manufacturers’ unwillingness to engage with fans when it comes to the next set of hardware.
So much so that core gamers are willing to grasp onto any promises, no matter how far fetched, with both hands and perhaps more importantly their wallets. Of course we’re talking about the latest overnight Kickstarter success, OUYA. This unknown console developer has come from nowhere to challenge the preconceptions of game development with their new platform which demands no license fees from developers, no form of quality control (other than forcing developers to offer some kind of free-to-play functionality) and most importantly of all a stunningly low price-point of $99.
To put that price point in perspective, it’s $50 less than the Kinect’s RRP, just over half the price of a 3DS and considerably cheaper than Sony’s PlayStation Vita. We could compare it more aptly with the price of the ageing PlayStation 3 or the increasingly decrepit Xbox 360, but we’re sure you get the idea.
The interesting thing is that despite OUYA’s price point and it’s ridiculously meagre system specs – with its 1GB Ram, quad-core processor and 8GB of flash storage – somehow the system has captured the hearts and minds of core gamers. This is a system which couldn’t run 2007′s Crysis with any kind of vigour, yet in a matter of 24 hours, this new hardware has attracted 19,030 backers and $2,378,548 worth of investment – real, actual investment! Over 15,000 backers have already affectively pre-ordered the system and those numbers are only set to grow as word of the project spreads even further before it closes on Thursday, August 9th.
Whichever way you look at those numbers are impressive, especially when you consider that no killer app has been announced for OUYA. No Halo, no Metal Gear Solid, no Gran Turismo, no Gears of War. Instead there’s simply a promise that independent developers will flock to the unspoilt platform in droves due to its easy to develop for Android operating system and the lack of any kind of license fees. Sure there was the occasional mention of hardcore darling Minecraft and the promise of E-Sports being streamed to your television set, but in terms of actual new games none have been mentioned thus far. Instead it’s all about the promise of developers being able to withdraw themselves from the traditional power brokers of console development, and form some kind of utopian future where developers have the power, not manufacturers or publishers.
That dream is becoming very real on PC, so why not port it to TV with OUYA? A device which is essentially a mini-PC, with all the potential that other open platform already provides. Couple that potential with a name people have a growing affinity for, Andriod, and you have all the makings of a hipster phenomenon – something people genuinely want to have next to their TV in their living room.
As incredible as the potential of this new platform is though, there’s a problem. All we’ve really seen of this shiny new box is a well put together 3 minute trailer, a lengthy mission statement and a short FAQ – yet that’s enough for people to plonk down $99. Doesn’t that bother anyone else? The fact that we’re so infatuated with the idea of shaking up the status quo that we’re willing to buy into a promise, rather than wait to see how things pan out a few months down the line.
Maybe not, but in the grand scheme of millions of gamers out there nearly 20,000 backers isn’t a lot, hoever OUYA’s success does still indicate a growing feeling of anxiety amongst gamers. A want for prices to be lower, games to be more creative and platform holders to have less power. Will this new console power broker mark a new age in game development? Probably not, but you can bet your $99 backer fee on the fact that Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony are looking at this new Silicon Valley start-up with great interest.
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