Over the past few days a new Kickstarter, named “OUYA”, has skyrocketed past its goal. The OUYA console is a cheap console with promising goals. As with many presidential candidates, these goals seem impossible and will probably not be fulfilled. Their headline claims are that it will have an affordable price tag, and that all of its games will have some amount of gameplay free to try. I'm highly sceptical as to whether or not this will work, and here's why:
First of all, the specs. They are that of an Android phone. While an 'indie' console is a very promising concept, considering the surge of indie developers, gamers buying this console expecting to be able to play console-level games for free will end up bitterly disappointed; an indie console would probably not appeal to the vast majority of console gamers.
The free market. This is a very innovative addition. The people behind OUYA claim to have indie titles available for free, at no cost. I’m sure that there will be a funding arrangement in place which ensures that game developers receive a cut of the profits from the console itself, but with the console costing $99, that margins would be tight, making Steam the more enticing prospect for indie developers. However, this 'free' market is not all that people seem to think it is. I know several people who were under the impression that they would be able to play any game from any console. But, more than that, most people probably skimmed the article and aren't aware that the developers behind the games can put their game up as a demo, in-game items and powers, or ask you for subscriptions. I expect to see many demos, and 'P2W' games. In addition to this, it’s unlikely that many developers will invest heavily in OUYA projects, with the possible exception of Mojang; Indie companies don't usually have the funds, and AAA companies won’t even bother.
The design. This seems to be something that OUYA can live up to. A lot of console gamers prefer user-friendly, streamlined designs. OUYA is supported by Yves Behar, an award-winning designer, so this aspect of the console is quite promising. The design of the controller is something those behind OUYA call “a love letter to gaming”. Though the controller looks quite standard, the OUYA developers claim that it is “perfectly balanced in weight and shape”, and from the looks of it it’s a cross between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation controllers.
There are several clear pros to OUYA, however. It’s hacker-friendly, which means users can modify their console at will. They're also partnering with twitch.tv, which means you can watch StarCraft on your big screen without having to hook your computer up or tune into a Korean channel.
I may sound very sceptical and negative in this article, but I really do want OUYA to succeed. It could potentially give indie game development incredible amounts of publicity and a massive market to tap. It’s just that it seems unlikely to truly succeed in its goal of upending console gaming, even with four million dollars' worth of pledges behind them. It’s win or fail now, OUYA. Good luck.