Wouldn't it be great if game consoles didn't cost several hundred dollars, and if the games were free to play, at least to try them out? Well, that's the central idea behind Ouya, a new game console for the TV and powered by Android
. Ouya's open-source foundation is the key cog in what the developers hope will be a game changing machine, one that revolutionizes the gaming landscape and turns the industry upside down on its head.
In less than three days, Ouya has raised roughly $4 million on Kickstarter
from more than 30,000 excited backers. A discounted reward tier of $95 in exchange for a finished console and controller was capped at 1,000 donations and sold out on day 1. Over 25,000 backers so far have pledged $99, all of which will be rewarded with an Ouya console and controller sometime before it ships to stores. Five backers have pledged $10,000 or more, which underscores the excitement surrounding this project. What exactly makes Ouya so special?
It starts with the price tag. Ouya proposes to be an affordable $99 console at retail. It will come ARMed with an Nvidia Tegra 3
quad-core processor flanked by 1GB of system memory, 8GB of internal flash storage, Wireless-N and Bluetooth LE 4.0 connectivity, HDMI output for connecting to your swank living room HDTV (supports up to 1080p HD), a single USB 2.0 port, and a wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, D-pad, eight action buttons, a system button, and a touchpad). All this will come wrapped in Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).
Ouya's developers aren't just looking to put out a low-cost console with capable hardware, they want the games to be inexpensive as well. Towards that end, developers have just one rule to follow: at least some of the gameplay has to be free. That can mean a free demo with a full-game upgrade option, or it can be mean a free-to-play title with in-game upgrades, subscription models, or anything else developers can think of to make this venture worth their time and energy.
It's essentially mobile gaming ported over to the living room, at least in part. The freemium model reins supreme on tablet PCs and smartphones, where games like Angry Birds
and Words with Friends rule the day. If Ouya is to be successful, its developers need to think bigger and better things than mobile gaming, and they are. What they envision are games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Triple Town, and other such titles.
The other part of the equation is that every Ouya console doubles as development kit.
"We've packed this little box full of power. Developers will have access to Ouya's open design so they can produce their games for the living room, taking advantage of everything the TV has to offer," Ouya's developers explain on the project's Kickstarter page. "Developers can wave farewell to the roadblocks of bringing a console game to market. Anyone can make a game: every Ouya console is a dev kit. No need to purchase a license or an expensive SDK. It's built on Android, so developers already know how it works.
That doesn't mean Ouya is an Android port. You can create the next big title in your bedroom – just like the good old days! Who needs pants!? Ouya could change AAA game development, too. Forget about licensing fees, retail fees, and publishing fees."
Ouya is nothing if not ambitious, maybe overly so. One thing you can be sure of is that publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft aren't going to be gung-ho to jump on a free-to-play model when they're raking in millions of dollars on games for the Xbox 360
, Wii, PlayStation 3
, and PC. That means Ouya's success lies squarely on the shoulders of developers like Zynga
and the open-source community at large.
The other challenge for Ouya is that success is a double-edged sword. If Ouya ends up being a hit, it will inevitably attract competition once it's proven there's a market for this sort of thing. Imagine if Amazon decided to build a similar console. Or Apple or Google or Motorola or...you get the idea.
Long-term challenges abound, and Ouya doesn't yet have a clear direction where it wants to go. In fact, it's developers didn't anticipate blowing past its $950,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, at least not on the first day.
"We are blown away by your support. With your help, we just raised $2 million. And it’s only the first day.
Now we want to blow you away," Ouya's developers said in a statement. "The biggest thing for us right now: we are working on our stretch goals, what we can do if we raise more money. It might take us a few days to figure that out, and we want your help."
Figuring out where to take this project might prove to be the biggest challenge, but if it's ultimately successful, it could be the biggest thing to happen to gaming in a long, long time.