Last year, a Kickstarter fund arose from somewhere in the vast online wasteland. Labelled “A New Kind of Video Game Console”, the OUYA promised to “upend console gaming”. The open source, Android-powered microconsole brought in $8.6 million in a month, setting a Kickstarter record. Word-of-mouth–in part driven by media hype–made the OUYA appear as a serious concept, in what many saw as a byproduct of a wearying seven-year console generation.
Since the console first shipped to Kickstarter backers in March, it has had an uneasy run. Shipping troubles stopped some sponsors from getting their machines, an ongoing problem even to today. In June, the Entertainment Software Association called the police on OUYA for showcasing at E3 in the parking lot. That was one event of many: when the Ouya personnel refused to leave, the ESA rented semi-trucks to block off their stand.
In July, when Ouya shipped to the press, the initial sentiment had been sporadically good, sporadically bad. Engadget received the controller positively; Wired disliked the game testing procedure; and Polygon loved the slick dashboard and quick navigation. Agreement and disagreement surfaced everywhere, thus it was impossible to gauge a general consensus. Ambivalence is never good for any product.
Beyond the mediocre reception, one question lingered: Could OUYA conceivably compete in the same market as Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft? The Kickstarter promised just that, claiming the console market was “pushing developers away” and that creativity in console game production was a lost art. But since the microconsole released to the public in June, no breakout hits have had an impact.
Few developers have profited, but none has monetarily. The Verge reported on anecdotal evidence from developers of profits ranging from a few hundred dollars to Matt Thorson, who has pocketed $21,000 so far from Towerfall. Ouya’s CEO Julie Uhrman remains positive though. In that same article, she’s quoted as saying, “To say developers can’t make money on Ouya — I take offense to that. She continued: “The console has only been out for a month, and developers have only had access to the hardware for about 6 months. We really like what we see so far, and so do developers and gamers.”
Optimistic corporate lingo aside, in three months, OUYA has barely–if it all–dented the console market. To call the OUYA irrelevant in three months might be premature; however, the Kickstarter made it seem like they planned on decimating consoles from the start. It takes healthy capital resources and some awesome games to compete. If OUYA can barely afford to ship units out to their existing backers, that doesn’t fare well for them in retail either.
The “microconsole”, as a new industry, is close to blooming. Sony has PS Vita TV on the way (which may break the barrier; it’s hard to say right now) and Apple and Google are busy reinventing their own integrated TV devices. Existing tech companies believe television can operate within this microcosm, but can games? It may be too soon to tell, but OUYA’s future is growing dim.
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