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Daily Reaction: Ouya Set to Rock the Game Industry?

August 9, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Daily Reaction is a new feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

The video game industry originated with people exploring the depths of possibilities that the emerging technology of the time allowed. Over the years, as the industry grew, the ability to independently develop and produce a game became an exceedingly difficult prospect. As such, with the emergence of the iOS and Android platforms, a new avenue for new developers to break into the industry appeared. Normally both platforms would limit any developer to create strictly for screens on phones and tablets, but Android gaming is finally being brought to TV screens around the world. Enter Ouya, an open sourced console launched on Kickstarter, set to run Android 4.0. With its launch, its creators are promising to allow any app developer to “crack open the last closed platform: the TV”. Coming with a controller, and a slew of well known products like Minecraft, Twitch.TV, and League of Legends, all for $109US.

With such a new prospect being brought to a normally tight fanbase, the Oyua set itself to compete against some of the biggest names in the industry. With the power of Kickstarter, Ouya has raised over $8.6 million dollars, and amassed over 58 thousand pre-orders – a set of numbers that may pale in comparison to other console launches, but when taken into account that it is a completely unknown product, launching with almost no advertising, it could just be a sign of things to come.

Dan: The idea behind the Ouya is potentially powerful, having a console that is open-sourced, with the ability to run a number of well known IP’s could potentially take a huge market share from Sony. As it has taken Sony a number of years to make the PS3 what it is today, it still lacks a number of features that numerous consumers have been asking for since day one. With the Ouya being an open sourced platform, it has the potential to be upgraded at an almost unprecedented rate; something that could leave its much larger competition in the dust. Although, with that, a number of other issues have yet to be taken into account. As open sourced products normally gain their popularity by skating on the line of legality, we are yet to see how an online retail only console will handle being in the wilds.

Seb: I agree, the idea of Ouya is impressive. The reality? A disaster in the making. $8.6 million is something we’d all love to have, but it’s absolutely tiny in industry terms, and it’s not as if they have all that money to spend – after Kickstarter and processing fees, the majority of the money has to go to giving out those 50k pre-purchasers. So that leaves very little room for error. What if a component in their supply chain gets delayed? Or there’s an FCC issue? Can they afford keeping stock in a warehouse for a month longer than planned? Small things like this can cripple a company with no capital, especially because they’re aiming to sell it at cut-throat prices. Then there’s the issue of openability, that people can mod it. They’ve said that there’ll be something in place to stop piracy, but when billion dollar corporations have to lock down their product to make it secure, and still can’t manage to stop hacks, I don’t see them pulling it off for more than 3 days. After that? Say goodbye to any developer support… not that there really is any, other than some Android ports to this Android system, and a headline-grabbing and attention seeking announcement by Robert Bowling that he’s making a Human Element prequel as an exclusive.

Dan: Exactly, the potential for the hardware concept is unimaginably powerful for a perfect environment, but sadly the gaming industry is far from this utopian world. As they have stated, that the Ouya will be open to “hackers” and allow anybody to modify and improve on the console. Something that will only cause countless variations on the console, ultimately causing the product to implode on its own lack of direction. This is not to mention that the number of patent infringements that will keep its developer in a carousel of lawsuits. Something that a start-up company just cannot afford to handle. It is exactly this problem that caused Sony to have to remove rumble from the PS3 controller due to a suit from Immersion, which forced them to pay out millions (more than Ouya’s entire capital) to get the DS3 released.

Seb: Yeah, fragmentation and patent suits are causing rich Android OEMs no end of trouble, I don’t envy these guys. And then there’s the fact that this product has barely started development and it’s coming out early next year. That leaves very little time for development, product testing, quality assurance (costly stuff) and bug fixing. Very, very little. I get it, I understand why people invested – the current business model is flawed, it’s too closed, too constricted. And Ouya uses cool terms like “It’s time to upend console gaming” and “OUYA: The revolution will be televised” – you’ll be part of something! The destruction of the evil guys who want to control everything and take all your money! Just like Kickstarter is totally replacing the traditional business model! Oh wait, nope, Kickstarter was a nice idea, but over half of game projects have failed, some are proven to be cons (after being funded), and only the big, established guys like Double Fine are having any real success.

It’s a great idea, one that I hope gets enough traction to not bankrupt them, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, it might help influence Sony to make the PS4 more open. But it’s not going to be big, especially because, by the time it releases, the PS3 will probably be $159 and the exciting next gen will be right around the corner.

So what do you think about today’s funding of an open-sourced Android platform? Could it truly shake up the industry, or is this all hype and no substance? Share your thoughts in the comments below and you could win an Ouya 2*.

*No Ouya 2’s will actually be given away, and anyone who wants one can just go buy it if it somehow gets released.