Mobile Mavens

One year on, is Ouya's unconsole assault already running out of steam?

One year on, is Ouya's unconsole assault already running out of steam?

Ouya has been on the shelves for a few weeks, but despite an impressive presence at retail, reports suggest the device has been slow to get out of the blocks.

Even more worrying for those behind the device is the steady flow of developers who have taken to the press detail their dissatisfaction with downloads to date.

So, we asked our Mavens:

What's your assessment of Ouya now it's here, sat on the shop shelves? Are developers wrong to voice their disappointment with game downloads when the system is so young, or is there already evidence enough to suggest Ouya is a failing platform?

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder


I'm sure it's not what Ouya wants, but it's clearly a hobbyist platform until those behind the device start commissioning content.

Brian Baglow Executive Producer Team Rock Games

It's a bit of a chicken/egg thing, isn't it?

Until the device gets some decent market penetration, developers won't make games for it as they're unlikely to make a decent return. And, until there's a wide range of decent games, consumers won't be rushing to pick it up.

As Will says, if Ouya isn't commissioning content, then that process is going to be protracted and slow. Even Nintendo is finding that it's content that drives sales of a dedicated device.

Pascal Bestebroer CEO OrangePixel

I think people are still comparing this too much with the traditional consoles and not with the smartphone/tablet market that this is spawning from.

At this price point those behind the device can provide new Ouya boxes every year, same as smartphones/tablets are introduced each year.

Ouya has already been joined by Gamestick and others, both Apple and Google are readying themselves with their "TV" boxes, so this is going to be a new market.

All those factors combined is what this is all about. Sure, Ouya is right now only in the hands of early-adopters (mostly developers), but that's how all new tech starts and is the obvious reason for lower sales figures.

This first Ouya run has already been funded by Kickstarter and backers – the firm doesn't need to sell huge amounts. It just needs to get ready for next year's model and make people aware of gaming in this way.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I can't think of an example of any platform which has succeeded without substantial investment in exclusive content (consoles), or by having an huge installed base already by virtue of people not buying it primarily for gaming (iPhone).

To me, Ouya is attempting to solve a problem that doesn't exist. It's targeting F2P, which is all about removing barriers to start playing while offering a big audience. Ouya has a $99 hardware paywall, so breaks the F2P model from the outset.

You can get an Xbox 360 for a similar price, and it's got far better games on it than Ouya. Everyone who's interested enough in gaming to want an Ouya will already own a console.

This, along with the reported issues with the controller and UI (which I haven't tried out so can't comment directly) suggest that it's never going to get past the point of being an interesting hobbyist device. It will appeal to people, like me, who are interested in homebrew, niche and indie games - but that's not a platform for commercial success.

The numbers will mean it's not viable for people to target it as a primary platform. Although it's easy enough for developers to port their games to, touchscreen games won't work so well.

That leaves the portfolio consisting mainly of virtual joystick games developed for phone and tablet, working a bit better with a physical controller. Not very compelling I think.

I imagine someone - perhaps Google, Apple or Samsung - could and will make something like this work on a bigger scale. I don't doubt they'd all like to have TV-based gaming/smart TV offerings to rival their success on mobile, and are all, in very different ways, moving towards that goal.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

What Harry said. It's been a brilliantly run launch up till now, with plenty of hype and support from the industry. But I still think that it'd going to struggle to break-out from the industry hype into consumer demand.

In fact, looking at the first Mavens thread after the Ouya was announced (one year ago this week - Keith, is this all a cunning plan?), I still stand by what I said then:

"Surely this creates a new device that developers will need to support? I absolutely don't buy the claim that this is all going to be seamless. In technology, nothing ever works out that way.

"Plus - don't forget consumers. Consumers don't use Kickstarter. Consumers don't know what flavour of Android they have on their phones, and they don't care about processing power and tech specs. They buy known brands and stuff that is easy to understand.

"Why buy this when they can buy an Xbox or PS3 for the same money? Why spend money to play a game you can get on your phone already?

"Sorry, but the Ouya is a very brave attempt to serve a consumer market that doesn't really exist, and I don't see it as a proposition that's going to change enough consumer minds to create a totally new market. However, the geeks love it, so that's nice for them I guess."

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

Not fair John! You can't go back in time!

Harry - nice work writing out what I was thinking. The real issue Ouya is solving is unclear, but I think the presence and premise of its mission has affected the next gen of consoles.

There are 3 main events that have taken place since the Kickstarter a year ago.
1. The console is finally live.
2. There are competitors in the market now.
3. Ouya has raised a substantial amount of private investment.

The price is not horrible for a product that will likely have a physical update every year. The device is initially targeted at hobbyist and early adopter gamers.

This is the step I would have taken as well to drum up support, in fact I recall nearly every initial developer for Android and iOS was a hobbyist. Countless hardware and software iterations later, they are both very viable products with thriving marketplaces for symbiotic products and software for new companies.

I am expecting the next version to be drastically more polished than the original product due to the influx of investment capital and leadership from the investors.

In regards to the initial question about whether developers should voice their opinions negatively, I think some developers have a sense of entitlement and have no experience launching on a new platform or what it means to.

My formal education is in new product developer and entrepreneurship, so I am experienced with emerging or non-existent markets.

Imagine launching an Italian restaurant in Shanghai and expecting the restaurant to be full everyday from launch, and the only way you were advertising was through Twitter, when most of the people read the daily newspaper.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.


Lets be frank: We all love the idea of the open console experience and Android based devices like Ouya fitted the bill perfectly. As an idea.

The reality is a horrible compromise between cost, performance, content and audience.

These things are rarely ideal in the first release and, to be frank, I consider the Ouya to essentially be just the a beta stage for unconsoles as a whole, positioning itself as a first mover and giving developers a head start in taking 'good enough' quality gaming experiences to a relatively low price platform.

It also gives devs an advanced opportunity to adapt their mobile content to controller based devices.

As Jared says, Ouya is something where the physical hardware will probably be updated every year and I think you could argue that such devices are well priced to take a good market position as a media box for the your second TV or kids room. The trouble is, they are pitching it as a geek infused games console not a mass market media box that also does games. It's the opposite PR problem that Xbox One has.

Now I hate to be someone who says "I told you so", but the real story this week isn't Ouya's expected low performance; it the launch of Google's Chromecast. A DLNA dongle which streams media streaming content from the cloud and only costs $35...

Okay, I said I thought it would be Samsung that would do this and I've yet to read anything about gameplay, but I think this is a really interesting first move by Android devices designed to take over the front room.

Of course, next we have to wait for the elephant in the room to make its announcement; what will Apple do next?

So in short I think Ouya, Gamestick and the rest have succeeded, if not financially (so far). Ouya may have forced us to reconsider the front room, and that means this year's console (and unconsole) battle may just have gotten a little more interesting.

I love this industry.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

Honestly, I don't love the idea of an open console - as a consumer or as a developer.

I'm not a hobbyist, I can already write code on better devices (as can any other hobbyist). As a developer open means it will just be that much easier for consumers to pirate games. As a consumer, an open console doesn't give me any benefit over a closed console.

It's all about games for me.Which console gives me the better games. I really don't care about emulators. And, let's be honest, emulators are all good and well but there is no practical way to get hold of ROMs for most legacy devices other than piracy.

I can get an Xbox 360 for a little more than an Ouya and a Wii for about the same price. Both consoles crush the Ouya when it comes to the quality of games that are offered. I'm not talking about graphics, I'm talking about polished game play and more importantly fun.

Sure, the Ouya can iterate its hardware on a yearly basis, but I doubt it will be able to increase its fun.

I have a better chance at gaining super powers than the Ouya has at becoming a mainstream success. It's a small pimple on the ass of the much larger playing field. In order to compete with the big boys, it will need much more than the $8.5 million it amassed through Kickstarter and the $15 million in investment it has.

That's chump change compared to what Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, etc spend on their devices and ecosystem.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...


Sorry if you thought I was cheating Jared.

I guess my point is, I never thought this would become a consumer device, as there's no obvious market for millions of people who want to play mobile games on a big screen. There will always be a loyal (and vocal) fanbase for such a thing, but that doesn't mean it's a mass market, financially viable business idea.

With the risk of offending some of the fine people in this thread (and readers of PocketGamer.biz), lots of developers seem to not understand consumers very well.

I imagine many of the devs now being negative about the device expected too much from the launch, and assumed that Ouya would be able to instantly fix and update the various bugs and problems, in the way that Sony, Apple, Microsoft and others do.

But Ouya is small and has likely spent a huge amount of its funding just getting it through production - it's not going to have the sort of support that experienced, global companies can deliver.

I hope that lots of devs who bought into the Kickstarter have fun with it. As a consumer, I'll keep playing on my phone, iPad and PlayStation 3, where the games I play are designed and optimised for the devices I play them on.

Thanks for the offer, though.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

Comments

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Rick Birmingham
Well... I'm loving my OUYA and there have been at least 15 college students here who are like, "Awesome! I have to get one of these!"

So... I "meh" your take on this.
Matthew Peddle
They only way I see this taken off is if 1) they remove the credit card before you even get to see what the systems game play looks like and 2) they integrate Facebook and current running apps and then make money from advertising like you see on mobile phone games. They could even help integrate the new planned FB Video Ads after all the game will be on a bigger screen. I see a number of other improvements that this company could easily integrate to monetize system, I just don't know if they have the right talent on board yet...
Gary Lucero
I was interested in Ouya for about five minutes. Then I realized I wouldn't actually turn off my Xbox 360 and use it. I have a Nexus 7 and a Galaxy Nexus and they play Indie and other games just fine. I do the bulk of my gaming on the Xbox and I don't plan on shifting that to anything that can't play the games I'm used to playing on my TV set.
John Ozimek director
perhaps all of this is actually now redundant with the announcement by Google of Chromecast anyway; the USP of Ouya, gamestick and others seemingly can now be done with a $35 dongle.

Which does take us back to the content question and the developer support; there is an opportunity to create a unique experience that you can only have if you buy an Ouya - which replicates the business model of consoles. Which Ouya said it wasn't trying to be.

My brain hurts....
Seth Galbraith
Ouya is unlike both game consoles and other Android devices because of it's free to play/in-game purchase business model. The developers who know how to make F2P work, and the gamers who play their games, are mostly on PC, not consoles, phones and tablets.

Focusing on "indie" developers and innovative new games is not enough. Ouya needs more games that deliver on the promised F2P experience, rather than the shareware that currently dominates the platform.
Phil M
It bemuses me how the same mistakes are made over and over again by companies. This is not rocket science, if you want your console to do well, you need great games, and how do you get great games initially? you throw money at a few select talented developers, to create for you those great and PR impacting games. That's it, that simple.

What you shouldn't do, is launch a console with lots of good premises, and hope for the best, that's akin to playing the lottery.

I have no idea if the above is what OUYA have already tried or are trying, but that is what they need to do.

James Coote
OUYA are doing the whole lean startup thing. They've put their minimum viable product out there and are now looking to find what part of the market it clicks with.

That's why no one knows who it is for