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The Mobile Gaming Mavens on Ouya's chances on coming out on top

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The Mobile Gaming Mavens on Ouya's chances on coming out on top
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The Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

Boxer8's forthcoming Android-based Ouya console may have garnered a fair portion of press attention, but not all of it has been positive.

While the project has proved a record breaker on Kickstarter, some commentators have questioned whether the console will ever make it to market.

So, we asked the Mavens:

What's your take on Ouya? Is is, as billed, a 'new type of video game console', or is this one project that will never see the light of day?

[people id="11" name="Brian Baglow"]

I'm excited. Very. I chipped in some cash. How can this not work? We're beyond the era of corporate only manufacturing. Look at other Kickstarter projects like the Pebble. Getting consumer spec things built in bulk is no longer the constraint it used to be.

As for the specs and the open nature of the thing, it is - as a dyed-in-the-wool-Linux-fan - all good.

There's enough welly in there to allow developers to do something reasonable with it. The open nature of the hardware will allow clever people to do amazing things to existing devices like the Kinect, Wii controllers, iPhones, Android, etc.

I look forward to a new era of gaming...

So, that's the rainbows and blue skies bit. And I'd like to believe all of that. However, we've had open source consoles on the market before - albeit handheld. They're been great emulators, but haven't really captured the world's imagination.

They've certainly had zero developer support and the publishers ignored them outright.

I'd hope the development community would be open to a new device, which has x thousand pre-sales and therefore customers in place, but gee, I've seen it ignore bigger opportunities in the past to cling to their existing business plans.

As with all things these days, the real deal will come with the back end. How games are distributed, sold and discovered. If it's truly a democratic and open device, then we'll have multiple markets and stores. So those which combine trust and reliability with content will win.

There's a chance there to create your own solution, like Valve. Who, after their blistering appearance at Develop and the universal acclaim they received for being so bloody nice/sharp/clever, will be watching this as a potential new route to market.

Alternatively, we can go and crowd fund a publisher to create original new content for the Ouya from the best developers in the world - and bring back all the major franchises from history.

Except Dragon's Lair. I'm launching a crowd funded effort to have the source code for that monstrosity fired into the sun.[/people]

Will Luton

Will Luton

Founder/CPO Village Studio Games

I think the Ouya will do okay. I think there's a business case for it.

Yet, it is still a console, with a ontroller like an Xbox or PlayStation that plugs in to a TV. So, it will only ever attract self-identifying 'gamers' - those within the existing demographics.

Yet the power won't rival the next generation and, as yet, it doesn't seem to be equipped for the cloud, so it could have a limited shelf life.

The more exciting thing is when similar tech is de facto part of the TV, with eye tracking, gesture, mobile, touch etc. It'll just be in the homes of everyone and capable of doing games - people will play.

But unlike mobile we can long-form narrative driven gameplay, which isn't shooting and killing. That will open up a new generations of games. However, I fear Ouya will just rehash what we've had for the last 20 years.

Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

Like Brian I love the Ouya concept and have also backed it on KickStarter - although only enough to reserve my username.

Having an open device capable of leveraging the Android platform to create console format games is a great idea and I'm sure will be a positive incentive to ever increasing content quality for Android.

But...there are concerns.

I worry that it's an old-school play. The box under the telly - even at $99 - is a tough market place.

I don't believe the differential price compared to an Xbox or PlayStation 3 is significant enough to make this the primary box, and the content catalogue of these other devices is enormous - especially if you include music and movie content.

This type of product is not about a technical play. It's all about disruptive marketing and strong brands. So the question will be can Ouya create sufficient critical mass in terms of active users to make the console viable for content developers and publishers.

I also worry about the focus on creating a box with a traditional controller, for me the opportunity is in connecting the diversity of smart devices to that TV - especially as I believe the target audience will all have smartphones and tablets already.

But I am impressed with the spec and the way those behind it have used Kickstarter to build anticipation as much as money. So I wish this well and hope that it will surprise me by creating a new gaming phenomena. If nothing else I believe this will provide a benchmark for console quality content on Android.

David MacQueen

David MacQueen

Executive Director at Strategy Analytics

So, it's a bit like an Android tablet, but shaped like a box, with TV-out - like most tablets and smartphones have - only instead of a screen of its own it uses your TV, so it's not mobile, and it has a controller peripheral.

However, it doesn't have console games, just the free to play casual stuff you get from the Android Market of which 90 percent are rip offs of other games on the Android Market.

Or, it's the cool indie console based on open source, truly democratic with its low cost and the fact that almost anyone with a reasonable combination of brains, determination and time can create a totally new gaming or living room experience.

I hope Ouya does become the cool indie console, and I wish it luck, but Apple clearly has ambitions here.

I think we're going to see movement from several tablet and smartphone vendors as well - HTC didn't invest in OnLive for fun, ironically - because the sort of thing Ouya is being touted as can be replicated by many tablets and smartphones.

See if you can sit through this presentation from Qualcomm, for example. Okay, that's hardly 'cool' marketing, but Qualcomm isn't a consumer brand. Can HTC, Samsung, LG, make it cool? Maybe, maybe not.

Apple can with the iPad, that's for sure. Maybe Amazon can. And smart TVs are going to be doing this stuff - using Android as well - in the coming years. $99 is cheap, but around a third of American households already have a tablet which can do the exact same thing.

Point is, it's going to be a crowded market. Ouya needs something different, and from the stuff I've seen from them so far, I wouldn't say it has anything that makes me say 'I want THAT instead of all this other stuff.'

But they are just starting, maybe those behind Ouya will find the special sauce.

Maybe it is in the marketing and branding, like Oscar said, or the games catalogue like Brain said - heaven knows there's going to be a lot of rubbish if they simply open the floodgates.

Kicking up a storm on Kickstarter and engaging with developers seems like a decent start. Good luck to Ouya, because I think it is going to need a healthy dose of that as well.

John Ozimek

John Ozimek

Co-founder at Big Games Machine

I'd like this to work, I really would, but I just don't see how the business model those behind Ouya are aiming for stacks up.

If I want to play an Android game on a bigger screen, why don't I just use a tablet? Or stream it to my TV? Or, as Will said, use a TV where this kind of content is built in?

It seems to me that a standalone device actually limits the market, rather than expands it: I've not seen any realistic explanation of how games designed for touch input are going to work through a controller.

Plus, 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. Shall we just call it Gizmondo mk.2?

Dave Castelnuovo

Dave Castelnuovo

Owner at Bolt Creative

Ouya is pretty comical. I guess there are a lot of people that are donating money who really are in love with Android.

It really doesn't make sense to me, since Android is such a bad OS and the quality of games on the Android platform is probably the worst among the existing platforms thanks to fragmentation issues - and Ouya fragments it even more, given it has no touch input.

The main issue comes down to why a user would purchase a console. To me, consoles are for hard core gamers who are interested in triple-A games from big publishers. There is really 0 percent chance that any medium or large publisher will support this platform.

In reality, this platform will only support existing games on Android, most of which don't support the external control that you need to play the Ouya.

A small percent of games will be optimised for larger screens albeit not as large as a TV. In fact, maybe ten or so small developers will actually add features to their game for the Ouya.

Ouyas will probably be sold to every user that donated, but there is no way it will get further than that. Buying an Ouya is like buying a Sony Aibo - you know in your gut that it will be a lousy piece of hardware, but there are people with blind faith that will buy into it anyway.

Graeme Devine

Graeme Devine

CEO / Co-Founder at GRL Games

As a Sony Aibo owner, I've got to respond.

I put $700 in for the Ouya. I think the key to the console is not thinking of it as an Android device, but just as Ouya. Any games I make for it will be for the Ouya only - I don't plan on supporting multiple devices based on the one console using the OS.

But why did I give those behind it money? Because I believe in their passion.

I don't know if they will conquer the market, do well, or if their business model is going to fly. I am not in a position to judge that. But I'll give $700 to a passionate group of game developers making a new type of console because I want to live in the world where that is possible.

Dave Castelnuovo

Dave Castelnuovo

Owner at Bolt Creative

I was actually very close to buying an Aibo back in the day.

I just really wanted that future vision to become a reality but I knew that it would probably sit in a closet after the $2,000 novelty wore off. It's sad that they haven't progressed with it.

Jani Kahrama

Jani Kahrama

Founder at Secret Exit

Most of the comments seem hung up on the fact that it's an Android device, but the fact that Android as a platform is fragmented means nothing for Ouya.

Those behind it obviously picked a Linux-on-ARM distribution that has a proven track record and gives the least amount of trouble to developers who are porting to their device. Would anyone of the Mavens consider it a benefit if this was instead running, for example, Tizen, Meego or Firefox OS?

As for games, haven't we gotten over the silly misnomer of 'mobile games' yet?

Look at the current crop of high-quality releases from studios making games for digital distribution…all the time we see same games pop up on PSN, XBLIG, XBLA, Steam, Mac App Store, Apple's App Store and Google Play.

They are downloadable games, and they are usually designed from ground up to adapt to controls on a wide range of devices.

There are plenty of first person games, twin-stick shooters, racing games, arcade games etc. that are wonderful on any platform, may already have been published on large screens, and are in no way diminished by also being available on mobile.

Ouya has challenges ahead of it - most of all in providing secure transactions for IAP, figuring out game discoverability on their marketplace, secure leader boards, secure player profiles and so on. Those are the items to be viewed with cautious optimism or scepticism, depending on your character.

But as for its potential, Ouya can absolutely become a platform and distribution channel that allows developers to release the console adaptations of their titles without the laborious contract negotiations, technology lock-in, expensive QA requirements and separate costly dev hardware involved with the big three.

Not to mention here's finally a console that supports a standard graphics API, doesn't claim exclusivity, or demand extra features for proprietary motion tracking accessories.

Of course it'll also become a darling for hobbyists, so it's fair to expect emulators, media centres and social apps to find their way to the device soon after launch.

I never expected to say this, but I guess I'm a cautious optimist.

Volker Hirsch

Volker Hirsch

Co-Founder / Board Member at Blue Beck

The devices/platforms you are listing have one - or three - things in common, which I think makes Ouya such a difficult play, and I honestly do believe that every single Maven would love to see it succeed!

The ones you listed have either a main revenue stream - XBLA, PSN and desktop - or piggy back on mainstream platforms, such as Steam, or are pure mobile plays like the App Store and Google Play.

The hesitation to believe in the success of a single-purpose platform - which Ouya essentially is - that does not have the uber-high-end of PlayStation and Xbox going for it comes from just that: if you only do one thing, you better do it pretty effing well.

And if even the high-end consoles are being called doomed, how would a lower-end Android one have a chance?

So: high on geek points - and, yes, I'm also tempted to invest - but probably lowish on mainstream success outlook.

Thomas Nielsen

Thomas Nielsen

Osao Games

I like Ouya as much as the next geek, but I think it'll be a challenge for most Mavens to capitalise on any success it has.

It's just inherently difficult to combine openness with paid software, especially when you have no mainstream or high street distribution and you need to rely on geeks geeks who will be quite good at distributing anything amongst themselves.

I think the beautiful thing is that these guys will now be 'prototyping' a system that lets you develop content for the living room. I don't remember seeing that done on a large scale before, and that, to me, is very significant.

I'm not sure what will come out of it, but I will be watching closely.

(I backed it, of course.)

Oliver Breitfeld

Oliver Breitfeld

Senior Product Manager: Mobile & E-Commerce at Baumarkt Direkt GmbH & Co KG

Everyone has been talking about the fact that the Ouya will play mobile games but, yes, that's actually a good thing.

I'd rather sit with my kids and play casual games on a TV with €99 console than with a €600 phone to be honest.

Maybe it will also give other game concepts a new chance - not Angry Birds obviously, which had quite a boost in downloads already - but maybe there are games that will work better with a controller. Maybe it will have another level of multiplayer gaming.

And also: you can play some games for quite a long time now even if they are mobile, and its much more comfortable to play them with a controller rather than holding your phone all the time.

I hope Ouya reaches a critical mass of devices shipped it could offer developers an interesting channel to distribute games that don't work too well on touch devices. For example, I still hate the run and jump platform type game on touchscreens, but I love the old fashioned 2D sidescrollers.

Wen Chen

Wen Chen

COO at Coconut Island Studio

I agree with Volker. As developers - especially indie developers - we love Ouya because it's open source, using Android OS which makes the source code we finished for Android mobile devices can be utilized again.

There is no threshold for developers to sell games on it though that's kind of a double-edged sword.

So, we backed Ouya with $699, taking advantage of early access to the developer SDK.

But as a marketer, I'm pessimistic about Ouya's future. The reason we buy consoles is because of the content on it and, above all, the exclusive titles on it. Since we can also play Ouya's games on Android phones, and I see that there's no reason for me to buy a Ouya, turn on Ouya and the TV, connect them together and play it with a controller.

If there are enough tailor made titles for Ouya, it could succeed. However, it depends on the developers specifically whether they think it's worthwhile developing for Ouya only or not.

Most developers like us are thinking of putting their current available mobile titles onto Ouya. This could mean customers don't buy Ouya because they already own those titles on their phones, and less and less Ouya devices shipped.

That means less developers are interested in making exclusive titles for Ouya, and we all know
what that may lead to.

Google may buy Ouya and integrate it into Google TV. Therefore Ouya is just a transitional product. It has excited developers by serving as a "dream console", but it
won't actually bring in too much revenue for them.

Christopher Kassulke

Christopher Kassulke

CEO at HandyGames

We are one of the six crazy bastards who backed it heavily.

Think big, my friends - it's time to go beyond mobile and shake up the old industry. I f*cking love our business!

Andreas Vahsen

Andreas Vahsen

CEO / CCO / Game Economist at MachineWorks Northwest

I want Ouya to be successful. However, it needs more than $5 million to make it.

It needs a VC or a big retail partner, or Amazon! Did I back them? Sure!