Wednesday, July 11, 2012

OUYA Could Save Us... Maybe...

I've said for years now that an open-source console, properly funded, would be a godsend - in fact, it comes up several times in the next episode's mailbag questions - IF it was properly managed. The Kickstarter for such a machine, "OUYA," got a million dollars of hopeful crowdfunding within hours today; so apparently I'm not the only one hoping for something like this to happen. A console with the accessibility/maleability (on the development and consumer side) of a tablet or smartphone would really be something... if it works.

It's properly to be wary of any tech startup in this economy, especially in this industry, but I hope this works out. Fingers crossed.


Matti Lehtinen said...

At 90 dollars, it will have such weak hardware that it will make the Wii look like some kind of phlebotinum-powered military training simulator.

Pat said...


You're looking at this from the AAA industry perspective. Frankly, it would be a mistake to try and get into that game since it hasn't really seen any growth in recent years. Profits have been plateauing and at worst, falling.

But where we HAVE seen growth in the industry is in things like Steam, PSN, and XBLA. Smaller, simpler downloadable titles that are clever and strike a chord with gamers. Your Humble Bundles, your so-called "casual games", things like that.

The Ouya is designed to be whatever the gamers and developers want it to be. In the right hands, it can provide a console experience for this market that the AAA companies aren't able to provide due to drawn-out and expensive publishing processes (there's a reason things show up on Steam before XBLA).

Sure Ouya won't be able to play the next Assassin's Creed, but if they do it right, it won't have to.

The Ouya won't be replacement for current gen systems, but it will be an interesting first step that could mark the beginning of the end of the proprietary AAA system that has been stagnating in recent years.

Aiddon said...

I really don't know what to think of this. I really don't know who this system is designed for and I find that the company's model for it (all games free and giving away developer kits free) isn't exactly good for business. It's just too optimistic and idealist to work.

Pat said...


Work in what way?

In order for the makers of Ouya to succeed, they just need to sell the hardware and for developers to make games for it.

Judging from the explosive growth of the Kickstarter, I don't think they'll have problems selling the hardware, so now they just need developers to get involved.

Their advantage is that they're embracing the open source model. It will encourage the glut of indie developers in a way that no other console company has. The barriers of entry have been lowering for the past couple years with XBLA/PSN and Steam, but Ouya hopes to take it to the furthest extreme.

Open source development, low-cost hardware, no licensing and publishing fees, free-to-play models across the board, and crowd-sourcing the initial investment.

Right now, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo act as gate-keepers for the console market. If you want to play a game in a console environment, you basically have to go through them, and they take advantage of that as their primary source of income. This is why game prices haven't changed, why licensing, publishing, and patching is so time-consuming and expensive, and why it's so difficult to compete with them on their level.

Ouya seems to want to challenge the Big Three not by beating them at their own game, but by changing the rules of the game.

Ouya may not grow to be a production juggernaut, but so long as they can still produce the hardware, people still want to buy it, and developers are making games for it, they'll succeed. And at the very least, this sort of competition will force the Big Three out of their comfort zones and reduce the wasteful spending and enormous costs of software development and sales.

Unless this ends up being a complete flop, this could be a serious game-changer in the industry.

Matti Lehtinen said...

Well, Pat, that's my point. There's a whole bunch of games available all over the place... On the PC. The penetration of PC hardware in homes is practically 100%, practically everyone has a laptop or desktop with double the power of anything they could put in that box. And that's REALLY low-end PC hardware.

The PC can do everything that box can do, and do it better. The only thing my PC does not have is a UI that is built solely around games (which could be fixed very easily). But why should it? Is it so hard to launch games through Steam or your web browser or the start menu or whatever else you're playing games in?
My computer connects to my TV very easily. There's an HDMI port right there, right next to the DVI port that can be converted to HDMI with a 4 dollar adapter.
There's a MASSIVE library of games, both free and commercial. I have never understood the appeal of a console. A console is literally PC hardware stuck into far too small a box, increasing its cost to ridiculous levels ("599 US dollars!" anyone?) or forcing the hardware to be at least a generation behind what is actually available for the same price in a PC. The single component that raises the PC's perceived price above that of a console is... The display. Do the same calculation in a house without a TV or any monitors and hey presto a console is at least as expensive as a PC.
The only thing this box has going for it is the fact that it's open, but the PC is already more open than it can ever be. Or do you suspect it'll have an unlocked bootloader?

Pat said...


That's been the argument for PC gaming for years and years, but somehow, consoles are still around.

Yes, I could take a desktop PC, install Steam, hook it up to my TV, get a controller dongle, and effectively have exactly what you're talking about, and yes, it would technically be superior to the experience of Ouya in essentially every way. Heck, it would be superior to a lot of console experiences as well.

But you forget why people buy consoles in the first place. They want a relatively cheap, dedicated device that requires almost no setup and an identical user experience across the board.

This is why the Big Three can afford to extort developers even while Steam is more popular than ever. People still like and play consoles. It's a matter of convenience, not power or capability.

It's the same reason people buy the Apple TV even though they can accomplish all of these things and more by just using their own PC as a media server or even getting the superior Roku. The Apple TV is small, cheap, and easy to set up.

Your argument seems to be that no one will buy the Ouya since they can just use a PC instead. Over 23,000 backers within two days seem to disagree with you.

Sabre said...

Pat- I'd also add the examples of phone games. Smart phones are very expensive unless you get into some long term contract. £400 for a decent smart phone, or a £70 box that can play almost all the games the phone can, but on a big screen. Plus none of the hassle or compatibility problems of phones.

That said, one issue with open platforms I think is being overlooked is amount of crap that quickly builds up. Provided they can police it, it could be interesting.

Smashmatt202 said...

Wait... Android is making a video game console? And it's already got over a million dollars funding thanks to Kickstarter? That's... interesting...

Aiddon said...

I expect this to be like the App Store; a few interesting gems amidst an ocean of shovelware. I expect this to be like Gaikai or OnLive; a modest success, but nothing that really changes anything. People praising this seem to be too optimistic for their own good. The claim of all games for it being free was when I had to laugh

Anonymous said...

You underastimate the power of standardized hardware. Why do developers often develop exclusively for consoles, paying massives fees, when they could do it for the PC for a greatly reduced cost? It's much simpler.

They know exactly what hardware to expect and can optimize accordingly. This is so much harder with the diversity of the PC. What the OUYA presents is a known hardware with the development ease of the PC. Gold, in other words.

Sabre said...

Someone else mentioned this on the internet, and I thought I would share.

Let's say they can make it at the price they claim. Even if we assume this thing would be a total failure. It could still a decent machine for playing emulators on. At very least N64 games and below would work on it, assuming you had the ROMs. A dreamcast or PS2 emulator would be nice, but unlikely.

Matti Lehtinen said...

I never said people wouldn't buy it, I implied they were idiots for doing so.
The point of "rocking the boat" is definitely a valid one and if they can actually start making consoles that have a free ecosystem for developers, then that's great for everyone except the established console regime... But it's all a moot point: it's a problem that needs to be solved only if you ignore the existence of the PC. The problem of the PC is that of marketing, the stupid masses see the PC as "difficult" and "expensive" because back in the days of Windows 98, it was difficult to keep your PC running and because package computers in malls ARE expensive because they always include a display and there are almost no upgrade services where you could take your existing components into account, which would lower the cost of your new computer by around 100-200 dollars.

The reason anyone develops anything console-exclusively (keep in mind that there is only a tiny tiny handful of games that are actually exclusive to one console that aren't made by the console's manufacturer) is because they have deals with a publisher or the console manufacturer. Or are you saying that porting a game over to PS3 and Wii from the 360 (or in any other direction) is easier than porting it to the PC (cell processor, anyone? Wii's limited graphics and processing power?)? Especially when you can assume that just about everyone will have a computer better than any of the consoles and that Windows supports 360 code practically natively, meaning that there is very little extra work required to port the software to the PC once it's on the 360. Not to mention if they ported it to the Wii, there you have your lowest graphics setting level already done. The only console that's difficult to port from/to is the PS3 because of the exotic processor arrangement.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

It's an interesting idea that has pretty much a negligible chance at making any sort of significant long term impact... assuming it even manages to get off the ground.

The largest issue I see is of marketing demographics... who exactly is this supposed to be marketed toward? I mean, if the goal is that it's supposed to be geared more toward casual gamers, it's going to have damned hard time justifying any cost when the majority of it's games can be played on multi-purpose hardware most people already own. If it's supposed to be for core gamers, the weak hardware and lack of a Live like service won't exactly make it appealing.

I expect this to end up being known more for what hackers end up doing with it than anything the organization putting it out ever does, if at all.

Capt Derp said...

Whoever this is being aimed toward demographics-wise, they've now got five million plus dollars of their money. So someone wants to see this little David defy big bad Industry Goliath.

Anonymous said...


Yes, because you, a humble Internet commentor, know better than 23,000 people in aggregate. Arrogant much?

qtRaven said...

I'm buying it. Just to support the effort. And I bet it will rock.