Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ouya, the Unneeded Competitor

Ouya is the latest competitor in the home console market. It has been gaining popularity through its Kickstarter campaign, raising over 5.5 million dollars with 43 thousand backers. But what is Ouya and why so much hype over this new console? Ouya is a home entertainment console that runs on the Android operating system. One of the reasons for the development of this new console is the idea that smaller developers want to make console-esque games. Creating a game on one of the three primary consoles usually requires high costs associated with buying developer kits and licensing engines. Ouya will allow developers to forgo the various fees associated with creating games on a traditional console. There won’t be publishers to deal with or retail merchants to negotiate shelf space. The essence of Ouya is to allow developers as much freedom as possible. While this seems like a great idea, is it really needed?

One of the great things about Ouya is the pricing. The console will cost $99 and come with a controller and SDK. The SDK will give user the tools necessary for developing games. The console is also hacker friendly in terms of software and hardware. In terms of software, users can root the console in order to get access to system files and various other superuser functions. The hardware hacking refers to the  user having the ability to create their own peripherals that connect through USB or Bluetooth which allows for even more unique gaming experiences. Ouya can become more than just a simple game console. Since it is based on the Android operating system, any developer can publish their apps to work on Ouya. Ouya has also announced the ability to play OnLive games on the console which helps it compete directly with current generation consoles. Thus Ouya is a fully capable media system which will put pressure on Microsoft and Sony future plans.

My main concern is whether there is a need for this type of console. Indie developers have many outlets to create their own games. Microsoft has a specific section for Indie games that is available on the Xbox Marketplace. If Microsoft can start working to make the Indie community feel more welcomed along with finding ways to promote the Indie marketplace, Ouya will have fierce competition. Steam has recently announced the Steam Greenlight program which allows the community to decide which projects should be released on steam. Developers could start showing their early prototypes to the Steam community where they will get feedback quickly and can adjust their designs to fit demands. Also many smart phones have the capability of connecting to an HDTV’s through an HDMI port. Add in the ability to wirelessly connect a Bluetooth controller and we pretty much have an Ouya. All you really need at that point is a game to recognize the controller inputs and you have a TV experience. It seems like the overall videogame industry is finding ways to accommodate indie developers.

I am wondering who Ouya is going to be marketed towards? So far it seems like its marketing towards the indie crowd but that does not seem like a large enough user base. If Ouya’s target audience is much broader, say a casual market then why would someone who owns one of the three leading console want to spend an additional $99 on something that has features similar to their current console. There needs to be more incentive for people other than developers to purchase Ouya especially since the new Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony consoles will be released soon. Incentives could include some new exclusive intellectual properties by well known developers. The software is really what’s going to sell the consoles.

While on the topic of software for the Ouya, there is another major hurdle that it needs to climb over. Reducing the barriers to entry for developing games means a lot more people will start publishing their own games. This means a lot of shovelware will be found on the marketplace. Shovelware discourages buyers by forcing them to look through all the terrible clones to find the one good game. Ouya can add a rating system to the games which allows users to differentiate between good and terrible games. However there will still be thousands of games to look through which can become overwhelming. The last thing Ouya wants to be known for is having a ton of terrible clones.

There is one thing I believe Ouya should incorporate into its strategy. Since Ouya seems to be targeting indie developers, creating a user friendly interface for their SDK should be a priority. This will allow those with less programming experience to have an easier time to break into game development by prototyping their basic designs. They should also encourage users to get together to collaborate on ideas through special events hosted by Ouya. People with different backgrounds could come together to form teams. Ouya events could help teams fill in the necessary roles that they are missing such as designers, programmers or artists. These events could all be done through the Ouya console by hooking up a camera and microphone to create a type of conference call.

While Ouya seems like a great idea on paper, I feel there is very little reason for it to exist. The current market seems too small to create a substantial impact on the gaming industry. These indie developers already have a plethora of option available in order to create games on a “big screen TV.”

No comments:

Post a Comment