Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ouya... soon to be [M]

OUYA Revisited 

Well, it's been a while and this is soon to hit stores. That's right the 
$99 game console with the free to play market base has been realized. But, really, how realized is it?

The premise of the Ouya's creation is that game consoles don't need to be big and expensive to run games, and that games don't need to cost you an arm and a leg to purchase -could even be free, and that you should be allowed to mod and hack the crap out of whatever item you've paid good money for. Which, to anyone that understands economics, is a very tall order. And the Ouya was designed to set out to create and fill this non-existent space in the market. The idea was that with Android the console could be small and inexpensive, with a free development kit smaller and indie developers would flock to the Ouya and end up creating a flood of top notch titles, and with these titles and the console going for cheap chips the gamer demographic would turn to Ouya as a sort of console Steam on steroids. What went wrong? Well, first the Ouya isn't actually as powerful as the current Android phone you probably have. And second it's competing with the WiiU out, the PS4 right around the corner, and the whatever-Xbox over the hill. 

It's less powerful then all of these and does not have the line up we assume -and more importantly trust with our money- are coming from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. On one hand the Ouya is far cheaper than these other consoles and now that Bioshock Infinite is out nothing seems to be massively grabbing the attention of the consumers right now. This could actually be the perfect time for the Ouya to come out. 

This whole, middle-market indie hot spot plan could really work, especially with the Triple-A Industry in the place it is and this supposed "crash" on it's way. This middle ground market will be the next big thing, if it's from the Ouya though, is still to be seen. This industry -like every industry- thrives on the social buzz of it's products, without the marketing the triple-A titles get the Ouya will inherently have less of a social buzz. Especially without the exclusivity of any high-profile IPs that other consoles have, by comparison the Ouya will inevitably fall into the background. But of course this is all speculative, nothing like this has ever happened before, and the Ouya's unique production and background alone set it apart from the corporate competition  so comparison is pointless, right? Wrong.

Along with it the units shipped to all of the kickstarter benefactors, Ouya is selling in Gamestop right next to the other consoles. It is designed and marketed as an answer and alternate to the higher priced models. In this consoles history, along with recognition as a trail blazer, the Ouya will be compared to the other consoles of the time. Something to note though in this industry is that in the long run a console's worth is not measured souly by the technology under it's hood or even necessarily the money it made compared to this history of all consoles; but by the quality and diversity of its software library. Where the big producers put massive amounts of money and man power into making a handful of titles each year and an even smaller proportion of that will be remembered in the following months the worth consumers place on their three-four hundred dollar device ends up behind the value of roughly ten, fifteen games. Even less if those titles are offered on other preferred more accessible overly useful platforms, say, a computer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enthralled producers are taking more time and spending serious resources trying to create better products, that is the only way this medium will grow and stretch to its full potential; plus it adds a hard precedent that the smaller studios will have to compete with when creating their own interactive experience. But the time and energy put into creating the moreover lackluster product we see time and time again coming from the triple-A companies does not satisfy the demands of the customer; DLC and patches are only prolonged distractions that are sad attempts to make up for rushed workmanship or to hold the communities attention long enough to ensure they'll be excited for the announcement of the release of the next installment. When none of this works -in most cases- the community looks to satisfy their demands elsewhere. This elsewhere, tends to be Steam, or the digital indie community in general. Plain and simple, customers are more likely to drop ten dollars on three games than fifty on one. And this is where the Ouya has the upper hand. The WiiU has been out for a while now, and how many games have been released for it? The Ouya is not even out yet, and will have a confirmed library of over 500 titles! That's downright unheard of, imagine how many more developers will pick up the Ouya as its community grows. If we're assuming at least the people that backed the Ouya on it's kickstarter page are going to purchase one, you have 65,000 buyer market; which all sounds very profitable, but they've got this whole free to play market base. What's stopping this from just shriveling up from lack of income? We have no idea how that will turn out, nothing similar has ever happened before.

Well actually we have seen this before, and we've seen it succeed. Well not a platform, the Humble Bundle is a pay what you want series of indie game collections that are digitally distributed. Of course the designers give incentive to pay a little extra, if you pay more then the average you get extra titles or features; similar to how the Ouya has free to play with fees for extra features or bonus content. Even while customers are given the choice to pay a single cent for a handful of games the Humble Bundles have, as of February 2013, raised over 33.2 million dollars, with a good percentage of that going to charity. And this did not start off as the pinnacle of the mainstream indie games, these were the awkward and niche genres, the puzzle games and the sidescrollers. This didn't start with never before or exclusive titles, the most mainstream game on the first bundle was World of Goo; a game basically everyone already had, probably pirated. Still the Humble Bundle distribution continues to thrive and brings out more new, exciting, and different titles each sale. The Ouya not only has a chance, but it's very existence makes a pretty strong argument. The Ouya trusts and respects the customers, it trusts the customers to back products and producers they enjoy, it respects the customer's choice to alter a product they've paid for. Most important though, in my mind, the Ouya looks at its customers as friends, instead of as enemies or sheep. And that's something we need more in this industry.

 This was Steve Bullin with a revisit of the Ouya, if you like what you saw or you'd like to see a review of the actual product follow or subscribe to the blog, I will be purchasing an Ouya and reviewing hardware and software later on. Have a good day everyone,(I'm a liar) and don't forget to be awesome. ^^

 Links- Humble Bundle, Ouya

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