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Ouya launch: Great potential for devs - let's see where it goes
Ouya launch: Great potential for devs - let's see where it goes
June 25, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

June 25, 2013 | By Christian Nutt
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The Ouya has an uphill battle. A year ago, the idea of an Android microconsole seemed so novel -- but as CEO Julie Uhrman herself concedes, "making the hardware isn't hard. These aren't custom chips."

As it launches today -- in the U.S., Canada, and the UK -- she's optimistic about the Ouya's chances for success. Why? Because she thinks that players will buy the system because of its cheapness and its potential -- and indie developers will flock to it because of how unrestrictive the company is being about business models and creative oversight as compared to the competition.

Here's the pitch: "Between Xbox and Sony, well, yeah, you're not going to buy multiple consoles. But the nice thing about Ouya is that it's not an either/or decision," she says, of players plunking down the $100. "It's more like your Xbox and PlayStation -- the only difference is that it's incredibly accessible and incredibly affordable, and you're going to get great games from pretty much anyone and anywhere," she says.

The device itself is sleek, and even if the controller is a bit cut-rate, the whole package is certainly appealing and novel enough for the asking price. But you're mostly paying for potential.

The strategy the company has formed -- openness for developers, connecting them directly with their audience, and living room friendliness -- does have its appeal.

When I asked Uhrman what the "guiding star" of the platform is, she replied that it is "unique creative content from anybody." Ouya is a platform "about building the relationship between gamers and developers."

While the platform does have gatekeeping, it's about making sure the games work right and that there's no inappropriate content (hate speech, pornography). Any game that meets the technical and content requirements will be published. Then they're shoved into a "sandbox," from which they can bubble up into the curated content slots if they prove to be hits with the Ouya's audience -- and not just in terms of downloads, but in terms of engagement (play duration and play sessions) in a formula Uhrman calls an "O-rank." She's hoping the audience will help drive games into the upper echelons; the cream will rise to the top.

No Mobile, Please

Crucially, I think, she doesn't want to see vanilla mobile ports -- despite the console's Tegra and Android core. "The majority of our developers are console and PC game developers. They aren't mobile guys. The guys who are really good on mobile have built games that are good for touch."

"We want to have specific content that is optimized for the platform, that is specific and for our community of gamers," she says. "There's no better response than buttons and sticks for accuracy and precision. We're not about mobile ports. They're building games that are optimized for the television and the controller."

She recognizes that vanilla mobile ports would instantly result in "thousands of games" for the device -- but at launch, it has around 150. So while we can ding Ouya for a library lacking a killer app, we can at the same time laud the company's focus on getting the right titles.

The Directness of Your Relationship with Your Audience

One big advantage the Ouya has over other consoles is that its "Make" channel will allow developers to get creative with how they promote their games. It's "a place where developers can have a direct relationship with gamers," says Uhrman. "They can get behind the scenes footage... They can show five prototypes and have people vote for the game that they want... They can run a Kickstarter campaign through here."

"You can test games and ideas," she says, and expand them as they find their audience (or don't.)

Frequent Minecraft-style updates are also "totally possible" on the console, because there's no patch fee or lengthy certification process, putting it on a closer footing with PCs than its console competition.

"We give you iconic symbols to know that it's ready and it doesn't cost any money to do it, and it's low effort for the gamers to download the right version," Urhman says.

The Argument for Ouya

In the end, her argument for developing for Ouya is this: "This is the platform they're going to come to. This is the easiest platform to build for the way they want to play. They have an audience of gamers that accept and want the type of content. They know that people are going to try it."

It comes down to potential. With big console launches around the bend for the fall and Steam looming in the background, with Apple adding controller support to iOS 7 and other microconsoles and controller solutions knocking at Ouya's door, it's anyone's guess what really will happen.

But the Ouya is cheap enough, powerful enough, and hopefully its alliance with developers shows that it's savvy enough to carve out a niche for the future.


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Comments


Kevin Fishburne
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Well this guy seems pretty excited about it:

http://youtu.be/9rTzJIxBHKc

Jeremy Reaban
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Like other consoles though, people probably aren't going to buy it in vast numbers if there aren't appealing games.

Right now (I own one), there just aren't a whole lot of games you'd want to really play.

More mobile games would give it a library, of decent (if not great) cheap games. Some of the games like Dead Trigger, Shadowgun, Dungeon Hunter are pushing towards console quality. Heck, those games are better than anything on the Vita, at least as of now.

Eric Geer
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Many times, I think people just hate on the Vita because they don't know what games are on it. You have just confirmed this.

Patrick Haslow
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Can someone name a killer app? I'm not being facetious.

Kujel s
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Soul Fjord looks really good and it's from Air Tight Games (the people who made Quantum Conundrum).

James Coote
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Bombsquad. Also everyone is raving about Towerfall, though I've not played that yet.

I think with OUYA, it's going to take a while for a real system selling killer app to emerge.

Point is, both games I mentioned are local multiplayer, which seems to be the gap in the market that OUYA is filling. It already has a good dozen or so solid titles in that category, and I can see more being added

Christopher Totten
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Check out Towerfall, it's a great 4 player Smash Bros.-style game with archery. The combat is easy to pick up but incredibly deep once you get into its nuances, and there are a ton of modifiers that you can use to change the styles of matches. It's also compatible with different kinds of controllers so you don't have to go buy more Ouya controllers.

Michael Hansen
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you ask , i reply

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFGxDHSiOJE

hope it is ok..

Alan Wilson
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I'm biased, of course, but: http://www.ouya.tv/tripwire-confirms-new-killing-floor-game-comin
g-to-ouya/

Michael Pianta
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It may have launched today but I'm not sure how widely it's been released. I went to a couple of places today to check it out and nobody had one or had ever heard of it. I had the lady at Best Buy look it up and only a couple of stores in the entire state had one. Presumably that will change over time.

Anyway I really like the idea of the Ouya, so I hope it succeeds.

Erwin Coumans
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Like many others, I backed the project and still haven't received the Ouya. They just send me some bogus DHL tracking number that doesn't work. Here is their false claim:

Reward: GET AN OUYA: console and controller. Guarantee we will have one available for you, before it gets to stores. Plus the rewards above.

Kujel s
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We've all heard people complain about not getting it yet but Kickstater is not a place to pre-order and the fact they've come this far as a startup (a console startup at that) is quite impressive.

So they've stumbled a bit and used a terrible delivery service provider, you'll get your Ouya but you have to be patient. Remember these guys are not MS or Nintendo and don't have experience with this kind of thing nor do they have a fully fleshed out supply and distrubtion network.

Amir Barak
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That's rough and I hope you get your console soon but statistically speaking someone has to be that few percent that fall between the cracks. And let's also remember that not even the bigger companies are without fault (had RROD twice and even had to return a PS3 that died on me). Shipping internationally is a tricky endeavour...

Kujel s
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I've got one on pre-order and I want to grab another and I've two projects I want to port to it (one I'm working on at the moment). I'd love to have my hands on it right now but I realize they are a startup and are having a few growing pains.

In the long run I do think Ouya will succeed in part on price but also becuase of the free to try model. How many if us have bought a game only to find we didn't like it or decided not to buy it at all cause we're worried it wont actually be good? A lot of us and I bet most consumers as well.

Jay Anne
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Their uphill battle just keeps getting worse and worse. The reports about poor controller quality, underwhelming reviews by early adopters, the lack of any marquee exclusives, and releasing just as the next-gen consoles grabbed up all the oxygen in the room. They had such strong PR punch when they announced, but all that good will has disappeared.

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, I had a paragraph about the next gen launches in there, but I wanted to cut down the word count and focus on dev-relevant stuff... but it's very true -- "grabbed up all the oxygen in the room" is the way to put it.

Peter Eisenmann
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What I heard so far, it seems the worries of many came true: The Ouya is already outdated at release. The performance would be fine for a smartphone with medium resolution, but is quite underpowered for Full-HD output. Android is not the most efficient system there is, after all.

So why should someone start developing for the console now, when there will be 100 dollar phones wiping the floor with the Ouya by the time the game is finished? For the cheap controller and HDMI plug?

Maybe the developers could have taken that kickstarter money to pre-finance better components, even if they make a slight loss at each unit until the chips become even cheaper. But that is probably a not too realistic scenario.

Ouya delivered what was promised, so who am I to complain.

Phil Maxey
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"Maybe the developers could have taken that kickstarter money to pre-finance better components,"

Personally I would of sunk a tonne of the extra money into one big showcase game, something which they could of got behind and said "look what you can do on the OYUA!", you need to get the public excited about what you're trying to get them to part with their money for, as it is I'm fairly sure 99% don't even know the OUYA launched today.

Peter Eisenmann
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I think they had far too little manpower to act as a publisher in addition to their system development work.

Jay Anne
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They don't have the hardware or resources to wow people like a next gen game could. They could not have gotten Jonathan Blow or Capybara or Team Meat exclusive without a dump truck full of money either. It's unclear what a great showcase game even is for a console that built its name up as an indie playground, because many of those hits are still niche and have limited appeal. Would Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami debuting on the Ouya have made a splash?

Michael Hansen
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Thanks for the ouya ,, that is all i whant to say..

Diego Leao
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Only one thing that they totally forgot was the exclusive "first party" games. You can't just hope other people will create the killer apps for a console, you have to invest time and money into games to drive hardware sales and then, and just then, developers will come. I mean, at least have timed exclusives.

For developers, the system is great (I'm a developer), but developers need _install base_ to work on anything. For consumers, on the other hand, it is all about the software, so how do you give your platform an install base before third party support? First party games. Don't have money for first party games? Kickstarter is there for you, get a renowed developer and help him kickstart something.

I really want to have an Ouya, but there is no must have, so I will delay my purchase until then.

Russell Carroll
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Yeah, the WiiU 'paltry' install base that has everyone in PANIC is nearing 4 million units worldwide.
An honest appraisal has OUYA being lucky to hit that number in 2 years.
Console sales are hard, even if you have a well-known brand, retail shelf-space, and marketing money (3 things that OUYA simply does not have).

It's definitely going to be a long hard climb to success for them. What I saw at E3 was encouraging in how the games looked, but there were just a few (5!) titles being shown in a very LARGE, but nearly vacant booth across the street from the main E3 event. It felt like a great metaphor of the markets at present and the challenge ahead of them.
Wish them luck!

Dean Boytor
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They seem to fly off the shelves by me. I wasn't able to get one straight out of the store but I was still able to order one.

Sinan Hassani
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The OUYA is a big deal because it gives indies a chance to create controller based games, where before those targeting mobile have to design games that use a touch interface only.

However, game developers like to standardize on a game controller. So an indie dev can use the OUYA controller to prototype on PC, then when they're ready they can launch on OUYA, PC and Mobile. However the game can use the same controller interface and layout on all platforms.

What the dev has to do is give an option to the end user to either use 'O', 'U', 'Y', 'A' button layout if they have an OUYA controller or 'A', 'B', 'X', 'Y' button layout if they have a different controller.

For mobile, you can still give the end user some basic touch based controller, in addition you have OUYA controller/bluetooth controller support and the game would recommend to the end user to use a controller instead.

Again this approach allows a dev to target OUYA, PC and Mobile at the same time. The game just has to support the OUYA controller (or wired/bluetooth controller support in general) and tell the end user that the game requires a controller for the best experience on Mobile (or PC).

iOS 7 is heading in that direction. Touch based interface by default, however a controller can be used for the best experience.

James Coote
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Actually, there are standards for controller input, and OUYA uses those. If you want, you can just take the input in the form "button 1", "button 2" etc. When you do that and plug a PS3 or xbox360 controller into an OUYA, the buttons map the same. Alternatively, even if you use the OUYA API, pressing square on a PS3 controller will give you the same as pressing U on the OUYA and X on the 360.

Touch pad on a controller is a novelty feature at best. No one on OUYA has yet come up with a really game-changing way of using it, and I suspect the same will be true of the PS4 touch pad, just as it has been with the xbox kinect

The best OUYA games have been ones designed with a controller in mind. You can tell some of the mobile ports were made by devs who really wanted in all truth to be making console games, while others simply don't work because the game was designed with touch in mind. It shows through. RTS games needs a mouse and keyboard. Fruit Ninja needs a touch screen. Some games just don't port, so don't try

As for cross-platform controller support, there are already proposals for such a thing for Unity3D at least: http://forums.ouya.tv/discussion/1678/new-ouyainput-controller-fr
amework-simple-fast-with-documantation/p1

Sinan Hassani
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I'm not talking about touch based controls for OUYA. I'm saying that more mobile tablet and phone games should use bluetooth game controller or OUYA controller by default. So you can design a game with a controller, and still release it for mobile.

People are already using controllers with their tablets. The only difference now is Mobile/PC games can support OUYA controllers natively and just recommend to the end user to use a controller.

On mobile, you still need a default touch based control scheme of course.

James Coote
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Oh sorry, other way around :P

Sinan Hassani
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Another thing to note is that MOGA Pro controller does support HID. So a developer can use that to prototype on PC and then target mobile.

MOGA Pro supports "MOGA SDK mode" and "HID mode" for generic bluetooth controller support.

Matthias Titze
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There is now full cross-platform controller support for Unity. I submitted a whole framework unifying the following devices:

XBOX360 USB controller on Windows 7+8 64bit, MacOSX 10.8.1, OUYA
PS3 DS BLUETOOTH controller on Windows 7 64bit, MacOSX 10.8.1, OUYA
OUYA BLUETOOTH controller on Windows 7 + 8 64bit, OUYA
GAMESTICK BLUETOOTH controller on GameStick
MOGA PRO BLUETOOTH controller should be supported but is not tested.

Support for controllers on mobile Android devices is not integrated but will follow soon.
The framework can be found under:

http://forums.ouya.tv/discussion/1678/new-ouyainput-controller-fr
amework-simple-fast-with-documantation#latest

Leon T
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Where is this going to go though? Nintendo is trying to make it easier to port from web and mobile to the Wii U, starting a Unity partnership getting many kickstarter projects, already has a ton of indie games coming, and allowing self publishing. Sony also has a ton of indie games coming, allows self publishing, and is reaching out to more indies. Microsoft may change their stance on self publishing too.

Where does Ouya go if even one of these consoles actually become a great place for smaller developers to sell their games? Even the Wii U's eshop is getting good praise with less than a 5 million userbase. Why buy a box that can just play games from smaller devs when I can buy a box that can play games from smaller and larger devs?

I'll buy an Ouya just to experiment with , but I don't see any other use for it. Maybe that is its real selling point.


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