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Developers speak: The Ouya, four months later Exclusive
Developers speak: The Ouya, four months later
October 24, 2013 | By Mike Rose




The Ouya microconsole has been available to the public for around four months now, and in that time the device's own online marketplace has slowly but surely filled up with indie titles for download.

Gamasutra talked to a range of Ouya developers back at launch, to gauge how they felt about the console, whether sales were looking up, and how they saw the future for the microconsole.

Four months later, we've revisited a handful of these developers, while also talking to some studios that have since released games on the Ouya, to get a feel for how the Ouya now stands after the launch hype has died down.

Adam Spragg, Hidden in Plain Sight

"I'll be completely honest - I haven't used the Ouya really at all since launch and getting my game out," Adam Spragg, the dev behind Hidden in Plain Sight, tells me.

"Sales of Hidden in Plain Sight have tailed off drastically since the initial [Ouya] Kickstarter units all shipped en masse, which isn't surprising," he continues. "But the initial burst of sales have netted me a few thousand dollars, which has exceeded my expectations."

Notably, Spragg used the pay-what-you-want model for the game, with a minimum price of $1, and was really pleased with how this turned out.

"A very significant portion of the sales were at $3 and $5," he notes. "In fact, most of my money came from $3 sales (even though there were more $1 sales)."

His game, which was originally written for the Xbox Live Indie Game platform, is a local-multiplayer only title that is perfect as a living room experience -- hence the focus on XBLIG and Ouya.

hidden.jpg"It wasn't too difficult to port my game to Ouya, and I'm happy I did," Spragg adds. "I'm less about making a bunch of money, and more about trying to make it available to as wide an audience as possible."

As for his future games and the possibly of more Ouya releases, there's a definite "thumbs up" involved.

"I'm not sure what my future game development plans are, but I'm certainly interested in including Ouya in those plans, as well as any other microconsoles that come out," he says. " Really, anyone who makes it easy for me to publish my crummy games on their system will get my attention."

The Men Who Wear Many Hats, Organ Trail

Ryan Wiemeyer and his team weren't going to bring their game Organ Trail over to the Ouya, until a friend offered to help out with the port. The game ended up selling just over 500 copies on Ouya in the first few weeks -- "about half of what my low-end predictions were," Wiemeyer said at the time.

"Sales are still really low," he tells me now. "Organ Trail: Director's Cut has 953 sales after what... four months? 263 (27 percent) of those being in the last two months."

"It's not our worst platform," he continues, "but it pales in comparison to the others as you can see in our 1 year postmortem we released 2 months ago. Due to the ease of releasing on the Ouya though... there is little reason to avoid it as a platform if you plan on having both Android and controller support. Which we do for out next game, Max Gentlemen.

Wiemeyer has found that it is mostly the forced free-to-play model that is putting him off using the microconsole himself.

"I want the Ouya to be more than it is, but I find myself using it less and less because I don't like the pay model," he explains. "I want to find a game I like and pay for it. I don't like being forced to play it up to the pay wall or demo end to find out what they are asking for it.

Essentially, he wishes that the money side of the Ouya marketplace was divorced from the game as much as possible, rather than being something you always have to deal with in-game.

"I wish I could just look through the titles with a price on them and just buy them," he adds. "What the hell kind of marketplace doesn't have any prices?"

So if other microconsoles come along that offer a better marketplace, will he jump ship? "I think trying to find other microconsoles to support is a pain in the ass for developers who have to deal with another company, make new builds and maintain new bug databases," he says. "I'll be sticking with the Ouya unless someone comes along and undeniably destroys the Ouya."

Santa Ragione, MirrorMoon EP

The Santa Ragione team was not involved in the Ouya launch. Rather, the studio just released its first-person puzzler MirrorMoon EP on Ouya a few weeks ago, having already brought the game to PC months before.

"Our Ouya launch went a little below our expectations, because we overestimated how many people were aware what MirrorMoon EP was and that it was coming out," admits developer Pietro Righi Riva.

"On top of that, our Ouya demo is not entirely representative of the full game," he continues. "The open world exploration nature of MirrorMoon EP does not adapt well to a demo."

Despite all this, Riva is excited to bring more games to the microconsole, and definitely plans to do so in the future.

"I like the Ouya marketplace and how quirky it is," he notes. "I also still very much enjoy the fact that I can make a tiny game that is tailored to a console experience and have it up in weeks, something that macro-consoles still cannot offer."

"There is something intrinsically beautiful in this little box that just starts running games as soon as I switch it on," the dev muses. "Like a Super Nintendo, or an iPad if you will, but with the controls of a console."

He just wishes that there were more local multiplayer games like TowerFall for the console, as he says the Ouya is the best platform for these types of experiences. In fact, Santa Ragione's next game, which will be made available for Ouya, is going to have a local four-player mode.

mirrormoon.jpgAnd what of other microconsoles? "I haven't seen any microconsoles that have more potential than Ouya so far," Riva answers. "I am, of course, open to bringing content to any exciting hardware that comes out, and it doesn't really need to be a knockout success to get me interested. It just needs to provide something new that I think would be meaningful in the gaming space."

If anything, the Ouya has spoiled Riva, as he now believes he'll be looking at other microconsoles with certain expectations, "in terms of interest for our games, willingness to reach out and listen to developers, and more than anything: (minimal) amount of red tape, agility in contracts, and streamlined greenlighting of projects."

Nooskewl, Monster RPG 2

For Trent Gamblin of Nooskewl, the Ouya has matched all his expectations. It's sufficent for everything that his studio wanted to achieve with the microconsole, and he's pleased that his games are running well on the hardware.

"Sales are basically as expected for me," he notes. "We have only released games that were previously available on other systems on Ouya. What I expected was decent sales at the beginning and that to fall off very quickly, and that's been the case - but I think that the very rapid falloff is mostly because they are old games."

Now that he's dabbled with the Ouya, releasing a handful of games for the system, Gamblin plans to focus on releasing future titles across PC, Mac, Linux and Ouya first, before looking at other platforms.

Once these platforms are provided for, "we'll look at what's available and port to the systems we like, unless a microconsole pops up before release that is game-changer like an Apple TV with gaming," he tells me. "Then we might have to include it in our initial release."

E McNeill, Bombball

E McNeill released his Ouya game Bombball at the microconsole's launch. At the time, the game was making around $30 a day, and he felt a little disappointed with how things were going, despite how great the Ouya team were treating developers.

"For me, the story hasn't changed over the past few months," he tells me now. "The Ouya team is still a joy to work with; they ran a tournament for my game at IndieCade, and they took the time to review the game's current marketing and give some helpful advice."

bombball.jpg"But the sales are still low, and they've continued to slow down over time," he continues. "That's partially my fault, since I haven't done much to promote the game, but I don't see any great ways to turn it around."

Instead, he's now moved on to a different piece of Kickstarted hardware instead -- the Oculus Rift.

"And, yet again, I got into it through a sponsored game jam, just like I did with the Ouya CREATE jam," he notes. "Right now, I don't have any plans to make another microconsole game. I'm curious to see if any of the others will find more success than Ouya, but I kinda doubt it. I expect that I could move my game to another platform if any seem promising, but I'm not holding my breath."

Eric Froemling, BombSquad

Eric Froemling is another developer who released a game during the Ouya launch window, and since then, he says there haven't really been too many surprises with regards to the microconsole -- which is a-ok with him.

"I feel like I'm seeing fewer complaints about hardware imperfections, which I'm happy about," he says. "Not that the hardware is perfect, but I think they were getting a bit of a bum rap in reviews such as when someone would see a sloppily ported game running choppy at 1080p and conclude that the Ouya is underpowered, when it actually could have been silky smooth had the developer locked their rendering to 720p."

Having said that, he still sees that there are numerous issues with the hardware, such at the wi-fi connectivity problems. He hopes the Ouya team is using its headstart in the microconsole race to really knock it out of the park with Ouya mark 2.

"For me, sales were good right after launch (150-ish copies/day) and slowly dropped over the course of the next few months; pretty similar to the curve I saw on Mac," he continues. "The good news is that they seem to have leveled off in the past month or two and may even be rising a bit. Hopefully this is a sign of momentum on Ouya's end. The pessimist in me was worried they’d drop to zero."

With Ouya out of the gate early, is Froemling now interested in looking at everything else the microconsole space has to offer, or will he be sticking with the Ouya hardware for his future games?

"I'm definitely still interested in the space, especially since it should be relatively low-friction to port between the various microconsoles that will be hitting," he tells me. "I think it'll be interesting to see how the different microconsoles differentiate themselves due to that; if it'll just come down to exclusives or horsepower or just advertising muscle or what. Regardless, I think it'll be an exciting market to watch unfold."


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