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July 6th 2012 10:31 am

Can an open gaming console like the Ouya succeed?

The Ouya is an Android game console that will be open to developers, hackable by its users, and offer free games—all for an enticing $99 price tag. It's being designed by Yves Behar (OLPC, Jawbone) and has Ed Fries (Xbox), Amol Sarva (Peek), Peter Pham (Color), and Julie Uhrman (IGN) backing it up.

All of this sounds like an absolute dream, but there's a reason it's been only a dream to this point. The cheap, open console idea has been tried before, most notably with the Indrema over 10 years ago. Game companies have traditionally sold their systems at low margins and then made their profits though the games (either by making their own games or selling other companies licenses to make games). If Ouya is going to be open to developers and hackers, and offer free games, then they're going to have to turn a profit on hardware sales, but will enough people buy one? Systems like the PS3 and Xbox 360 may cost more, but they are also fully-featured entertainment systems, while the handheld market has been hit hard by mobile gaming.

Despite my doubts I do think the concept sounds interesting enough. It has the potential to put Android in more living rooms, and maybe take some of those phone users and convert them into living room gamers—if enough developers bring good and popular games to it.



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14 replies

I don't think it will work for many reasons, but I am just going to explore the interesting one. If they design a console that is hackable, then they are easily enabling users to abuse the system.

If you think back to the "Other OS" feature of the PS3. This was brilliant, but removed because of what Sony called "security concerns" or the fear that players would cheat in multiplayer. (Or other unknown security problems)

There are a lot of scary things that could also be done when you get an internet community behind it. Sometimes moving things open source is good (Think WebOS, although it never recovered really) but generally it doesn't go mainstream
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How many of these games are using multi-player though, or at least not asynchronies multiplayer. I don't think we should compare the games on this system to what you would see on Xbox Live or PSN.
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My reservation with something like this is how will this be much different than a chromebox or googletv? In theory you could buy one of those and just use it for games effectively doing the same thing.

I think they'll need to do more than just have it be a gaming console. Perhaps combine the idea of the Nexus Q with this.
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I can't see this competing on the same level as the major consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Those are all closed-system business models built by gigantic multinational corporations fueled by content from major publishers, subscriptions, downloadable content, and micro-transactions. The open nature of the system will probably scare off more casual users, so there's little overlap with the casual market (Wii, Facebook, and most iPhone gamers). I think there's a market for it, but I can't see this becoming anything more than a niche product. That is, unless the developers and users can come up with enough games and software to make it both worthwhile and easy-to-use.
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It already has the games. Everything Android has (which is quite significant) and all the emulated titles. And the interest is there. I watched their kickstarter raise a million dollars in record time. They have the right talent involved. They have the right hardware I've learned. The price is right. The Android community got behind them pretty fast. I wouldn't mind having all my Tegra games from my phone and tablet on my TV this easily with two controllers. I still think it will fail though because of the kind of development time they are talking. They are saying March 2013 before they'd ship. Before that there will be a Tegra4 or even Tegra5 chipset, and it only has the Tegra3. We saw how quickly Tegra2 was surplanted. Lack of speed is what's going to kill them. If they had a 10 million dollar startup budget, 3 more developers, it would be a different story. That, and there's no "game zone" for Google that people can sign into. The social networking aspect of consoles isn't to be ignored. However, if out of the blue Google got involved, tossed them some free devs and cash, and made a "Game Zone" type social gaming construct, and got them some press, it could change everything. 10-20 mill is nothing to Google.
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I think you're spot-on regarding the "Game Zone." Centralized distribution and social networking is core to the Xbox 360 and PS3, but I worry that without continued involvement (on the part of Google or another major company), the service will falter; maintaining something like Xbox LIVE and PSN is a 24/7/365 job for a lot of people. But then, all of this is important only if the Ouya is meant as a mass-market device. Perhaps I'm not giving the Android dev community enough credit. There are enough great Android apps that prove there's serious talent out there in the world. If there's a single, unified device that everyone can get behind and make better through software, perhaps a major corporate entity isn't needed to create the infrastructure. That would be brilliant.
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Feint is cool. It's not a game zone, but I know me and the GF can amuse ourselves for hours, her with my iPad, me with my Prime, both trying to beat a time on Riptide. It's not the same as multiplayer but it evokes the fun I used to have with friends trying to beat Ghost Castle times on mariokart.

As for game app devel, there are so many "click here to make for all" IDE's for games at this point. That's why it's pretty hard to find a game that exists for only one platform or another. I've toyed with the idea of getting back into development to make a few bucks, and I'd definitely do it with a "make once for all" tool that just pumps out the iOS and Android versions in one click.
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I think there is plenty of potential here if done right. THe "indie" game market is exploding. Social gaming, XNA indie Games, Steam Indies and even flash ports could all find a home on this system. A market place of $2.99 or FTP gaming has proven itself viable already on mobile platforms.

There is also huge potential here for getting non-developers in the door to make games. THe success of iOS is that a 12 year old kid in his bedroom can get the development tools, make something and boom put it on the market place. No worries about a publisher, overhead, whatever. The gatekeeper is eliminated for all of the good and bad that brings. It is already happening on the XNA indie games section on the Xbox, it is just unfortunately relegated to the darkest corner of their market place. There are some great games in there actually.

The fear of course comes for the idea that they want this to be open and hackable. We have no idea what that will do to the market place moving forward. The obvious fear is cheating in multiplayer games, but if we look at what mobile gaming is doing, you don't exactly see a lot of synchronized multi-player gaming.
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If it's hackable enough, I'll probably buy one! But yes, I echo frankspin bellow, why not just buy the inevitable $99 'Nexus' Google TV.
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This is more practice than the Nexus Q. Still don't think it would be taking away from consoles that much. Maybe from Wii Users.
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Depends on what chipset it has. Currently the best mobile gaming platform by a mile is Tegra combined with the nVidia store. If it has Tegra, and they can get some in the hands of bigger review sites, and it's brilliant, it might very well sell. You'd have the benefits of the best versions of high end mobile games, and all the dumb little games people love like angry birds, temple run, bloons, etc.
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I believe so.
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I backed them (ie. ordered one) because I want to see this type of device succeed. I like Android and I like gaming, but the most common complaint about gaming on smartphones (Android and iOS) is that the there is no physical controller!

Sure touchscreen virtual control pads have gotten better in recent games, but there is still no comparison to an actual physical game pad in your hand. For this reason I also bought an Xperia Play. But Sony has basically dropped the ball twice now 1.) by not fulfilling their promise of bringing their game library to Android and 2.) Deciding not to bring Icecream Sandwich to the Xperia Play. The games that do take advantage of the physical controls of the Xperia Play work wonderfully, best examples are Cordy and Dead Space. Now take these games and put them on an HDTV for play at home, I love this concept, thus I have backed them.

In the worst case scenario I look at it this way, if Ouya ends up not succeeding at the very least I get a $100 Google TV with Tegra 3 driving the video/graphics. If you compare that to say the the price of the recently released Nexus 7, it also has a Tegra 3 but is twice the price. Yes somebody is sure to point out that the Ouya isn't planned to have initial shipments until March 2013, but I doubt the Nexus 7 would be down to $100 in March next year.
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I mean I can see it...a gaming console for the TV...but I just can't see a place for it in my home. If i want a gaming device I would grab a Nexus 7 tablet for $100 more and play all the android games I want...anywhere I want. I can't see this taking off unless there is multiplayer on split screen.
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