COMMENTARY | Ouya is a $99 video game console based upon the Android operating system that features a gaming controller. The Ouya project started on Kickstarter and successfully raised enough money to send out developer kits in December, and Kickstarter supporters will start receiving their Ouya consoles in March.
Ouya plans on making the developer publishing process quick and painless according to Engadget:
“It’s similar to mobile: they’ll submit their games, and we’ll review for intellectual property infringement, and malware, and excessive pornography. But ultimately it’s a quick review and you’re in the storefront in one capacity or another.”
The review process is not functioning yet and Ouya just recently gave developers the ability to upload their game to the Ouya store for testing. Some videos I’ve have used the Splashtop app to access their Windows based gaming PCs from their living room, which is one feature being heavily advertised with the Nvidia Project Shield android gaming system.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the Ouya team has recently said they plan to release a new, more powerful Ouya every year. This means, as a consumer, you will need to pay $99 — double the price of Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus — annually just to make sure you always have the up-to-date Ouya. Ouya will use a digital distribution system similar to Steam, so any games will be tied to your user account and not the physical console. This means that each new version of the Ouya will be backwards compatible.
“We don’t need to beat Xbox or Sony or any console that enters the marketplace, we need to carve out our own niche. OUYA offers a very different value proposition to the gaming you can currently experience. We are okay with that. One of the promises of being open is you can use what we build for other things. But you can create accessories and peripherals for our device as well. At the end of the day, it makes our ecosystem richer.”
For developers, the annual release of a new Ouya creates a similar scenario to smartphones and PC. Do you create a visually super-stunning game that takes advantage of the latest hardware only a small percent percentage of your target audience owns? Or, do you make a less graphics intensive game that plays to the lowest common hardware denominator? Do you make a game that runs on Ouya 2, Ouya 3 or Ouya 4, or play it safe and make one that could even run on the Ouya 1?
To a certain extent, this question has already been answered. Current consoles are the lowest common denominator. The PC ports of console games add detailed textures, extra physics, and global illumination methods that the Xbox 360 and PS3 cannot handle. Current consoles also fake HD 1080p. Most games usually are being rendered at 720p or less then upscaled by the hardware. In short, smart developers will allow their games to run on the lowest common denominator but also add increased resolution, detail, and effects for those who upgrade.
The Ouya $99 price sounds great until you compare it against the normal lifespan of a console cycle. This is normally five years, although this generation lasted seven. At $99 a year an Ouya enthusiast will end up paying $500 to $700 dollars to stay current. All of a sudden, the $99 dollar price tag isn’t attractive anymore as the price to stay relevant a full generation costs more than the PlayStation 3 did at launch. There’s also no guarantee that developers will try to max their games to the newest hardware you just bought. Not to mention, every year you will have to re-download and re-install your games and profile to a new console.
It’s possible Ouya may not maintain its popularity for a long period of time. People may be initially attracted to a $99 dollar gaming console, but after a few years of having to upgrade every 12 months this craze might wear off. At the same time, these same gamers are also willing to pay $60 a year to Microsoft just to play their games online.
Do you think it’s a good plan for Ouya to release a new $99 gaming console ever year?