Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ouya and Kickstarter

Within 24 hours of initiating their funding campaign via Kickstarter, Ouja has already made $3 million dollars - more than triple their original funding goal.

They are selling a box - a game console that runs Android - in a way an answer to mobile gaming, but really it is piggybacking on the success of mobile gaming.

The problem developing games has been expense and access. Developing for the Wii, for instance, requires you to buy special magic development hardware, and use Nintendo's tools. This costs a significant amount of money. In addition, games have to be vetted through Nintendo Q+A - not just for whether the game is good or not - but whether is is appropriate for Nintendo's image of itself as family friendly. Nintendo has made it clear that it has no interest in courting the independent developer, which in my opinion has unnecessarily crippled it's handheld game system, the 3DS. The dearth of new titles can be traced to many things - but one of them is the cost of entry, and Nintendo's tight control over distribution.

Contrasting with Ouja - you buy one of their $99.00 boxes, you now have a development platform. You are free to use whatever development tools you want (such as Unity, a 3D game development system) to make your game. You can easily have your existing Android game running on this new console - particularly since the game controller has a touch pad build in for games that use one (think Angry Birds).

The company makes it money from a cut of sales - games are free to try, but through in-app purchases companies can make money - or through a subscription service (think WOW or other games) - and Ouya gets their 30% cut.

This seems to fly in the face of logic - why another console - but clearly there is a market here that hasn't been tapped. Console manufacturers (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo) all have online stores, but they have nothing on the scale of Apple's App store.

And that is what is brilliant about the Ouya game system. This is the only way to get games for the system. There is no pain of retail shelf space, inventory etc. 

As I watched the numbers climb for Ouya on Kickstarter - the thought I had was what a missed opportunity this had/has been for Apple. They already have a $99.00 device that could have been what Ouya is going to be. They have an app store. They have a developer friendly distribution and development system.

I have been mystified why Apple hasn't made the leap into an App store for television. They have all the pieces - and clearly people are ready - cash in hand - but Apple has simply chosen not to do it.

I gave Ouya my $100 for a box. Given the openness of the platform, I figure that at least for my money I will get a fairly powerful media box that is hackable - so that in itself means there will be some use for it - think Netflix Hulu etc.

What will have to happen next is Ouya will have to - ironically perhaps - get the big name developers on board. Game systems live and die by their titles. John Madden Football will have to run on it. People will feel much more comfortable when they see new titles alongside their established favorites. This will keep them from repeating history - the 3DO being a casebook example of a system that was capable - but too expensive and not enough brand name titles. I think things are different now, and Ouya has a chance. We will see.

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