Our thoughts about “Ouya”!?

Ouya” the newly announced Android base console machine, it is design to run mobile games on your TV with proper gaming controller.  Does this has what it takes to compete with big boys like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo?

Below is what we think:

Positives:

The console makers decide what they will and will not release onto their platform.  I do not know if they filter based on religious content, but if they do, then it can be very frustrating not to get your title up after all that investment.  And the development licenses are not cheap, they cost a ton.  So an open system that is more developer friendly is a great opportunity

The reason it will fail:

I believe the Ouya is a great concept, but is a red herring.  Any developer who thinks this will usher in a new era of indy console games will be sorely disappointed.

1)      The key to consoles has always been “anchoring exclusive titles”.  The console makers know this, which is why they buy studios and force them to make their title exclusively for their system.  Microsoft wanted to get into the console market with the first XBox, so they bought Bungie makers of Halo.  Halo was originally going to come out for Windows/Mac, but Microsoft made it exclusive to Xbox.  What happened?  Xbox sold millions of units because gamers wanted to play Halo, and the only way you could was with an Xbox.  The Uncharted trilogy for the Playstation 3 is another example.  Sony bought Naughty Dog, so if you want to play Uncharted, you have to buy Playstation 3.  Want to play Mario or Zelda?  You have to have a Wii.  And like a lemming, I do!  I own a Wii, Xbox360 and PS3 so I can play all these great games.  No AAA title will come out exclusively for the Ouya.  The economics don’t justify it.  If the big 3 console makers cannot sell a console without exclusive AAA titles, a start up has no chance.  The Atari Jaguar and 3DO proved this point several years ago.

2)      In making a game, which we do here at Mirthwerx, we have to decide on a target platform from the outset.  We make this decision not so much on how easy it is to develop, but on the size of the target market.  Programming difficulties can always be overcome, but market size is totally outside of the developers hands.  Therefore the largest potential for return on investment comes from the largest possible market.  With only a few hundred thousand Ouya consoles to be available it does not make sense to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even a million, making a title for the Ouya only.  OK, so then developers will create Ouya versions of games that already exist in other markets (mobile, Windows, or other consoles) or will exist in other markets (like it comes out on Ouya first, then Xbox Live a month later).  The problem here is if the game is available on multiple platforms, then the value of the Ouya has just dropped significantly.  If I can play Angry Birds 3 on the Ouya OR the iPhone, why wouldn’t I just play it on iPhone?  My point is if the titles are available in multiple platforms, the consumer has no compelling reason to buy the Ouya console.  And if the consumer doesn’t buy the console, then the developer doesn’t have a large enough audience to justify the effort to bring titles to it.  This is a chicken and egg problem that has always existed with consoles, and exclusive AAA titles is the only fix I know of to solve it.

3)      As an indy game developer, I have one goal.  It supersedes my desire to make great art, it trumps my desire to bring Christian message to gamers, and it is this: to continue to exist and make games.  If I don’t make enough money on whatever title(s) I invest in, I go out of business and I have to go get a real job. J  Indys live very close to the feast/famine threshold.  So outside of the Ouya, are there viable outlets for indy developers?  The answer is YES!  I currently have the following options available to me for my next title:

  1. iOS mobile/tablet
  2. Android  mobile/tablet
  3. Windows/Mac (through steam, or direct sales)
  4. Flash based with web advertising
  5. Xbox Live
  6. PSN Mini

I can currently sell, potentially, millions of units through these channels.  While I am always open to new opportunities, I do not NEED another channel.  With the exception of Flash, five years ago these channels did not exist or were unproven for indy.

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. 🙂  Based on everything I know, the Ouya will not be going anywhere.  If I am proven wrong, I’ll be the first person to say I totally missed it. 🙂

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4 Comments

  1. Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    It seems like your argument basically hinges on the idea that the Ouya has no advantages, either from the point of view of the developer or the consumer. But Ouya does have advantages over every platform you listed. Now, that’s not to say that it’s “better” than them; it also has disadvantages to each, but the advantages also exist.

    Compared to mobile devices & laptops, Ouya wins out on control scheme, convenience for the consumer, and price. More or less the same for PC; the gap in controls is much smaller, but the gap in convenience & price is much larger.

    Compared to consoles, there is also a small price gap, though the big advantage is for developers. Simply put, it will be much easier and cheaper for them to put their game on Ouya than to get accepted to XBLA or PSN.

    Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong. Your argument is a pretty strong one. These differences might not be enough to make Ouya a success. But I feel it’s important to look at both sides of the picture, and realize there are potential benefits for both consumers and developers to working on the Ouya.

  2. Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Bluecollarart is right. I should clarify: it isn’t that the Ouya doesn’t have distinct advantages, it is my belief that those advantages added up against the advantages of the other platforms pale in comparison.

    What does the Ouya have going for it?
    1) Buzz — people in my circles are talking about it as a “hot new thing”. No one is talking about Wii that way anymore. It helps to be trendy.

    2) Hardware — it has more onboard ram than the PS3 or Xbox360. Though from what I read the processor is more Wii like than XBox360.

    3) Pricepoint — Can’t go wrong with a console for $99! If anything, this will cause the big 3 to consider a price cut when the Ouya comes out.

    4) Control scheme — no advantage over the PC or other consoles, but does have an advantage over the mobile/tablet platforms. Due to lousy controls, i don’t think platformers should even be attempted on the touch screen devices, but plenty of developers are doing it anyway. If you had a tiny joystick, like Vita, that opens up a lot of new games to those platforms. So as an indie, I can make an awesome platformer (say Super Meat Boy 2) for Ouya and don’t have to deal with microsoft/psn channels.

    5) Free to play games — this is likely a big draw to customers, as every Ouya game must have a free to play component. So after the initial $99, theoretically, you never need to pay another cent. My trouble with this as a developer is it trains MY customer poorly. iTunes customers in the app store EXPECT to pay for things, so the conversion rates on free to premium is higher. 2/3rds of apps in the android store are free. Android customers are not trained to pay, so it is harder to make money on that platform. Ouya is training customers in the wrong direction for me as a developer. So I want to stick close to my friends, who through their own selfish reasons are doing some of the heavy lifting to help me survive, namely MS, Sony, Apple. What I mean is, a PSN customers EXPECTS to pay $5-10 for a digital title. They do not expect to get a full featured game for free. So let’s say there are 50 million PSN customers. The Ouya comes out and does extremely well and sells 100 million units. Even though that is a bigger potential audience, I’d much rather publish to PSN where their smaller core group expect to pay than a larger group that doesn’t expect to pay.

    Finally, as soon as I hear “free to play” all I can think of is “stupid facebook games” with some kind of micro currency to make the game playable. Honestly do I want to own a console dominated by that model? I was upset when I had to pay to play catwoman in Arkham City i borrowed from my friend!

    So even as I’ve tried to highlight the advantages of the Ouya I’ve clearly struggled.

    I just checked Best Buy, and anyone can get a 360 referb for $99 right now. A new one is $199. That isn’t a whole lot more than the Ouya, but they sure do have a huge catalog of games. Even if I never buy games, I can bum them off people I know who do.

    The key to the value of any console is the games. The games come from the developers. A platform has to be developer friendly FIRST, and the consumers will come. Ouya has gone backwards and made a console customers want, but no developer does.

    PS. All generalizations are never true. 🙂

  3. Posted September 30, 2012 at 2:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thank you!

  4. Posted October 18, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉
    Cheers!

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