A fully-functional $99 video game console for TVs. All free-to-play games. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is the rule. But Ouya might be the exception.
Julie Uhrman is on a mission to change the gaming industry. In today’s market, you either have to spend years and millions of dollars to create a AAA game and sell it for $60, or you spend less time and (some would argue) more creativity to develop smaller, more focused titles that push the boundaries and try radically new things, and sell it for $5 or less. Why can’t the indie sensibilities of developing for mobile devices be used to make games you can play on your TV?
Ouya is her answer. Created with the help of acclaimed designer Yves Behar, Ouya is a console built on Android software, and it’s made to plug right into your television set and play downloadable games. The other big twist is that instead of shelling out loads of cash for the latest big games, Ouya requires all game developers to use the free-to-play model that works so well on mobile devices. Meaning devs can either give their games away for free, charge for in-game items, or give part of the game away and charge to unlock the full game.
But Uhrman is quick to point out that just because this is an Android-based system, don’t expect to see nothing but ports of games you’d play on mobile phones and tablets. Her hope is that AAA developers will bring their games to Ouya, even though she expects the majority of titles to be independently published. The indie spirit is what drives Ouya, after all. Ouya has already received commitments from Mojang to create a version of Minecraft for this console. Also, game-watching service Twitch.tv is on board to create an app for Ouya.
Another aspect of Ouya getting special treatment is the controller. Behar has reportedly designed, machined, and prototyped a controller that’s ergonomic and includes all of the standard bits — dual analog sticks, d-pad, buttons — as well as (get this) a touchscreen. Ouya is even fully hackable, and Uhrman hopes that devs and gamers will exploit it as fully as possible.
After launching Ouya on Kickstarter, seeking $950,000 in support, the project has already received more than $3 million in pledges. And there are still 28 days left to go. This has effectively turned the fundraising campaign into a pre-order program. The first consoles are expected to ship next March.