The gaming industry experienced a wave of commotion last week, with the announcement that may affect indie developers in a huge way. Ouya, a “new kind of video game console” that is Android powered, free-to-play, and features a $99 price point, was announced on Kickstarter. It broke Kickstarter records, and users have currently pledged almost $5M; an impressive amount that towers over their $950K goal.
There are many people both for and against Ouya, and it is not positive what it’s reception will be like when (and if!) it actually comes to market. Regardless, we had two main areas of interest to us that seem to be currently unanswered by Ouya, including how the console expects to take market share from the “big three” consoles and what they expect to do to ensure a solid launch.
How are they going to take market share away from the “Big Three”?
Rethink the ‘Free-to-Play’ Selling Point
In order to take away or gain market share from from Xbox, PlayStation and Wii franchises, Ouya needs to provide games that the users of those “big three” consoles enjoy or alternatively, bring some “rockstar-level” (no, not the game company) titles onto the platform and draw the evangelists. It seems unlikely that most hardcore games currently on the “big three” will be easily converted into free-to-play games on the Ouya, therefore the company might have a difficult time acquiring users from these consoles without a major and unique value proposition.
Knowing that those in the hardcore gamer crowd are not typically the same people taking part in casual-style free-to-play experiences, how much value does the F2P selling point hold with the large majority of current console owners?
Great Marketing & Great Games
As 2013 gets closer, so does the launch for both the Xbox 720 and Wii U new consoles. These consoles are expected around the same time as Ouya’s release, leaving it questionable whether consumers will see Ouya as the superior console choice. Therefore, what is the incentive for consumers to choose Ouya?
Their launch line-up could very well be essential to the success or demise of the platform – particularly if they plan on launching during a high-sales season such as the Holidays. Ouya might benefit from including high quality alternatives (or the same games) as on the other consoles in order to gain more than just the free-to-play mobile market, therefore including more of the hardcore paid market that exists on the current consoles.
What do they need for a solid launch?
Provide Incentive to Developers
The Ouya “store” looks very similar to parts of the mobile market (open-source, Android based, free-to-play, etc.). Knowing the common challenges regarding discoverability of smaller developers in the mobile space, what particular incentives is Ouya going to offer instead?
Ouya’s cheap developer kits and Android technology will likely be large factors in this decision; especially for indie developers. However, in the case of choosing between it and mobile, Ouya may need to further develop their business plan to offer some form of expanded support for game companies. Features such as assistance with discoverability for developers’ games could be exactly what Ouya needs to attract some of the best games – and not just those with the biggest marketing budgets.
Control & Discoverability for Games and Developers
With that being said, the company hasn’t specified how the system will filter out low-quality games and shovelware. Being so similar to the mobile market, the Ouya store could experience the similar issues of control and discoverability that plague the mobile space.
Ouya could likely have to develop an entirely new or at least, significantly re-designed ‘game store’ that combats the existing issues in mobile of control and discoverability in the free and low-priced app market. With a legion of developers currently backing the concept, Ouya has the potential to meaningfully support them while more closely curating the types of games that are distributed in the store. Done right, this could lead to another revolution in game distribution. Done wrong, it could ostracize development for the console. It’s a risky endeavor to say the least.
Only Time will Tell
It would seem that Ouya’s developers still needs to flesh out some of its business plan and details before further progress and launch, but the system does seem to have some potential for success. The Ouya could be a huge innovation in the industry, and developers seem to recognize this by remaining cautiously optimistic about the idea. I suppose only time (eight months, in fact) will tell!
What questions do you feel like Ouya needs to answer?