Monday, 9 July 2012

New Console in the Works - The Ouya

To go for the most cliched saying possible: "a challenger appears!"

Ever since the Xbox first appeared on the scene it's pretty much been a competition between "the big three" in terms of who's going to get your attention and precious cash-dollars in the home console market. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have been in a competition that seems to be intent enough to go one more console generation at the very least. Well, looks like there might be something that could shake up the dynamic, if even only a bit: meet the Ouya. Apparently this little box is going to be throwing its hat into the fray soon, perhaps before the next iterations of the big three come out.

The Ouya isn't really a traditional console though, one look at the development plans makes that pretty clear. For example this is what a lot of the information from the article linked above has to say:

"The company plans to make what it calls an “open and inexpensive” Android game console named Ouya. The goal is to eventually ship both a game development version of the device and the consumer version for $99. All games will be free-to-play on Ouya, and its creators say it is “built to be hacked,” meaning developers are encouraged to take advantage of the system in every way, to the point of making their own peripherals for games."

The $99 price point alone makes this console a somewhat radical divergence from the traditional norms. Certainly some consoles, notably the Wii, have sold for quite a low price, but sub-one-hundred? Of course that's nothing next to the statement that all games for the console will be free-to-play; right now even though a lot of people are developing small titles due to their love of video games in general there's no real denying that this industry is like any other: it's one that is driven mostly by profit. To this end I would measure to guess that if any developer that puts a game on the Ouya wants to see profit, they're going to have to make their game freemium; a concept that I have mixed feelings about mostly due to the fact that I can probably count the number of times I've seen it implemented well with one hand even after having a couple of fingers amputated.

Now, although I'm somewhat pessimistic given some of the early information of the console I'll have to admit that nothing is set in stone. Perhaps such a divergent product will prove to be exactly what an industry that some would argue is becoming bloated under the massive expenses of its own triple A titles needs. Certainly there are a number of names attached to the project that could provide some insights, including Ed Fries (the designer of the original Xbox), and Muffi Ghadiali (who helped develop the Kindle). Big names might not necessarily mean success, I mean, after all if that were the case then I suppose that Daikatana would have been a smash hit -- on that note I should probably stop beating the dead horse -- as well as other titles and systems that have been hyped to hell and back but never really delivered to the expectations of the public.

More than anything I'm curious to see what, if any, impact this will have on the big three. If this console is released at the right time then it could at the very least prove somewhat disruptive of the launches of the next generation. Brand loyalty is a powerful thing, but a low price point might be even more so. Either way, it's all speculation at this point, but look for more news as I can actually wrap my head around something solid.

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