Thursday, 12 July 2012

Ouya - Probably not what it seems

In the last 48 hours a new Kickstarter campaign has been launched to promote the future launch of a home games console called Ouya. The Ouya is purported to be ready for launch and to go on sale in March of 2013 which all sounds excellent. However I watched the video and something just didn't quite sit right with me, it seems the video is geared to generate hype by using buzzwords, have a look for yourself!

First of all the reason they give for developing Ouya seems HIGHLY suspect if viewed in a critical manner. The Ouya page on kickstarter states that there's a brain drain of creative people moving away from console development to the Android platform. This is not true at all, Microsofts Xbox Live is highly supportive of creative people and has a very large section dedicated to indie games. You can pick up a large number of really cool indie games if you own an Xbox console. So the reason to develop a new console that's friendly to develop for seems... off somehow. Especially considering current gen console manufacturers are friendly toward indie development.

Ouya claims developers MUST make all games free to play in some way shape or form, so that they can use the phrase "All games on Ouya are free to play". They completely ignore the fact that free to play is a very specific business model, a completely legitimate model I actually think is good for developer and gamer alike. Making a game and providing a demo of it does not make it free to play however. This is Ouya trying to use buzzwords to their advantage.

Except not really. If it's a demo it's free to play... Honest!

OUYA is supposed to be friendly toward indie developers, yet indie developers MUST use OUYA's propriety store system to sell their games, and pay Ouya a 30% cut of the sales - which is astronomical if you consider that Google offer the same, but provide access to ALL android devices, this doesn't sound like opening the games console up for development if you ask me, it's closer to locking development of your android title specifically to one device. I have developed for Android in the past and the SDK is completely free to use, OUYA states that the SDK will be included on all of their consoles, much in the same way that it is on ALL ANDROID DEVICES ALREADY. This isn't revolutionising. This is the same as plugging your android tablet into the T.V by HDMI and connecting a bluetooth control pad to it, which I can do right now.

Let us also consider that OUYA purports to have a selling point of $99. Consider that the hardware inside it is quite advanced, a Tegra3 quad core system isn't cheap. If we look at the raspberry pi, an Open Source hardware project that uses a single core Broadcom SoC at 700MHz with 256MB Ram, and no internal storage by default, oh and it has no chassis... and that it costs $35... Raspberry Pi is sold very VERY close to the manufacture cost as the Raspberry Pi foundation is a charity.

How is it that Ouya is going to sell for $99 with the hardware that it has;1GB DDR3, Tegra 3 chipset quadcore 1.5GHz CPU, 8GB internal storage, Wifi, Bluetooth and HDMI? It seems highly suspect to me.

Additionally they say that they support hackers gaining access to the system. That's great in some ways, seeing linux on such a high speed system would be great at that cost (if that's even possible which I highly doubt)... But then as piracy is already rife on Android, why would I dedicate time developing games for the OUYA when my software can easily be stolen from the platform? It stinks of suspicious to me.

Another major issue is the lack of support for the current Android eco-system. they state themselves:

"Because OUYA is based on Android, any app developer could publish their Android app to OUYA. " 

If they supported the Google Play store, all Android apps and games would be available instantly on their console. Why would you /need/ to "publish" to Ouya?

Additionally I have seen mention to two games they /may/ have on release. This doesn't seem like a stellar launch catalog if you ask me...

Developers have to pay them a dollar shy of $700 ($699) to gain access to early development consoles, yet they state the SDK will ship with all consoles. This doesn't encourage me as a developer to develop for their system to give them a day one release title.

Another major issue I have is this from their kickstarter campaign:

And if you’re international, we want your help too…gaming is global, and we will get you OUYA. We still have a lot to figure out in regards to rights and countries, but it can be done. Look what we've accomplished already! 

All I've seen that they've accomplished so far in the video is that they've made a controller from wood, shown a store that looks suspiciously like Microsofts Metro U.I with a grey skin and talked a LOT of marketing buzzwords without backing up what they're saying.

Microsoft Xbox Metro U.I

Ouya U.I Can you spot the difference?

On the controller....
We are designing the controller to be a love letter to console gaming. It will have everything you've learned to love: fast buttons, triggers, laser-precise analog sticks, a D-Pad – and it will have a touchpad for any games making the trek from mobile or tablet to the TV. It'll be just the right weight. We are working with select developers to play-test the controller through development.  We call it 'the Stradivarius of controllers,' and we hope developers will be inspired to take gameplay to a new level with it.

They haven't shown a photograph of its final design, if I took a picture of half a control pad to an investor when asking for investment, they'd laugh me out of the room. The same goes for this. Also on another note, they're essentially putting a clever marketing spin on this controller; it'll essentially be a REGULAR control pad is what they're saying, with a touch pad.

Here's our controller, can we has money plix? Where's the other half? This is it!

My final thought to leave you with is this: If these people approached a large investor, would they secure investment? The answer is no. Hence the kickstarter, this isn't likely to be an attractive business proposal. If you developed video games would you want to release your games on a fundamentally insecure platform?

From the video:
"We'll have all the game genres you love! Shooters, Platformers and Rpgs, we'll have games from major game publishers and indies too!"

All I could think in my mind when she said that was this: