Unless like me you’ve been deprived of news for the last few days, it will be hard to ignore the presence of Ouya – an android based games console that is sending ripples of excitement through the industry. However, when it comes to consumers and the games they want… oh dear. This may not end well.
This isn’t a surprise to me. For all the anger and shouting from fanboys crying that they can’t see a fourth contender in the ring – well, tough. Look at it this way – you have Microsoft and Sony going for the media hub top end market, with rumoured price tags set to nudge $499.99 for these shiny new systems (well, you did say you WANTED a new generation of consoles…). Nintendo and its Wii-U are at the lower end, nudging $200 currently if initial retail price estimates are to be believed. Nintendo has no competition in this lower end of the market. This is why the Wii itself sailed to such astronomical heights – they simply had no-one in that end of the market trying to mix things up. This is good for Nintendo – but bad for consumers, as has been evidenced by the sporadic games schedule of the Wii.
Ouya has a place in the market. Its Kickstarter page already denotes it has a place in the market. This is a rival to Nintendo, not to Sony and Microsoft. So tech heads, relax. The Ouya isn’t aiming to steal away your uber-graphical games just yet.
That said, I am so depressed right now, and it’s not at Ouya itself – but what the consumers are asking from it.
Ouya is an open platform in stark contrast to the industry norm – it comes with a development kit as standard, and does not charge a fee to put things on its marketplace (instead nominating to take a 30% upfront cut of any sale – very simple and straight forward, with no shady dealings). In an ideal world, this will encourage exploration into genres new and old that may have fallen out of fashion, encourage and fuel creativity and innovation and bring new names into the market, new companies and studios able to operate in an equal and level playing field.
That’s the ideal world. But it’s not what CONSUMERS want.
The top 20 most asked for games and franchises for the Ouya are typical and predictable. Yes, you have Bastion in there. And Torchlight. And Fez and Limbo. And then you have the other half – Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed. Games made by big corporations with huge marketing budgets that really could stifle the creative bent of the Ouya before it even hits the market in March 2013.
This is a real danger Ouya faces. It WANTS consumers on board and their Kickstarter funding to go through, but equally it knows that if it encourages big corporate entities onto its platform, they’re going to either dominate it with shovelware and ports, or demand better terms otherwise their support cannot be guaranteed. Neither of which will be good for the smaller studios and companies hoping and praying Ouya gets this right, because if it is relegated off the front page in favour of bigger brands and recognisable faces, the Ouya has immediately failed them and the initial concept of the machine itself – to have an open, level playing field for all.
And for all that money, it still has 27 days left to run. If ANYTHING goes wrong or it becomes apparent they’re about to assume the position for their corporate clients, then that situation can change. And change rapidly, as people pull their support.
And for those consumers asking for these big corporate games – why? My guess is you’ll buy a PS4 or Next-Box. They will look and play and be great on those machines. The Ouya is a relatively much weaker hardware platform that is designed for people to take risks. Explore the landscape. Have fun. If we keep buying the same old tat and demand it from every machine, then the Ouya itself is a totally pointless object. It will fall into the same pattern and rut that consoles usually fall into. Its reason for being will cease to be, and then it’s just a cheap $100 console with a marketing gimmick, rather than a disruptive challenger to the face of the console and digital markets.
The Ouya does need some First Person Shooters, but why not ask for Painkiller to be revived? It needs RPGs, so why not try and encourage more titles like Recettear and Legend of Grimrock? It needs platformers, so why ask for Sonic? You did PLAY Sonic 4 Episode 2, I take it? WHY DO YOU WANT MORE OF THAT?!
You can have these genres, but new faces, new stories, new ways of doing it. It’s a curious problem that consumers are finding it harder and harder to let go of the brands they are accustomed to and try something else, but this is what the Ouya was founded to do. Get new faces, stories and mechanics out there in a free, open environment for people to consume and enjoy. If consumers can’t get past this, then they will effectively destroy the Ouya in a single blow. What they are asking for is completely against the ethos in which the Ouya is being marketed.
But equally, and annoyingly, without this mass market consumer on side, the Ouya simply won’t be a market sensation that is sustainable in the long term. Nice ideas and promises won’t mean squat when they have to pay taxes and wages. The machine itself won’t make any profit – that will come from their cut of games sales, and games that people want won’t be happy to lose a whole 30%.
It’s an exciting idea, but people saying this will be fantastic – it COULD be fantastic. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Ouya is full of good intentions.
We will see in the next few months if EA, Activision, Capcom and UbiSoft take advantage of that for their own ends.
P.S. I’d like to apologise for the slowing down of articles of late. It’s been a pain in the arse of late to be trawling back and forward to the hospital, and this is a one-man show. When I’m not at home, and not reading the latest gaming news, I’m kind of unable to do anything. It’s not getting any better unfortunately, and this will continue for a period of time, so I will endeavour to try and at least have two articles up a week, even if they are on the same day. Again, I’m really sorry about this. I do NOT want your sympathy though. Save that for those suffering in the poorer regions of the world. I just ask for your understanding – this is an adjustment for me, and it’s going to take some time before all gets back to normal (or something that closely resembles normal).