OUYA: Android Game Console’s Secrets Raise Questions
While the OUYA — the Android-based, hackable video game console — is still raking in funds on its multi-million dollar Kickstarter project, the secretive nature of the project is raising questions for game developers.
“How can the OUYA convince developers who are sitting on the sidelines to jump in?” asks Gree Vice President of Studio Operations Anil Dharni. “I am very interested, but where are the users? Where are the gamers?”
Until three months ago, Dharni was the Chief Operating Officer of Funzio, which released three well-received titles on iOS and one on Android. He and CEO Ken Chui sold Funzio to Gree for $210 million, giving Gree, a Japanese social network that has been expanding aggressively into America, its own development team.
Dharni says OUYA has two distinct advantages: it is using Android as its platform, and its focus is on the television market. He said the biggest challenge its makers face will be luring developers to create games that will have to be programmed differently from any others on the Android market. Since the OUYA will use a traditional console controller with a touchpad in the center, even games on the Android market will need to be restructured to work with it.
OUYA is not entirely bereft of content. On July 19th, the company announced via its Kickstarter page that Robert Bowling would bring prequel games to his recently announced zombie survivor game Human Element exclusively to the OUYA. Though a big name for the platform, it’s only the second title confirmed for the console.
Bowling, who was behind the Call of Duty series of games, said he has already contributed $10,000 to the console’s development. This type of developer involvement is something that Dharni says could be a concern.
“It’s a chicken and the egg situation,” he says. “I would like to know if it’s gamers or game developers funding the project on Kickstarter. It makes a difference on who will end up using it.”
Dharni says Gree will take a wait-and-see approach with the OUYA; the company doesn’t want to have its products associated with something that is going to flail in the marketplace. But he said the console space is the next frontier to be disrupted, similar to how free-to-play has changed mobile and PC gaming.
“It’s often the case that the first one that launches doesn’t end up being the right product,” he says. “I hope it works out for them and I wish them luck.”
OUYA Image courtesy AngelList.