It’s important to note I haven’t played the OUYA. I did not contribute to the Kickstarter or get a press copy or anything. This piece is based on general information and the reactions that were shared by many when the Kickstarted console shipped late last month.
Late last year, this website featured a roundtable piece in which D Pad D Bags staff gave our two cents about the Nintendo Wii U release. Most of us were huge fans of the Big N but weren’t backing their new console for a multitude of reasons. For me it was games–what’s the point of spending money on a new system if there aren’t really any new games? Fast forward to the present and it looks like the Wii U hasn’t appealed to a lot of people. Nintendo is struggling to find a player base with their new console and, in a horrid flash-back to the Wii, even major third party releases are viewed as lesser ports of their PS3 and 360 contemporaries. Which brings me to the OUYA. The idea of this Android-powered console really got us all hyped for a new medium for great indie talent, a system that would put more emphasis on making good games instead of making big, expensive-looking productions.
But then the system shipped and the reality started to soak in: all of these OUYA games are ports of mobile games we’ve already played. I know what you’re thinking: how is that the reality soaking in? Wasn’t having all these mobile games on the big screen the plan all along? The idea was that these games were good and they deserved better than a 4-inch screen, right?
That was the idea, yes, but I say again: reality is setting in. This is what you paid for, and it’s not as cool as it sounded. These games were meant to be played on a train for 5 minutes at a time, not on a big screen attracting your full attention.
That being said, there is still a ton of potential for the OUYA to become a haven for great lower budget games. It’s important to note the system is still being beta tested. A lot of poor things have been said about the little console since it shipped, leading some people to question whether the venture will ever be worth it, but OUYA has made it clear that they will be listening to feedback and updating up until the official release on June 4th. Despite all of the complaints about controls, hardware, or menu design, I think OUYA only needs to focus on one thing for success: getting exclusive, interesting games and having them ready for launch. Make some good games that are fun and people will be more lenient when it comes to other malfunctions.
Right now there are no exclusives planned for launch (check out the launch list via Wikipedia). All of the titles are available on phones, Steam, or other venues. OUYA is pointing out that these titles are exclusively on your TV through their service, but that seems like a thinly veiled attempt to bandage up a serious issue. If I can get these games on devices I already have, there’s no way I’m going to spend $99 just to play them in a different place.
By most standards, Nintendo’s launch of the Wii U was a failure, and I think the OUYA runs the risk of making some of the same mistakes. Both consoles are attempting to bring a new idea to a market that is rigid in selling you the same thing with a different look over and over again. Both systems could really bring a fresh take to console gaming, but you can’t do much if the content you offer isn’t different.
My hope is that OUYA can find its footing because there is a hole right now in the console market for a dedicated smaller budget machine. The Xbox and PS online stores aren’t the easiest for developers to get their games into, and many great small budget-titles go unnoticed because those two consoles are so dedicated to AAA games. OUYA has a spot to step up and be the place these games can shine.
But before they can step up, they need to appeal to an audience wider than their group of Kickstarter backers. In order to do that, they need exclusive content.