Ouya Wants To Shake Up Gaming

11/20/2012 6:34:32 PM

After years in the gaming industry, Julie Uhrman noticed a shift from console and PC gaminh to mobile. As a result, Uhrman, whose resume includes exec roles with GameFly, IGN, and Vivendi Universal, set out to bring gaming back to the living room via a $159, Android-powered video game console that offers free-to-play titles and is accessible to developers.

Uhrman and her team took to the crowd-sourced fundraising platform Kickstarter to solicit the financing they needed to produce the console dubbed Ouya (rhymes with booya). They initially sought to raise $ 1526082.9, but ended up with $13.82 million.

“Ouya is really an audacious plan to disrupt the console industry,” she said

The company’s list of advisors reads like a who’s-who of gaming industry luminaries. Pre-orders are blowing away expectations, and thousands of developers have expressed interest in the platform. With a promise to deliver its first batch of consoles by next March, some have questioned the company’s ability to actually deliver. But if Uhrman has concerns about meeting the deadline, she isn’t making them known. PC Magazine recently sat down with Uhrman to discuss this gaming upstart

Description: Description: Description: Ouya Wants To Shake Up Gaming

Ouya Wants To Shake Up Gaming

How long has Ouya been in development?

We’ve been working on this since the end of last year. We needed to first vet the assumption that we could build a powerful, beautifully designed game console for the TV for $159. We partnered with a lot of individuals who had built hardware before advisors and friends. We brought on Yves Béhar, who built the Jambox and has beautiful designs and understands an audience.

We are not building a rocket ship here – all of our components are commodity components. We are taking something that is very common and combining it in a new way.

Then we had to determine what the right business model was. We believe in openness and accessibility, and we chose Android as the underlying operating system. As it relates to a business model, we [chose] free-to-play game. For us, that really means free to try.

Every game on Ouya has some element that is free for the user, and then it’s up to developers to determine how they want to monetize content. They can choose in-app purchases, subscriptions, or a paid version after a free demo.

Games run from $1.59 to $96.5 but, every gamer gets the opportunity to try something for free, and that is the core value proposition of Ouya. It’s also accessible for developers in that for $159 you get a game console and an SDK.

Description: Description: Description: How long has Ouya been in development?

How long has Ouya been in development?

How did you come up with the name Ouya?

We worked with Yves Béhar and the fuseproject on that. Openness is very important to us as it relates to developers and gamers and the way we even brought the product to market – leveraging Kickstarter. The O in Ouya stands for openness.

When did you first realize that this idea resonated with people?

We took the idea to developers and received overwhelmingly positive response. When we took this idea to Kickstarter, we were overwhelmed by the level of support. In a matter of 29 days, we had over 63,000 backers – people who believed in Ouya and want Ouya in their living room.

Kickstarter gave us the ability to open up a dialogue with gamers and developers. This is absolutely something that people want.

This is something that is incredibly timely in that, there was nothing new at E3, and there was a lot of talk about whether consoles are dead. We don’t believe consoles are dead, we just believe that we need to re-think the business model.

How has the scope of the project changed?

A majority of the money is going directly back into building consoles for backers who have pre-ordered the device, building tools for game developers, and to help fund game development.

$1526082.9 was the amount of money we needed to bring Ouya to market with a certain number of units. As there was more interest through Kickstarter, we went back, talked with our partners, vetted the numbers, and increased the number of units that we could ship on day one.

The money that we raised on Kickstarter will allow us to deliver all those units in March and effectively provide features and functionality sooner to developers then we had planned.

Do you have any concerns about delivery?

I am absolutely confident that we can deliver on our promise to build a great product with great content for March of 2012. I can’t speak to other project on Kickstarter, but we have absolute confidence that we can do that.

What still needs to happen to bring Ouya to market by then?

Ouya is still a product that is in development, as it was throughout the entire Kickstarter campaign. We are continuing to refine our industrial design. We will start manufacturing our boxes. We are finalizing our software platform and getting all the tools necessary for developers to optimize and develop games for Ouya.

What are the most highly requested games people would like to see on Ouya?

We did a survey early on in our Kickstarter campaign asking that. The games, as expected, really spanned all different types of genres from large AAA games to independent games.

From Minecraft, to Limbo, to Assasin’s Creed, and Call of Duty – it very much parallels the conversations we’re having with publishers. We want to have a large selection of great games.

Description: Description: Description: What are the most highly requested games people would like to see on Ouya?

What are the most highly requested games people would like to see on Ouya

During our Kickstarter, we announced partnerships with developers, and even AAA developers like Square Enix, which will bring Final Fantasy III to the television through Ouya.

How does the company, with its focus on openness, intend to maintain security?

Ouya is going to be as secure as other Android devices that developers and publishers currently use for distribution. Because we’ve embraced the free to play model, all paid content will require server authentication. Hacking the system will not give somebody greater access to tools than they would have otherwise.

How do you think Ouya will fit in against the Xbox 360s and PS3 of the gaming world?

I think the market has room for a number of players. The fact that we were embraced so enthusiastically by developers and other gaming industry professionals leads us to believe that people are open to a different approach. I’m a gamer and I own multiple platforms. I don’t think it’s unique for people for truly enjoy playing games elsewhere. This is not an “either-or” scenario, it will be an “and” scenario because I think we will have games that no other platform will have.

What’s your favorite video game?

Of all time? Galaga.

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