Imagine an open-source console, not an open-source game or program, but an actual TV video game console (though techies could surely pull off something similar with a pc) that went mainstream. A cheap, reliable piece of hardware that runs on Android and is not only messing around with its programming possible, but it’s actually encouraged by the creators of said machine. Sounds pretty outlandish, right? In this day and age, where consoles are pretty much stroke-inducing to your budget upon release, where company secrets are held tight so competitors won’t get word, where Playstation made the first region-locked game for the PS3, and the thought of having cross-console playing is likely to induce aneurysms in even the better composed CEO’s.
Now OUYA comes. It’s a cute little thing that holds a lot of potential, but it’s only at the promise stage. It’s a Kickstarter project that’s been funded quite a few times over their goal, but there’s doubts and full-on attacks as to the veracity of their claim. And I get it. I mean, here’s a console that brags about its heroic attempt to crash the closed environment of console gaming, running on Android, all games are free to play (it’s a sort of demo thing, some people misconstrue this as ‘ omfzg! Free games! Free Free Free!), and an open invitation to hackers to just fuck around with the console and see what they come up with. It sounds fantastic, and I’ve backed it already. It may end belly-up, it might even be a hoax. It’s received over 8 million dollars. That makes it an even riskier gamble, when Haunts, a game project that raised $28,793 (or 0.33% of OUYA) has left its investors distrusting of getting their money back, as Kickstarter has no system to recover investments and no want for one. I’m not saying Kickstarter should change its ways. It achieves its purpose of uniting creator and consumer, but it’s eye-opening to the risks involved. I mean, OUYA, if it fails, could bring down Kickstarter, and the faith in crowd-sourcing new tech.
Or it could succeed, and actually crack open the console market. Third-party developers could access mainstream gamers in console form. Valve, with Steam, has provided an enormous support to indie gaming, but OUYA is a plug-and-play console that works on your TV. And at $99 it provides a better channel to indie gaming than a computer might. The fact that you can try out these games beforehand lets people experience new things, and play games they might normally not get to considering their budgets. It’s a sort of democratization of console gaming. I’m excited about the fact that new developers can get excited about seeing their games on TV, and those developers with a bit more experience can risk bringing about more complex games. There’s a ton of creators with insane stories to tell, that can have a chance. We’ve gotten games like Braid, The Unfinished Swan, Sword & Sworcery EP, among other. Beautiful things with enchanting stories have come seemingly out of nowhere. Hope OUYA brings out a few more.
If it succeeds or fails, OUYA’s promises to be very interesting to watch as it develops. I’m just hoping for the good ending.