I was browsing the web a week ago and saw an article with this quirky little machine in it called the Ouya. I was immediately unimpressed. A machine for $99 with pretty low-end specs based on the concept that “everything is free?” I immediately hated this expensive coaster. Who would develop anything meaningful for this? The idea that the entire thing is moddable and hackable? That it is encouraged to mod and hack and tear apart? It’s a naive, chaos inducing concept. An incredibly dangerous one at that (haven’t they heard of piracy? It happens on some of the most secure systems, how is Ouya gonna prevent it?)
Besides, I know, for sure, that major developers and publishers probably aren’t privy the whole “All the games on it will be free, at least to try” deal. Many already kind of do that anyway. On more secure consoles. With things called demos.
But I realize that this isn’t really supposed to be targeting major devs and publishers. It’s supposed to appeal to the game developer in all of us, making your game available to everyone who owns an Ouya. However, this brings about a potentially crippling issue Erik pointed out to me. A little thing called “saturation” or “too much bullshit to even know where to begin looking or what to look for” or more commonly explained as an influx of too much of the same types of things. The only way to make your product stand out, or for a product to appeal to you, is for it to be greatly superior to the rest of the market (in terms of features, mechanics, gameplay, etc. Pretty much anything that affects how a game is experienced). But this market can include anything. From what a hipster a few dollars short of owning a pair of black rimmed plastic glasses can smash together to what a true success might be, like Notch’s popular indie favorite, Minecraft. The odds of finding a treasure in a market where anybody can make a game (or multiple games) and display them on a unified marketplace is dismal, at best.
To be quite honestly, I’d put more money on the odds that 90-95% of homemade creations would be total garbage or blatant clones of other products. But I guess that’s alright. Everything is free, right? So what’s the matter with sifting through garbage to find legitimately good indie games?
Nothing, I suppose. But then we get to another issue plaguing the system. And this time, it’s not the only one under scrutiny. Recently, big time developers and publishers have been making microtransaction a feature in games. “You give me 180 MS Points, I’ll give you credits to buy that Spectre Pack you’ve had your eye on for the past couple of matches of Mass Effect 3.” The offers are incredibly tempting, but the policy Ouya has essentially made it incredibly easy to nickel and dime your fellow gaming brethren. We’ve all played those iPhone games that are the “lite” version of whatever it is caught your fancy. Most of them leave a lot to be desired, often showing you a large portion of the game to draw you in. Once you get the unlock, however, things don’t really change. You get 3 more towers for your tower defense game. Maybe you get the second campaign, like in Harebrained Schemes “Crimson: Steam Pirates.” But it doesn’t alter the way you approach the title.
It’s like having a taste of a rainbow cake. You’re told that after this taste, for a nominal fee you can experience the entire cake! You think each color of icing has a new flavor and you can’t wait to try it all. The red sample you had tastes like strawberries. You quickly shell out your cash and take a bite of your favorite color. The fuck? Orange doesn’t taste like strawberries. Fuck this shit.
Probably not the best analogy, but who cares. It serves its purpose of demonstrating impulsive appeal.
Anyway, I’m not here to tell you how easy it is for people to legally take your money from you. I’m here to say why I’m not excited about the Ouya. I’m almost done, don’t worry. You can stand to hate me for a little bit longer.
The last major issue I have with the Ouya is the lack of force it will probably have on the console community. Without any major publishers or well-established indie developers willing to throw their support behind the console as a competitive moneymaking machine of awesomeness (cause let’s face it. Publishers need to pay devs, and indie’s need to feed their families), it’s lacking a lot of what makes a console successful. One of which would be exclusive products in high demand. And I say that to bring up this point. Steam has already embedded itself as a majorly indie friendly distributor. Not only does it sell these games for widely accepted and affordable prices, but it offers tools and kits for people to use to create their own user generated content. I fear that the Ouya will be too specialized to create any game of moderate success mostly because of this issue. With the PC, you’re already on a medium that many people use every day and can distribute your user produced content through multiple avenues to reach a target base. Ouya just can’t stand up to the accessibility and distribution power of the PC.
Not only that though, but the Ouya will be facing off with well established giants. It is going to be released to the general population in a period of time where many people are going to sink their cash into other products with a higher chance of success and longevity in terms of desirable content and horsepower. Even if it’s $99, that’s $99 that can be spent on something more worth the cost.
I don’t have a problem with the concept of Ouya. I’d like it if consoles were more available to indie developers, but opening up their business practice to outside influence is a huge risk. I’m more just irritated that people are flocking to this like it’s the most revolutionary piece of technology ever.
We already have a piece of equipment like this. It’s called a god damn PC. Wanna plug it in to a screen? Great! You don’t have to spend $99. Just spend $15 and buy a VGA, DVI, or HDMI cable.