Ouya is set to become a rare case among well-funded Kickstarter projects by actually launching on time.
The $100 Android-based game console will start shipping to Kickstarter backers on March 28, just under the wire for the March delivery date that Ouya promised last July. Given the delays that plagued other Kickstarter success stories such as Pebble and Brydge, Ouya deserves some credit.
“Parts are in the factory and assembly lines are buzzing,” CEO Julie Uhrman wrote in a project update. “We’ll gradually ramp up production as we make sure things are working.”
Ouya is interesting not only because of its price–even at launch, it’s much cheaper than traditional game consoles–but because of its approach to game creation. Much like the mobile app stores of iOS and Android, Ouya’s marketplace will be open to any developer. The barriers to entry are low, with no expensive development kits to buy, which opens the door to vast quantities of cheap and free-to-play games.
In other words, there’s greater risk of low-quality shovelware, but there’s also a greater opportunity for small-scale innovation.
Ouya seems eager to prove that it can deliver more of the latter to serious gamers. In the latest project update, the company announced that it will have an exclusive game from Kim Swift, creator of Portal and Quantum Conundrum, and her studio Airtight Games. Tripwire Interactive, makers of the PC shooters Killing Floor and Red Orchestra 2, are also working on an Ouya exclusive. Previously, Robotoki had announced an exclusive prequel to its upcoming game Human Element.
I’ve been skeptical of Ouya, not because of the concept, but because of how much competition it may face. The company already has one direct competitor in GameStick, and an indirect one in Nvidia, which is working on a handheld gaming device that can connect to televisions. There’s also the risk of Google, Amazon or Apple entering the space and using their marketing muscle to crowd out the upstarts. The battle to disrupt big-budget game consoles could get messy.
But there won’t be any battle without actual products, and right now Ouya’s the only one with a firm ship date.