Ouya’s Lesson for Kickstarter Backers: You’re Buying the Beta

The first reviews of Ouya's $100 game console are in, and they're pretty ugly. But this is not an issue specific to Ouya.

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The first reviews of Ouya’s $100 game console are in, and they’re pretty ugly.

Here’s David Pierce at The Verge:

For $99, everyone who backed Ouya’s Kickstarter has unwittingly signed up to beta-test a game console. Alpha-test, even: this is a product with some good ideas and a potentially promising future, but it’s a million miles away from something worth spending your money on. Even if the concept is right, the Ouya misses the mark. The controller needs work, the interface is a mess, and have I mentioned there’s really nothing to do with the thing? I’m not even sure the concept is right, either: there are plenty of fun Android games, but currently few that work well with a controller and even fewer that look good on your television.

And here’s Tim Stevens and crew at Engadget:

The version of OUYA shipping now should be considered a beta release, and anyone hoping for anything more is in for some disappointment. It’s simply not ready for retail. The system is rough around the edges in many ways, quite literally when regarding the controller, but the interface and menus also could use work.

The common thread is that Ouya (or OUYA, if you must) isn’t a finished product, and anyone who paid $100 for the Kickstarter edition of Ouya is essentially getting a beta, or worse.

But this is not an issue specific to Ouya. When you back a project on Kickstarter–particularly one that involves software–there’s a very good chance you’ll end up with an incomplete product. I’ll remind you what Engadget said about the Pebble smartwatch just a few months ago (with a slightly more upbeat conclusion):

Functionality remains somewhat limited, but this is a first-generation device from a small manufacturer that’s currently only in the hands of a very limited number of lucky backers.

Android Police also warned the general public to stay away:

While the Pebble is OK as it is, with just a few software tweaks it could be much, much better. It may become a truly great piece of hardware if developers can catch the excitement that the device created in the general geeky public.

And it’s not just hardware products. Remember Taposé, the iPad app that was supposed to revive the spirit of Microsoft’s killed Courier tablet? It was pretty terrible at launch as well. Here’s me, a year ago:

Taposé is still an interesting idea, just as Courier was. As a writer, I can imagine using an app like this to take notes or organize story ideas, especially once the team releases a Web version for accessing notes on a PC. But until the bugs get squashed and the interface gets cleaned up, Taposé  is tough to recommend.

So for all the people saying “I told you so” about Ouya–and I’m seeing a lot of that on Twitter right now–you hardly need to be a prophet to make that call. Of course you’re buying a beta product by backing it on Kickstarter. The makers of these products aren’t multinational corporations like Samsung or Apple. They’re tiny startups without much experience bringing hardware and software to market. The odds are pretty high that they’re not going to ship a product with a fine layer of polish. Heck, even gigantic tech vendors ship beta products sometimes.

I’m not trying to defend Ouya or encourage people to buy it. My point is that being a beta tester is par for the course with Kickstarter projects. You might even argue that it’s part of the journey. If you were enthusiastic enough about the concept to hand our your money sight unseen, you should be willing to give feedback and try to make the product better. Kickstarter even offers backer-only forums for this very purpose.

As for Ouya, I’ll reserve judgement for when it ships to retailers in June. It sounds like it’ll take every minute of these remaining two months–and maybe a lot longer–to get the product up to snuff.

13 comments
ericread81
ericread81

It might be a disappointment as a gaming console.


But if you're in the market for a Tegra3 Android media player that has hardware support for XBMC and also play some games on the side, this is a steal.  The handful of dual core Android boxes available today are around this price, and many of them don't have good hardware video support.


Joshcub
Joshcub

Who writes this crap of an article? Julie (CEO in case these "tech" writers don't know) said that the final version is getting released in June and by then the software should be better than the current state. Us backers already knew that we were getting our Ouyas in the Preview stage so it's not final. Those tech sites who reviewed their own back Ouya (not an official review unit) are a bunch of haters and idiots for reviewing an early (and not officially shipped) product. It's dumb sites like this one (and those) that are screwing up the industry for everyone. Julie also stated that in June they would send out the review units so don't even bother listening to these "tech" people.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@Joshcub You just agreed with everything I wrote in the article, but called it "crap." Cool!

JamesAndrewCoote
JamesAndrewCoote

The real lesson is that bad news sells. There are far more positive reviews out there about the OUYA, but media outlets build 'em up and knock 'em down, and we're decidedly in the knock-down phase.

I have an OUYA and while there are lots of rough edges, there are no show stoppers. It's nothing like as bad as the media have made out.

Mikes_phone_and_tab
Mikes_phone_and_tab

With all that said a reviewer/critic is just that. Everyone could hate or love the thing when it comes out despite what some guy on some tech site says. I am positive it has some work to do and I don't think it'll ever replace current console with years worth of people designing games specifically for them as well as contracts with major developers and so much cash it isn't even funny. This gaming experience is different than anything we have seen before. It is new. So it could catch on or be dead in the water just based on that fact. It may be ahead of it's time or it could be underfunded, but the idea I believe is something that should stick around. I don't believe that Sonys, Microsoft, and Nintendos is all we will be gaming on forever. I believe there is a market for something different.

PeterRoberts
PeterRoberts

The ouya is made to be simple affordable and designed for a gamer, these guys just don't wanna praise them for how well they've done, as a gamer i think this looks epic and cannot wait to get my hands on an ouya!

distantwords
distantwords

I agree with Dagnabulous.  This is like a review based on someone else's opinion, not the reviewer's?  That's something I'd expect from TMZ or something, not Time (at least the Time I use to know).  Half of the "Verge" was nonsense anyway...  Apparently they think that Playstation isn't a relevant video game console and sony isn't a manufacturer since EVERY other company's controller has A B X & Y buttons.  EVERY other manufacturer's controller...  Funny, ever since the PS1 I could have sworn Sony chose shapes instead of letters or numbers...

Dagnabulous
Dagnabulous like.author.displayName 1 Like

 So you write an article based on other reviews, not having used the thing yourself. And by pulling only the negative parts of those reviews, with none of the good. Unprofessional. If you're going to do an article about other articles, show both sides of the story. I particularly like this line "I’m not trying to defend Ouya or encourage people to buy it." Don't worry, no one reading that will get the idea that you support  the Ouya in any way. As to the interface I'll say that it's not much worse than the Xbox 360 or PS3 interfaces were when they first came out. They got updated and patched, and they got better. Both articles had good stuff to say, and you chose to omit any of it. I hope you only get half a paycheck for half of a good article.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@Dagnabulous What? I pulled from the conclusion of both reviews. The Verge review was 3.5/10. You may disagree with the nature of the article (though I think you missed the point of it), but it doesn't seem like cherry-picking to me. As I said, I'm reserving judgment for the final product, which this isn't.

distantwords
distantwords

@newmanjb @Dagnabulous The problem is that neither seemed very un-biased from the start.  And The Verge's problems with the controller seem limited to their review.  Check IGN's review or C-NET's review.  They both had mostly positive things to say, and neither mentioned issues with the battery covers..

anavailableusername
anavailableusername

It may not quite be up to snuff yet but it sounds like a really good alternative for casual gamers, I just wish each additional controller wasn't $50, $30 would be much more reasonable. Regardless the Ouya (beta or not) has earned it's place on my WishPlz list ( http://bit.ly/10g4Szi ) although I kind of wished they took more than 9 months to get it ready after they got the investments.