The most visible of the Android-based micro-consoles with the name that sounds like what Kool-Aid man says when he’s busting through painted styrofoam walls will delay its $100 Ouya game cube until the end of June: specifically June 25 — about two weeks after E3 wraps.
The reason for the delay? The company doesn’t say in a press release that’s mostly about other stuff, burying the revised launch date at the end (the system was originally due out June 4), but Joystiq managed to speak with Ouya honcho Julie Uhrman, who explains the sudden pushback:
We’ve had incredibly positive reactions from our retail partners, and so in order to meet their greater than expected demand, we decided to shift the launch date by a couple of weeks — three weeks — which will allow us to create more units and, basically, have more units on store shelves in June.
You know all the worry about the controller feeling cheap? Complaints about some of the buttons sticking under the top plate when hammered? It sounds like Ouya’s already addressed this (well, the button-sticking part anyway): Uhrman says the company’s made the holes for the face buttons a trifle larger to rectify the problem. “We made that change very early so all the units are being produced with those larger button holes,” says Uhrman. The revised controllers are already shipping to Kickstarter backers.
As Gamasutra notes, the new launch date pits Ouya squarely against GameStick, a flash drive-sized, Android-based game console designed to plug directly into Smart TVs (or to a standard TV through an HDMI dock). GameStick has a launch date of June 10, but the company’s said the first units won’t be in the hands of those who preordered it until the final week of June.
But what Ouya really wants everyone to know, is that it just secured $15 million in new funding led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, with participation from Mayfield Fund, NVIDIA, Shasta Ventures and Occam Partners. If KPCB rings some distant game history bells, it may be because it’s the company EA Chief Creative Officer Bing Gordon joined upon leaving Electronic Arts in 2008. Gordon originally signed up with EA in 1982 (just a few months after its inception), devoting over a quarter century to the game giant Trip Hawkins started. As part of the Ouya funding deal, Gordon will join Ouya’s board of directors alongside Uhrman as well as Roy Bahat, chairman of the board (Gordon also serves on the board of directors at Amazon, Klout, Lockerz, MEVIO, Zazzle and Zynga).
Ouya raised nearly $8.6 million last summer, with over 63,000 Kickstarter backers throwing in to propel the conceptual console well beyond its stated $950,000 goal. Preliminary reviews of initial “beta” systems dispatched to backers in late March have been mixed, spawning a handful of apologias. No, Kickstarter projects aren’t by necessity “grab something and hang on!” beta pilgrimages — Nataly Dawn’s Kickstarter-funded album How I Knew Her sounds like something that cost a lot more than $100k to produce, and for my money, games column Tom vs. Bruce (also Kickstarter-funded) is absolutely peerless — but yes, it’s true, mass-manufactured technology with ergonomic variables and questionable launch software lineups rarely arrive blemish-free.
In any event, Ouya’s real challenge isn’t pricing ($100 is plenty cheap) or patching up gamepad glitches (already well in hand) or whether this button should have been here or there, it’s about what this thing’s going to let you do when you power it on. No one cares about the aesthetics (it’s a grayish plastic cube, so what), and you have to try pretty hard at this point to screw up a gamepad with conventional face buttons, thumbsticks and triggers. But if Ouya launches with a stable of been-there-played-that games, well…will gamers leap in for the fiddly emulators and tiny handful of media services, all for the elusive promise of better to come? That’s the $8.6 million dollar question.