New US startup Ouya is about to launch an ambitious Kickstarter funding campaign in order to develop a new home console. Ouya’s concept is to build a grass-roots home console allowing indie developers to make games for free and then sell their games on Ouya’s own app store.
They hope to price the console at $100 – and are looking to raise $950,000 with the plan to release the console by the first quarter of 2013. The console’s backers reads like a who’s who of tech royalty – one name that sure to be recognisable is Yves Behar, he’s the man behind one Laptop per Child Project.
Ouya reckons that the barriers to getting games onto TV’s are far too high – so it plans to let anyone release a game on their platform, giving them a real chance at showcasing their talents on TV’s rather than just mobile devices.
There are, of course, rival platforms like Xbox Live indie – but Ouya is hoping to capture some of this market with far fewer barriers to market – if it works it they hope it will be a catalyst to another golden age of indie development.
“We think we’re really going to disrupt the console market,” says Julie Uhrman, Ouya’s chief executive.
The device is essentially an Android device, running Android 4.0 – the only difference is this device won’t have it’s own screen, but instead will plug directly into the TV. The company plans to launch its own app store to allow devs to sell their software.
Their will be a freemium model in place which will see all games free-to-play via either a limited trial or in-app purchases. Explaining why they feel a free-to-make model will work Uhrman said that a lot of developers have been priced out of the market and Ouya would look to address this in-balance.
“We’ve seen a lot of developers leave triple-A console development shops and do mobile gaming, which is why a lot of the creative and exciting games are going to mobile platforms,” said Uhrman.
Uhrman explained why they feel it’s important that the system plugs into a TV rather than being a mobile device: “TV is still the best screen: the number one platform if you survey gamers. It’s where the majority of gameplay happens and the majority of dollars are spent, and it’s the best screen, from its HD quality to surround sound to that lean-back communal experience. We want to bring games back to the television.”
Specs-wise the Ouya is no slouch; there’s a Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8 GB of flash memory and a 1080p HDMI connection. Unlike most Android gaming devices there will a brand-new gaming controller with the standard two analogue sticks, a D-pad, eight buttons and, interestingly, a small touchpad.
Clearly a lot of time and money is going to be spent on the controller, Uhrman say the controller is key to Ouya’s success. As it will be able to play traditional two-stick shoot ‘em ups as well as more traditional touch-screen games.
A Truly Open System Where Hackers Are Welcome
The main selling point to developers is Ouya’s openness, with startup already excited about the possibilities of getting hackers and home brewers onboard from the ground up.
“People will be able to lift off the top, boost chips, add features and memory, and there’s a USB port to add peripherals too. We’ll publish the hardware design if enough people are curious about it,” she added.
One way they will look to get the developer community onboard is by bundling a SDK with every console sold – this means the games devs won’t have to buy expensive licenses to sell their games.
Although the console with be based on Android architecture, the new startup will look to create a wall-garden app store, much like the Kindle Fire, and only allow their games to be played on the their console – a brave move, but will no doubt give Ouya a lot more quality control.
What You Get If You Pledge
All the company need to do now is raise the money via the much-talked about Kickstarter program. The will raise the money via pledges ranging from $10 to reserve a username through to $90 to get a console and controller. Those who have deeper pockets could pledge $225 and get a console, two controllers and your name embezzled on the side.
There’s also special package for developers who want to get onboard early on; $699 will get you early SDK access and year’s promotion of their game; and $1,337 will get you all of that as well as priority email to the Ouya team and tickets to the launch event.
30 backers who pledge $5k or more get a day hanging out with Behar and his company fuseproject, while 20 who pledge $10k or more get dinner with the team and their username etched into the entire first production run of consoles.
At the time of writing the startup has raised has smashed its target and has raised an impressive: $2,729,518.