In 2012, Julie Uhrman put together a team of engineers and designers to develop the OUYA, an Android micro-console, that was to revolutionize the industry, and bring "back innovation, experimentation, and creativity to the big screen." The project was pitched on Kickstarter, and raised more than $8.5 million, earning the title of fifth highest earning project in Kickstarter history at the time.
The console was pitched as not only an affordable way to play games, but cleverly as an indie-dev kit. The description states:
With an OUYA anyone can make a game because every OUYA console is a dev kit. No need to purchase a license or an expensive SDK. It's built on Android and supports a ton of engines. Go ahead and create the next big title in your bedroom – just like the good old days!
Now, there's a certain kind of appeal that comes with an opportunity like this: the pitch claims that anyone can make their own game with the kit from OUYA, which means that if you buy the console, then you have the chance to become a developer for the next AAA indie game. However, a console can't have any AAA games if no-one buys the console.
Although the Kickstarter attracted investors and venture capitalists to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project, release day came rather anti-climatically. Soon after the release date of June 25th 2013, reviews of how underwhelming the console proved to be surged onto the internet. After a few months, the OUYA's price dropped from the starting price of $99 to mere discount prices of around $10.
Universally panned, and criticized, the OUYA seemed to be a tremendous Kickstarter flop, with reviewers noting the unresponsive controllers, simple HUD (heads up display), and essentially that the console only gave you games that you could already play on your own phone (the console ran on a version of Android 4.0 Jellybean).
This video from user CrowbCat accurately sums up much of what went wrong with OUYA:
But on a look back, a certain allure surrounded the OUYA. An attraction to the idea of being a self-made game developer: that if a console were to allow users to create their own games and put them up on a market, that anyone could create the next killer-app. "FREE THE GAMES" was the tagline for OUYA, as it has become a seemingly narrow road for up-and-coming developers to market their games.
Based off the model of the iOS and Android app-stores, the OUYA obviously wanted users to develop the next Doodle Jump, or the next Angry Birds for their console. A leap of faith that, in the end, did not pay off, simply because dropping $99 dollars for an app-store that you could play on your TV was not worth it as long as the app-store was still around.
In execution, the OUYA flopped because, as Julie Uhrman stated in an interview at South by Southwest Gaming Expo:
"There is nothing special about this...".
Before creating a killer-app, the OUYA needed to market itself as an affordable console that already had great games to play, that users could jump right in and play great games with this console that allowed for them to create their own games.
A great concept, that flopped in execution. But with the acquisition of OUYA by RAZER, a company that specializes in creating high-end gaming peripherals, hopefully the creative team can salvage and make something of this ambitious console.