The production of the (quite literally) game-changing Ouya console is now well under way, having racked up more than US$8m in Kickstarter donations and secured key partnerships along the way.
The project’s original funding target of US$950,000 was reached within eight hours of the Kickstarter page going live, breaking the crowdfunding site’s records. It closed today, about six hours beyond its deadline, with a total of US$8,596,475 raised from 63,416 backers.
Those that funded the Kickstarter campaign will get their hands on the console first, with first shipments expected in March 2013. Everyone else can pre-order online for the market release, expected the following month.
Freedom for developers
Ouya was created to encourage developers to go back to developing console games. These days, creating games for mobile platforms is a lot easier and open, so the team behind Ouya is trying to provide the same freedom in console game development. Because it runs on Android (Ice Cream Sandwich), mobile developers will be able to push their apps to the Ouya platform easily, but the idea is to inspire a community to create new games and expand the capabilities of the device.
The developer-friendly console is open for hacks and enhancements, with developers encouraged to create free-to-play games for the system in return. This doesn’t mean all games on the platform will be free, but it does mean they will all come with some form of free game play, be it a free trial or free access to some content with additional costs for upgrades or extra features, and developers themselves can set the price.
The device warranty is safe even if the console is rooted, and even the hardware is hackable – all that’s needed to get inside the Ouya is a standard screwdriver.
What’s in it for gamers?
It’s clear why developers would be interested in a console they can really get hands-on with, but why would gamers be interested in a new console when there are perfectly good Xboxes, PlayStations and Nintendo consoles out there?
For starters, there’s the price. The Ouya starts at US$119 for international orders (including shipping). For their money’s worth, users will get an Yves Behar-designed device about the size of a Rubik’s cube powered by a Tegra3 quad processor, with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal flash storage, four-controller support, a USB 2.0 port and Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability.
The Ouya is about bringing gaming back to the TV and so, to make the most of the larger screen, it comes with a HDMI connection with support for up to 1080p HD.
Over the course of the crowdfunding campaign, the team behind Ouya secured deals to ensure the new console would ship with some desirable content. OnLive game streaming will give users on-demand access to hundreds of top-tier games from more than 80 publishers, and the team is also in talks with Namco Bandai about bringing some of its gaming properties to the platform. With a back catalogue that includes classics like Pac-Man and franchises like Tekken, there’s a lot this partnership can offer.
A partnership with Square Enix will bring Final Fantasy III to the console, updated to exploit the high-definition resolution available on Ouya, while Robotoki is creating an exclusive episodic prequel to Human Element for Ouya. Mojang has also committed to bring Minecraft and other titles to Ouya if the platform proves to be successful.
Other media will also be available, with music provided by iHeartRadio and TuneIn, music videos from Vevo, media streaming from XBMC and Plex, and video-game broadcasting and chat from TwitchTV.
Overall, the Ouya team have done an amazing job of funding and building on a concept that could pose a real challenge to the current big three (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) in console gaming.