This Thursday will mark one hundred days that the OUYA has been on sale in retail stores, and the future continues to look bleak for the pint-sized console. Even after the all the publicity that its successful Kickstarter campaign brought, the OUYA has struggled mightily to gain traction in the console market. With the most optimistic estimates putting sales at one-hundred thousand units sold, the revolution has been slow to take hold. The developer of the console, OUYA, Inc. may have been under the impression that funding their project was going to be the most difficult task, and it may have been, until they released it.
Something that still remains a huge issue for the OUYA is the lack of compelling games. OUYA’s Free the Games Fund was an attempt to help developers with funding by doubling the results of a Kickstarter campaign in exchange for a six-month exclusivity deal. The terms for the Free the Games Fund made it easy to exploit, and Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes both seemed to try to take advantage of the free money. Kickstarter pulled Elementary, My Dear Holmes due to the controversy behind it, but Gridiron Thunder was backed by 183 people who happily gave an average of $934.48. Dungeons the Eye of Draconus, a Kickstarter project that received a total of fifty-four thousand dollars from one hundred eighty people was removed from the Free the Games Fund due to similar suspicions. It should be noted that the rules for the Free the Games Fund have since been altered in an attempt to prevent other suspicious games from slipping in.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle between the OUYA and any type of success is OUYA, Inc. When the OUYA was shipped out in March to the Kickstarter backers, OUYA, Inc. was quick to place the blame on its shipping partners for delayed consoles. One man, who published his email correspondence with OUYA here, waited a total of eighty-two days from the supposed ship date of his OUYA to delivery. The CEO for OUYA, Inc, Julie Uhrman, has carried herself with an arrogance that Tim Schafer would be proud of. Like Schafer, Uhrman seems oblivious to the fact that the backers are pissed at how their money is being squandered away. Botching the early delivery was only the beginning, since then, Uhrman has attempted to defend the moronic YouTube ad, kept sales figures a complete secret, and defended the Free the Games Fund by suggesting the public’s negativity is holding the fund back.
Of course, the console is still very young, but OUYA, Inc. possesses neither the funds nor the history that a company like Nintendo has. Nintendo’s survival does not depend on the Wii U, but the OUYA’s success is vital to OUYA, Inc. The OUYA is an underpowered piece of hardware when compared to its competition, which is not Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, as OUYA would like you to believe. Many Android based phones and tablets outstrip the OUYA in terms of raw power, and each month brings another handful of devices that widen the performance gap. With most phones offering some method of outputting video to a TV, the purchase of a controller is all that is needed to transform one’s cell phone into a make-shift OUYA. Going this route does mean I would miss out on exclusive OUYA titles, but I would not be going this route if there were any games that made the console worth purchasing.
If OUYA, Inc. had made some strides towards improving their console, I would have a more positive opinion about it. So far, the Free the Games Fund has represented the biggest attempt to attract exclusive content to the console. Part of the changes to the fund also included a tweak in the exclusivity rule, meaning that games that benefit from the fund can still be released on PC. This is a great thing for the indie developers that actually qualify because they can use OUYA’s money to release their game on a platform that actually has users. The recently announced Vita TV represents another potential gut punch to the OUYA. Priced at one hundred dollars, the Vita TV will also have a large collection of Vita and PS One games to choose from. In fact, the OUYA’s lone advantage over a Vita TV is the ability to emulate past consoles, but this can already be done in any number of ways that do not require purchasing a OUYA.
The OUYA’s window continues to shrink, and the PS4 and Xbone are not going to help. A cocky, inept CEO and a flawed plan to attract exclusive games are the main things that are supporting a console that many owners turned on a few times over a week and have ignored since. The few that continue to use their OUYA have little interest in anything the console offers besides the emulator apps. I appreciate the attempt that was made with the OUYA, but the home console market is not ready to change its AAA games for glorified mobile games. It would have required a miracle for the OUYA to succeed out of the gate, but that is what it needed to do. As the next generation of consoles roll out, the OUYA will be pushed further to the back of gamers’ minds, until it is just a memento of how brutal this industry can be.