Ouya, the console revolution that could have been and was not

In 2012, the video game industry was shaken up by the Ouya, a console that intended to stand up to existing models with an innovative proposal whose main attraction was its price, just 99 dollars (about 93 euros), compared to the hundreds that Xbox and PlayStation cost. To be so competitive, Ouya used Android, the same system as mobile phone games, but unlike them, it allowed you to play on your home television. In fact, their main slogan was: “The revolution will be televised.”

In order to make the project a reality, its managers, who did not have the economic muscle of leading brands such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, decided look for financing through the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, hoping that his proposal would be interesting for video game fans. That’s how it went.

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Of the 950,000 dollars that were established as necessary to make Ouya viable (about 89,000 euros), the company raised more than eight million dollars (approximately 7.5 million euros), contributed mostly by sixty thousand fans who, from that moment, began counting the days to receive their console at the beginning of 2013.

Despite this promising start, Ouya several issues had to be resolved before series production could begin. For example, finalizing the design of the console and the controls, designing the online store for the acquisition of the games, programming the payment platforms and, most importantly, getting Android programmers to develop games without having to pay any license and receiving 70% of the sale price, but committing that all or part of them could be used for free. In short, too many pending tasks for a company that, when the financing period ended, it had only ten employees.

Despite everything, in March 2013, the consoles began to be sent to the contributors with a message that said: “Thank you for believing” [“Gracias por creer”]. However, problems with the courier service caused many units to get lost and never reach their recipients. Those lucky enough to get it soon realized that what they had bought did not correspond to what was promised.

While Ouya’s small size and ease of connection to a TV were clear advantages compared to competing consoles, when the console was turned on, the first disappointment arose. Before you could start playing, you had to connect to Wi-Fi and download the latest version of the software, which also took too long.

The next drawback arose when, when opening the menu, the user verified that, despite the around six hundred games available, only one hundred were exclusive and the rest were more typical of a mobile phone or a machine. Arcadian of the eighties, than of a next-generation video game console. As if all that wasn’t enough, the connection between console and controller used to failon some occasions the screen went black, on others the sound disappeared, you could not play online against other players and it did not allow you to watch channels like Netflix, Vevo, Amazon or Hulu.

Aware of these flaws, those responsible for Ouya improved the console for its commercialization in stores and, after several delays, on June 25, 2013 it was made available to a general public which, in a matter of hours, sold out all the units. Despite this newfound success, as users tried out the console, Ouya’s design flaws became more apparent, and little by little, the company began to lose prestige and money.

To overcome the situation, the company obtained a financial injection of fifteen million dollars. In addition, the games created exclusively for the platform were released so that they could be used on other devices such as Xiaomi televisions, a brand with which Ouya partnered to try to be viable. But not for those.

Despite all the attempts, sales were not as expected and in 2015 the company notified its customers of its decision to close Ouya, deactivating user accounts in June 2019. Until that date, the games available in the profiles could be downloaded to continue being used offline with console. After that period, everything would be lost and, indeed, it has been.

Almost four years later, the Ouya website no longer exists and the console, which was a milestone in the history of Kickstarter, is plus an anecdote in the history of video games than a turning point in the entertainment industry. For now, it’s not even valued by collectors or retro lovers, considering the number of Ouya consoles and accessories that can be found on portals like eBay for much less money than it cost when it was released.

The reason for this lack of interest may be that, beyond the curious thing about the device, the console suffers from the same problems that made it fail: faulty technology and a lackluster game catalogif one thinks that he intended to compete with titles such as Halo either call of duty. In fact, one of the few blockbusters that ever became available on Ouya was Minecraft and, like everything in the history of this console, it was thanks to the enthusiasm of its audience.

As the managers themselves stated on the Kickstarter page where it all started: “Mojang has promised that Minecraft (and their other games) will be on Ouya, but only if we prove that we can make a great product (that’s our job) and enough people want their games (that’s your job). Show them that you want to have Minecraft in oya!”. While the public did what was asked of them until they achieved that in 2015 there was a version of Minecraft for the console, the Ouya developers failed to do their part.

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