The $99 game console Ouya has finished its Kickstarter fundraising drive with more than $8.5 million in the bank, and its creators are now working toward a March 2013 launch for those who backed the project.
As I wrote last month, Ouya should be a wake-up call for the video games industry. By keeping hardware costs low and opening game development to anyone, Ouya will mimic the app store model that made phone and tablet gaming so popular. Unlike Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, Ouya isn’t entrenched in the business of $60 retail discs, so it’s in a better position to disrupt the market.
That’s not to say Ouya will necessarily be a major disruption. There are still a lot of details that haven’t been announced, and factors that have yet to be determined. In light of that, here’s a rundown of what we know and don’t know about Ouya so far:
We Know the Price and Estimated Release Date
For anyone who didn’t back Ouya on Kickstarter, the console is available for pre-order with an expected April 2013 release date. The console and one controller costs $99, though you can also get a second controller for $30 more, or three additional controllers for $90 more. Shipping costs an extra $10 within the United States, or $20 for international orders.
We Kind of Know What the Controller Looks Like
So far, Ouya has only shown a mock-up of its controller, which at least shows that it’ll resemble traditional game controllers. The Ouya controller will have buttons, triggers, analog sticks, a directional pad and a touchpad. The big unknown is whether the finished product will look anything like the pictures.
We Know a Little About Developer Support
Ouya hasn’t announced a games lineup yet, but some developers have either announced games on their own or pledged some kind of support. Other developers, such as Minecraft creator Mojang, say they’re interested, but haven’t made firm commitments.
Here are the games that have already been announced: Shadowrun Online, Final Fantasy III, Yummy Circus, Tropical Treasures 2 Deluxe, Super Retro Squad, Invaders Pretty Sure From Space Round 2, Gunblitz, Saturday Morning RPG and a prequel to the zombie apocalypse game Human Element. The publisher of Hawken supports Ouya but hasn’t announced any games. Namco Bandai says it’s in talks to bring games to Ouya, but also hasn’t given specifics.
Meanwhile, OnLive has pledged support, so users will be able to stream high-end PC games to the console.
We Know a Little About the Multimedia Situation
Although Ouya was announced as a games machine, the console will support media players from XBMC and Plex, allowing users to stream content from other networked devices. Vevo is also committed for streaming music videos, and TwitchTV for streaming eSports. Still missing, however, are streaming TV and movie services such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix, and music services such as Spotify and Pandora.
We Have No Idea About Content Curation
The details on Ouya’s user interface are still unknown, but one thing I’m really curious about is how Ouya will organize and promote good content. Will there be a user review system to separate good from bad? Can Ouya protect against cheap knock-offs or other low-grade content? I’m all in favor of an open development platform, but it raises curation issues that Ouya has yet to address.