Jul 24 2012

Ouya & The Future Of Tech Crowdfunding


Ouya is a new open source video game console that runs on the Android operating system. It’s crowdfunded by Kickstarter. The console features a Tegra 3 CPU, 8GB of storage, 1 GB RAM, USB 2.0, an SD card slot, HDMI connection, and WiFi and Bluetooth support. The controller features a touchpad. The console will be about the size of a Rubik’s cube.

Ouya is intentionally designed with some distinct differences from traditional game systems. Ouya is the only commercial gaming console that actually encourages gamers to hack their systems, without voiding the official warranty.

Designed to support developers with open source hardware and software, a pre-rooted version of the console is available to developers. Furthermore, games are required to have a free-to-play or trial game demo feature, meaning that users will be able to try out every single game on the Ouya system for free.

All of these features are at odds with the goals and designs of the traditional corporate video game industry. The popularity of the Ouya project is certainly in part due to the radical and unique qualities of the console. In an era of gaming when DRM is becoming increasing draconian, as we’ve seen in Blizzard’s Diablo 3 and Ubisoft’s Heroes of Might and Magic VI , the Ouya feels like a breath of fresh air.

With 14 days left to go, Ouya has raised over $5 million dollars, making the project the second most successful Kickstarter thus far, behind the Pebble E-Paper Watch, a digital watch that interfaces with your smart phone, which raised $10 million. Ouya is part of an elite group of about 30 projects to have raised over $500,000 dollars on Kickstarter. While this appears to be a major success for independent technology companies and indie video gaming in general, some industry observers are skeptical about the realities of crowdfunding, such as Sascha Segan, who’s article “Does Ouya Mark a Kickstarter Tech Bubble?” asks questions about how many Kickstarter projects actually deliver on their lofty promises.

So far, no other Kickstarter video game project has required such a massive shipment of product as the Ouya, with more than 40,000 backers most of whom are receiving a game console. Of the 30 Kickstarter projects that have raised more than $500,000 dollars, what Segan calls “mega-projects,” he notes that only 6 out of those 30 — or 20% — had delivered products by last week . Some funded projects have been years in development without much tangible result. Projects like the Ouya game console and Pebble Smart Watch will show whether or not crowd sourcing can be a viable platform for large scale tech development.