Is the $99 Ouya console a non-starter?

What’s white and silver and generates more than US$5 million in just one week? Nothing. The $99 Ouya console might be the biggest thing on Kickstarter right now, but – and here’s the important bit – it doesn’t actually exist.

Oh, there’s a promo video on the campaign page that shows everything you’d expect to see for a project like this – technical design drawings, lots of computers, people sitting around at tables pointing significantly at bits of hardware and engaging in really meaningful discussions about it.

That’s almost everything, anyway, because although the voiceover claims there’s a working prototype, you don’t see it. Ever. For the moment (and maybe forever), the Ouya console is just a thing on paper with zero guarantee that it will ever be a thing in reality.

Made in China 3DS Max.

And even if it is, that could take a lot longer than you’re expecting. According to research by AppBloggers, only 25 percent of successfully funded projects ship on the original launch date, and only 75 percent by eight months after that. They also found that the bigger the project, the more likely it is to be delayed, and the longer it will be delayed.

And what about the other 25 percent of projects? They haven’t shipped yet, and they might never ship at all.

And then? Then Ouya has your money forever, and there’s nothing you can do to get it back. That’s the big difference between being an investor with equity and a Kickstarter “backer” with nothing to show for the money you’ve spent.

That’s worst-case scenario stuff, of course, so let’s assume that, hypothetically, the Ouya is a real thing you’ll actually be able to buy someday. Since the Kickstarter campaign launched, a lot of people have asked me what I think about it, so here’s what I think about it – the console is basically a tablet that hooks up to a TV so it’s not mobile, more or less precluding a tablet’s most useful feature.

All the hype about it being on TV and why that’s such a huge part of the whole Ouya thing? That’s just so you forget it’s a tablet you can’t take everywhere with you, although looking at a mobile game on a 40″ TV screen might be some reminder.

Its quotable marketing tag about free-to-play games means it’s probably going to be full of ad-supported rubbish and overpriced (and invariably indispensable) “extras”.

When you read the project’s finer print, though, it also turns out “free-to-play” isn’t strictly free-to-play as it’s generally understood to mean in this industry. “Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask you to subscribe,” is the official description, which also describes every single title already available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. This is different because it’s… wait no, it’s not.

What about the Ouya’s hardware being “built to be hacked”? I’m sure that instantly got a lot of cash from mom’s basement-based h4XX0rs who spend more time browsing 4Chan than actually writing code, but for anybody that actually wants to launch products and make money on this console (i.e. the people Ouya should be focussing on right now because without anything to play on it, the console is even more of a non-starter), I’m sure the prospect of other people helping themselves to your hard work with mod chips isn’t a very attractive one.

As for the $99 pricetag, I wouldn’t hold out on that either. Apparently nobody on the Ouya team has heard of the JooJoo. Not even the Gizmondo could sell for under $200, seven years ago. Aaaaaaaaand… the 3DO.

There might be an Ouya console in the shops one day. I’d put that at around 2015, with a $300 pricetag, and in the shops because nobody’s taking them home. In the meantime, I’ll save my Kickstarter money for a Quest for Glory reboot.

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Is the $99 Ouya console a non-starter?

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