Ouya Expands, Nobody Cares

What’s the least popular console this generation? You’re probably thinking the Wii U is the correct answer, and you’d be wise to make that assumption. You’d also be wrong. The Wii U, while entirely unpopular and in the homes of fewer people than the beloved Dreamcast, is far from the bottom of the barrel. There’s something out there with an even measlier install base, worse connectivity, and significantly less power. If you guessed playing outside, you’d be right. But also the Ouya.

The Ouya, also known around the gaming-sphere as “the budget console,” “the Big Lots console,” and “oh, that thing still exists?” is by far the least popular gaming device this generation. The folks behind the console are less than concerned, naturally, as their Kickstarter did surpass the 8 million mark — essentially paying for itself. Additional profits sure would be nice though, huh? After all, that’s the point of releasing anything in this industry: make enough money to one day release something else.

And with that notion, we have what I like to call “the Ouya expansion plan 9000.” The number 9000 representing, of course, the sheer power behind such a movement. Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman told The A List Daily that we’d likely be seeing the Ouya on other people’s devices — a sure sign of success for any company.

“We started with a $99 box, but we always wanted to create a console platform that can live on other people’s devices — we just knew it was going to take us a little bit of time to get it ready. Now we think the software is good enough, it’s ready to be embedded in other people’s devices.”

The problem isn’t that the Ouya is expanding — that would be ludicrous. The problem is that nobody cares that it’s expanding, nor that it exists. The Ouya isn’t expensive — for that matter, there’s a stack of them going for $80 a piece at my local Target, and included is a $5 Target gift card to sweeten the pot. That same stack has remained twenty consoles high through my past ten visits, however. Had I not “accidentally” knocked it over while searching for a reason to give a crap it would have likely continued to gather dust for years to come.

So what is it? Why can’t the Ouya gain any traction? It’s not the price, as in the Xbox One’s case, or the availability as with the PlayStation 4. Hell, it’s not even the lack of games, since the Ouya does, believe it or not, have a library of over 700 titles available. There’s also the excellent entry price, and the fact that it’s ridiculously portable. The question remains: why the hell isn’t this thing selling? Well, mobile phones, that’s why.

I’m assuming you all just collectively asked “what do you mean, Lee?” Good question! This is what I mean: Ouya is an Android console. Android is a system that exists on a massive number of smartphones across the world. With a few exceptions, nearly every game available on the Ouya is available elsewhere in some shape or form, without the need for any additional purchases. Yes, the Ouya allows for testing every game in its app store, but that’s hardly incentive enough to buy into something that, essentially, exists in a market already owned by Google.

The Ouya doesn’t need a better price, or even better games. It needs original games; console selling games; any games that aren’t immediately available elsewhere. And that’s really why this expansion is a good idea — at least on paper. It’s risky, and it’s not likely to help sell additional consoles, or even boost the company’s notoriety beyond that of the Phantom’s, but it’s a start.

The strategic expansion will prove difficult in an over-saturated market, but there is a market for an open-platform gaming device. Uhrman does admit that the Ouya doesn’t yet have a “hit” game, but that several interesting titles are on the way. When I saw Chess 2 listed, the remainder of the list did lose most of its credibility, but who knows? Maybe there’s a developer out there that doesn’t like making money. Only time will tell whether the Ouya can finally make its mark. Perhaps 2014 is year of the Ouya — though I doubt it.

Those interested in emulation-based gaming, and Android titles on the big screen without any outside peripherals, can pick up an Ouya from the official site for $99, or my local Target for $80. Of course, your local Target may very well have a similar deal that’ll save you quite a bit in traveling fees.