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Is Ouya A Gaming Middle Ground
With all this hype and attention focused on the Ouya project, I see a larger series of questions raised besides “can they deliver?”. Yes, many gamers would love to see not only games but the platforms they operate on to be cheaper. We want to be able to experience more for less. We also, in general, want developers to have the freedom to explore their creativity and provide us with new content. But ultimately, how much change do we really want?
Before I really begin, feel free to listen to recent podcast episodes where the pros & cons of the Ouya project are discussed. Most notably on episodes 349 with Ouya founder Julie Uhrman and 351 with journalist Ben Kuchera.
Now, the phrase listed on the Ouya KickStarter page is “Cracking open the last closed platform: the TV.” The page later goes on to describe an emphasis on “innovation, experimentation, and creativity to the big screen. Let’s make the games less expensive to make, and less expensive to buy.”
Right now, the gaming industry is split into a gigantic mobile and social category while maintaining a generally smaller yet dedicated audience on the 4 major platforms. Options like OnLive and Ouya seem to be trying to fill the middle ground. Like they’re trying to make a little more than the mobile gaming people, but don’t want the full on costs of the major platform competitors.
My question is: does this grey area between the socialite (dare I say “casual”) gamers and the dedicated gamers really need filling?
Most gamers seem to sit pretty comfortably in their current locations. Sure, dedicated gamers like you and me are willing to spend a little extra money picking up more social titles like Angry Birds. But we’ve shown no real inclination to step away from our consoles for something else. (Except maybe Minecraft?) Likewise, social and “casual” gaming is young. Too young to see if it actually translates to individuals investing more time and money to graduate into handhelds like a Vita or 3DS or even further into console platforms.
So do we really want this change? Items like Ouya and OnLive seem to offer relatively middle ground hardware and cloud storage. A little better than what your mobile devices can do, but not really close to what current gen platforms offer.
There’s a lot of reference to things like Android games, but then they reference more complex games found traditionally on consoles (like Darksiders II in the Ouya-OnLive partnership announcement). I tend to think of it like games on my Xbox versus Wii. Why buy a game on the Wii if I can get it for the Xbox and enjoy a greater experience?
I feel like this same mentality applies to the gap that the creators feel products like Ouya and OnLive will fill. However, I think that middle ground isn’t a growing market. We’re too settled into the spots that we choose – social gamers in their social circle and dedicated gamers in their dedicated circle.
Sure, a lot of us find the ideas of these products nifty and to an extent innovative, but we’ve yet to see one really take off. Based on my impression from others, it’s a short distraction for amusement before we return to our regular gaming habits. Not a staying component that will have more than a small niche following.
We complain about prices and want to see lower ones. But are we willing to give up (at this point at least) some of the standards of what a gaming device/console should be for something in this middle ground? Is that the change we’re looking for? Personally, I think not. In theory, the advances of technology should show in a lower cost for older products. However, the moment they upgrade (re: Xbox 720 & PS4), the costs ‘go up’ again.
I’m hoping the next generation of consoles won’t see any real increase in price (of software), but I think we’ve settled into a system that mixes digital distribution with hard copies in a steady fashion. Though I would like to see digital titles price drop a few dollars since we’re not required to pay for packing and physical distribution.
From what I’ve seen and discussed, these devices and services seem more like temporary fads. People will jump into it and later play every once in a while, but I don’t really see them grabbing a larger than niche portion of the market. What do you think? Ideas like Ouya don’t really cost you much, supposedly $99 right now, so do you see it as a temporary distraction or a serious investment in gaming?