According to a recent study, conducted by market research firm NPD Group, in the first quarter of 2012, consumers in the US alone spent $1.5billion on new physical video and PC game software, as well as $525million in the second-hand market. With numbers as high as these, it’s no wonder that the home videogame market has pretty much been sewn up by the big three mainstays of the industry; Microsoft (with its Xbox and improved 360-version), Sony (responsible for the Playstation One through to the current third iteration) and Nintendo, the most experienced member of the group whose success with its recent Wii console has lead to the imminent release of the new Wii-U.
Interestingly though, the NPD research showed that, for the same period, spending on purely digital format titles (be that full games, add-on content, subscriptions, mobile games or social network games) amounted to almost $1.4billion. Clearly digital content is an incredibly lucrative pie if you can manage to get a slice of it for yourself, and that’s where Ouya comes in.
OUYA is a start-up founded by Julie Uhrman, formally the head of IGN’s Digital Distribution Business, that seeks to take the gaming network that has boomed surrounding the success of smartphones and tablets, and apply it to the home market.
Roughly the size of a Rubik’s Cube and expected to sell for less than $100, the OUYA console will be built around the latest Android OS platform, allowing developers to easily create and sell their games and place the power back in the hands of independents.
OUYA will be based around a marketplace offering games that are free to try before purchase, eliminating the fear many consumers have of wasting their money by making uninformed decisions. Otherwise, the business looks set to embrace the economic model pioneered by mobile games – i.e. 70:30 percent split for developers and OUYA.
At the moment OUYA is an interesting prospect which holds quite a lot of promise, but will it work? After all, the concept has been attempted before and always resulted in relatively meagre takings compared to more established brands. Clearly building the new console around an existing infrastructure, Android OS, makes it far easier for developers to not only produce new games, but make available existing popular titles as well, creating a ready-made library at launch.
However, the main reason similar systems have failed in the past is having to go up against the combined force of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, a daunting prospect. With all three now embracing the possibilities digital gaming offers, a launch date of March 2013 may prove to be too late for the OUYA to enter the fray and unlike games; reality doesn’t offer many second chances.