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Summary:

The Ouya is out today, and many people have clamored to snap one up. But the problems with the system could damage the reputation of the Android indie console industry.

Ouya

After a year of anticipation (and a few delays), the $99 Ouya is finally available at retail outlets. Even better, the Kickstarter-backed indie console has already sold out online on both Amazon and GameStop, a sign that there’s demand for a cheap and flexible Android-backed gaming system.

The Ouya is a trailblazer, paving the way for the Nvidia Shield, the GameStick and even the portable VR system Oculus Rift. But there have been plenty of rough patches along the way. And if they’re not remedied, then the Android console trend could be tarnished with an untrustworthy reputation.

The first and perhaps most detrimental sin Ouya has committed since moving into production is that it’s done a great job of alienating its core fanbase — the “early backers.” Up until today, Ouya has maintained that all consoles awarded for backing the project initially on Kickstarter were shipped out in May, but plenty of early backers continued to complain about not receiving their consoles. The day before release date of the console, as the Ouya rolled out physically in stores, CEO Julie Uhrman sent a letter to backers about the issue:

Over the past few months, we encountered and conquered many challenges spanning both hardware and software in order to bring the best product we could to market. We have tried to make sure that the challenges we faced did not impact our early supporters, but unfortunately we came up short.

As a result of this misstep, some early (and mostly international) backers will have to wait another 15 to 17 days before receiving their consoles. The whole tangle has left a bitter taste in the mouths of what was expected to be the Ouya’s core fanbase, following the company’s decision to put retailers ahead of the people.

The second problem with the Ouya is the perceived lack of polish and features from both the hardware and software perspective. When the original review consoles went to journalists in March, first impressions were tepid at best: the hardware felt chintzy, the software was lacking, and the UI was confusing. Ouya took the criticism, raised another round of funding, delayed the first shipment, and spent time retooling the console.

While the new Ouya console has made strides in the wake of its lackluster development model — including a redesigned controller and updated firmware to address the UI hiccups — it’s far from perfect. Although games are free to play, the console requires credit card information to even access any kind of software. Worse, there really isn’t much software at all, at a paltry 175 games, and what’s available is not great: A quick scan of the top-rated games from Ouya show a handful of emulators, but original titles lack any flash (or reputation) to bring gamers to the device.

All in all, things aren’t expected to be perfect with an independent console system — especially the first one for a company. However, the glaring problems with the Ouya could place a black mark on all Android consoles as a whole, and that’s a shame.

Gamers are a fickle and stubborn bunch, and even major players like Microsoft are oftentimes forced to walk back unfavorable situations to something more palatable for the community. At this point, loyal gamers feel like they’ve been duped, cheated, and lied to, so Ouya needs to work double-time over the next six months to bring the console up to par.

A string of great games that don’t require emulators or tricky hacking to run would be a great first step, as would an extra gift to early backers for the delay in execution. With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One coming down the pike, this is Ouya’s only shot to win back the favor it has unceremoniously lost.

  1. “Although games are free to play, the console requires credit card information to even access any kind of software.”

    Wrong. I received mine last week and downloaded and played over a dozen games before Bombsquad convinced me to drop some coin.

    As to the rest, there are some legit callouts, but as someone who doesn’t own a PS3 or Xbox (products that initially cost hundreds of dollars and were sold at a loss I might add), I find the product stable, more than usable, and infinitely more connected than my Wii.

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  2. Another tech journalist writing posts based on outdated info. Granted things are moving fast with the Ouya but really, do a fact check before posting.

    Also really? “A paltry 178 games.” 178 is paltry? And btw it’s about 10 more than there were yesterday.

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    1. Lauren Hockenson Tuesday, June 25, 2013

      Pete,

      Thanks for your comment, but when Ouya has the ability to procure hundreds of already made titles from the Android ecosystem and has been in development for nearly a year, 178 games looks incredibly anemic.

      Not to mention that none of those games are even close to even AA titles or recognizable indies. When your top downloaded game is a port of a nearly 20-year-old SNES title, then you have a problem.

      Ouya hasn’t delivered flash on its software, leading many to side-load Borderlands 2 and call it a day. A console can’t survive like that.

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      1. The PS3 had around 14 launch titles when it came out. Probably was in development for more than a year. So, 175 seems like a lot to me. Plus the point of indie games is that no one has heard of them right? I have my Kickstarter Ouya and I’m loving it. XBMC works great and there are some slick indie games on it. The hardware is also very well done.

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  3. I ordered one on Amazon about two months ago. After reading comments from literally hundred of backers who got screwed and are still waiting today, I cancelled my order. If you treat early adopters this poorly, it doesn’t bode well.

    I’m going to sit back and watch for a couple more months and see how it goes. I really like the idea of an open console, but so far the Ouya implementation leaves something to be desired.

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  4. Got mine today and it would not let me pass the third screen of the wizard without putting in CC info. Horrible awful. I’m not even interested any more.

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