Though the Ouya only recently released to the masses, it has experienced a roller coaster of press since its Kickstarter inception. It became the most funded gaming-related Kickstarter campaign, raising over 900% of its initial asking price, and generating a plethora of good press for being a cheap, open gaming console. When it released and everyone got their hands on it, they found the hardware to be subpar, the features of the platform to be lacking, and — most importantly for a gaming console — the games to be underwhelming. Now, by funding Kickstarter campaigns for Ouya-exclusive games, the company is attempting to right its most dire wrong of being a gaming console without many games worth playing.
Though it trumpets worthy ideals — a cheap, open, all-digital gaming experience — the Ouya has a number of serious faults. The controller feels more like a working replica of a gamepad than an actual, ergonomically designed controller. The console tends to experience severe connectivity issues when using WiFi. The firmware updates fail to install seemingly at random. The Tegra 3 — though it allowed the Ouya to be a cheap gaming console — is not exactly great for games, and for instance, games that have no trouble running on your phone will stutter on the Ouya. You can sideload a bunch of software onto the thing, such as Netflix, but have fun being forced to use the controller’s subpar touchpad to navigate it. However, everyone knows that if there are fun things to do with it, the gaming audience will overlook various flaws. The Ouya’s biggest problem, as we’ve said before, is that there just aren’t enough worthwhile games to play. Perhaps giving us a little faith in the future of the console, though, Ouya (the company) will be helping to fund Kickstarter campaigns for Ouya-exclusive games.
The effort, known as the Free the Games Fund, will take place for an entire year, between August 9, 2013 and August 10, 2014. If an Ouya-exclusive game meets its funding goals of at least $ 50,000, Ouya will match every dollar the campaign raises beyond that, up to $ 250,000. To spice things up even more, during that year-long funding effort, the campaign that raises the most money will receive a $ 100,000 bonus. If the Ouya-exclusive requirement seems like it’d drive potential developers from joining the fray, the games only have to be exclusive for six months, rather than forever. So, developers could theoretically use the Ouya campaign to raise funds to essentially beta-test a game for six months of Ouya exclusivity, then add in more features when that exclusivity window comes to an end. Ouya’s (arguably) best exclusive game at the moment, TowerFall, appears to be adhering to this six-month window model, and is supposedly adding in features for its post-exclusivity release.
It’s worth noting that Kickstarter isn’t involved with the Free the Games Fund. Essentially, the Ouya team is acting as regular Kickstarter patrons, part of the crowd — but a crowd member that can drop up to $ 250,000 on a game’s funding.
On a larger scale, we can view Nintendo’s Wii as having followed a similar trajectory. The hardware sold like crazy on sheer potential — just like the Ouya hardware did. Nintendo didn’t do much to bolster its console’s library, though, it just relied on other developers to realize the potential of the Wii and develop games for it. As we all know, this didn’t happen, and the Wii quickly fell into last place in terms of software sales. We won’t know how this Ouya campaign fares until it actually begins and we see some games meet their funding goals. Even if none of the games get funded and Ouya ends up not matching a single cent, however, the fact that the company is attempting to bolster its library by directly funding game development is promising for the future of the console. You shouldn’t write the Ouya off just yet.