Yes, I bought a Kickstarter console called Ouya. Only, I’m thinking about changing it’s name to Phantom. Not only because it supposedly shipped a week ago and there’s still no tracking information available for it, but because those that have gotten one seem to think there’s not much there, even in the flesh.
My love affair started last July when I came across this lovely little diddy on an electronics webpage that extolled the virtues of mobile gaming on one’s television, or made fun of it, I can’t remember which. In any case, I clicked the link to the Kickstarter page and fell in love with the sales pitch of an “open” console that was cheap, accessible, and would break the back of the console game industry’s $60 pricepoint. See, I hate the game industry. They charge way too much for their unfinished drivel, usually taking up mega space on my hard drive for limitless patches, fixes, and downloadable content milking me out of more $10 increments in addition to the initial cost of the game.
I hate the fact that a new console game can cost $50 million to produce and have an advertising, or promotional, budget of $100 million. In the age of the internet and the fact that almost everyone in the videogaming demographic has a device in their back pocket that is an instant portal to video, text, and web content, I find it unconscionable that 2/3 of a games cost should be it’s advertisement. Social networking alone should be able to account for 90% of the word-of-mouth necessary for a console game launch, and not wasted on fancy junkets to localized trade shows. It’s the 21st century, for god’s sake. I refuse to pay for some executives kobe beef dinner and his pansy-ass cocktails in Vegas every year. The entire relationship of media to product has been turned on it’s head in the last 15 years, and there’s no justification for an overhead of twice the budget to make the actual game be spent on product booths, boobs, and bruhahas for self-annointed media elites in the gaming industry. Why should we be paying for this?
Ouya was the answer for me. The gaming industry has gotten too big for it’s britches. Games used to be made in some geekboy’s basement, stuffed into a sandwich bag with a dot-matrix printed instruction manual and delivered, by hand, to the local computer store. For a couple of bucks, you could play a great adventure or arcade title for games with practically no overhead. Ouya seemed to be taking this throwback route seriously- updating it for the 21st century and promising to put the status-quo to shame. Taking a cue from the mobile marketplace of cheaper games, incremental fees, and free-to-play/try to my television set was exactly what I was looking for. I know, some will say that games have gotten so big and complicated, it takes hundreds of people and $100 million just to get them right. I say that’s a big load of baloney. Computers were supposed to make things easier, building on the tools previously built, one could make more sophisticated tools to make a jobs easier.
I maintain a network of PC computers in my home for the pleasure of my family. I stream content from a main media PC and have done my best to set it up to look like my cellphone. Oversized icons, evenly spaced, in an organized fashion on the screen so that anyone who accesses it can immediately find what they need when using the main computer. The whole time I was setting up this PC I kept thinking, “why can’t I just have an android based PC that already looks like what I want?” Ouya was my answer. Ouya can be my media center and my game center. Sold.
When I bought my Ouya, I looked past the overt, faux friendliness of Julie Uhrman. She’s just a salesperson and I tend to look past the flowery prattle that salespeople spew in order to get me to buy something. All I kept hearing was “open console” , and “we don’t care what you do with it”, and “we’ll give you the tools to root it.” Cool, I thought, I can do what I want with it, and because it’s an open platform, I can run my android software on it too. Only I was thinking too fast for my own good. I read reviews and speculation and from those who had played with the prototypes and they all thought the same thing about this open android platform – you’ll be able to run your android games on it. Only to find out after they’d charged my $100 that, no, you won’t be playing any Android games, only Ouya. You won’t have the option to have the Android Play store, only Ouya. You ‘ll be able to root your device, but once you do, we won’t penalize you, but you’ll never be able to be part of Ouya again. That’s right, they’ll deny you access to the Ouya store if you root your “open” console. Even if I want to pay for their trickle of games and do my own thing, I won’t be able to. Go ahead, read the Kickstarter page : http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ouya/ouya-a-new-kind-of-video-game-console? It mentions none of the restrictions they added later, probably as a result of getting millions of more investment dollars from private capitalists.
So now I wait for the Phantom to arrive and see what I’ll be able to do with it. Will it replace my media PC? Probably not. Will it replace my game consoles? I doubt it – even with the “Stradivarius of controllers”. Will it satisfy my curiosity of how android games will look on my 50″ plasma? Unfortunately not, because I’ll have to buy them all over again through the Ouya store – if they’re ever going to be available- and at what price point? That remains unanswered as well. All I can do now is wait. Wait for another month to pass before it arrives on my doorstep, if it ever does at all. Oh, end of March, we hardly knew ye.