While there have been rumblings of “download-only” video game consoles on the horizon, this alleged future of video games now has nearly $8.6 million to work with following the second most-successful Kickstarter campaign ever.
While Gaikai and OnLive have toyed with the concept with a PC mindset, the Ouya console (pronounced “Ooh-yuh”) looks to tap the Android format with an aim to deliver low-cost, yet high-potential gaming. Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman worked with a team to piece together a prototype and turned to the Kickstarter crowdfunding site in July to guage consumer interest in the project.
Crowdfunding is a recent funding trend, bucking private investors and shareholders in exchange for monetary donations made by the casual public. Kickstarter.com has emerged as the trend leader for crowdfunding, allowing anyone to advertise for funding for creative projects including films, music, print media, video games and more.
The site has the project creator set a monetary goal, which the project then has 45 days to meet. If the project meets its goal, people can continue to fund the project beyond that mark and after 45 days has elapsed, the creator is given the money. However, if the project fails to meet its goal, all money pledged is refunded to the donors.
In exchange for the public pledges, backers are provided with perks in correlation with the amount of money provided. In the case of the Ouya, those pledging at least $99 will receive a first-run Ouya, currently slated to be shipped to backers in March. Through pledges recorded on Ouya’s Kickstarter page, the company will need to produce nearly 60,000 consoles to provide to its campaign backers alone. The company is still taking pre-orders for the console on its site and it plans to make the unit available at retail as well.
While Kickstarter has backed video game projects since its formation in 2008, the format didn’t explode on the site until February. Previously, the crowd funding method was used by independent game developers looking to make projects become a reality, but earlier in the year, Double Fine Productions’ Tim Schaffer (known for cult hits such as “Grim Fandango” and “Psychonauts”) and 2 Player Productions took to the format to take a risk on a new point-and-click adventure game.
After raking in more than $3.3 million for the effort, developers of certified classics began taking independent ideas to the format and video game crowdfunding surged. The “Double Fine Adventure” project remains the third-highest funded project on Kickstarter, ranking above video game projects “Wasteland 2” and “Shadownrun Returns,” which are the fourth- and fifth-highest projects.
The only Kickstarter campaign to ever eclipse the Ouya was the Pebble, a customizable digital watch compatible with apps to customize the watchface, display sports and fitness apps and more. The Pebble campaign raised nearly $10.3 million, which was provided to the company in May.
For the Ouya, the $99 pledge amount is a “pre-order” of the system, a measure accurate to Ouya’s goal of judging public interest in the system since the amount matches the suggested retail value of the console. The “break-even” point makes for a comfortable perk to provide to project backers, as many recent Kickstarter projects have fallen into the trap of “overperking.” While offering a lot of content in exchange for a pledge makes the project look attractive, many recent project creators have run into the problem of not factoring in shipping costs of physical items and other unforeseen costs that actually cost the creator more money to satisfy.
The Ouya campaign also shows how the Kickstarter format can garner media attention. While the unique specifications of the console is news to technology buffs, the business end of the campaign picked up attention from The New York Times, BusinessWeek and Time. Such attention has assisted other projects as well. Recently, Adam “Keits” Heart, founder of fighting game enthusiast site Shoryuken.com, used media exposure to see his parody game, “Divekick,” picked up by a video game publisher just before his Kickstarter campaign finished its 45 days. Since the game would be funded by a private company, Heart and developer One True Game refunded the money of all backers.
With the Ouya console being produced to be very accessible to developers and hackers, the open marketplace, similar to an Android marketplace on a mobile phone or tablet, will deliver a majority of the console’s content. While gamers will have to wait until March to wrap their hands around the controller, Kickstarter backers who are developers pledging at least $699, will be able to dig into the system by the end of the year.
With so much attention now placed on the system, will the Ouya be able to meet its expectations? Only time, and feedback from gamers, will tell.