Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Ouya, a $99 Android Game Console, Plays the Kickstarter Game

The creator of a new video game console is looking to change the way both players and developers interact with games on the TV — provided there’s room for another console on the market.

Created by game industry vet Julie Uhrman and designed by Yves Behar, the Ouya is an open-sourced console running its own user interface and game store on top of an Android OS. It’s built with a Tegra3 chipset for HD game play, and comes with a compatible, Ouya-branded controller.

Boxer8, the name of Uhrman’s start-up company, is launching a fundraising campaign today on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The Ouya expected to cost $99.

Unlike traditional game consoles, the Ouya won’t have an optical drive. It will be built with one gigabyte of RAM, 8GB of flash storage and an HDMI port for connecting directly to the TV, in addition to both wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. The controller is designed with two standard analog sticks, eight game-play buttons and a touchpad.

Uhrman’s end goal is to develop a system that not only provides easy access to games and uninterrupted connectivity for players, but is also an open platform for developers and hackers. Any publisher can develop a game through the console’s built-in software development kit, and developers choose the pricing model, as long as the initial download is free. Hacking the device won’t result in a voided warranty.

So game players will have access to online games, Android apps and games created specifically for Ouya, all as part of a free-to-play model, says Urhman, the former head of digital distribution at IGN. When asked about specific titles — for example, whether there will be titles to sate the appetites of hardcore gamers — Urhman said it was too early to discuss partnerships with publishers, given that the start-up is still in the fundraising stage.

You might think: Do we need another console? Some analysts have been predicting the slow phase-out of the game console for a while now, as more games shift to the cloud and become available online and on mobile devices. Services like OnLive, which allows consumers to stream games to their TV, or to a PC or Mac, have spurred further discussion about the demise of the console.

And this year at E3, electronics giant Samsung announced plans to build an online gaming service, powered by Gaikai and Nvidia, directly into its “smart” Internet-connected TVs.

On the flip side of that, many Internet-connected TVs don’t yet have the chipsets needed to smoothly run graphics-heavy games. As more games migrate to the cloud, gamers used to the processing power of a console may find themselves waiting for technology to catch up.

Ouya, in the meantime, is hoping to position itself as the go-to device for online gaming.

“Ultimately, we believe that the console is going to go away,” Uhrman said in an interview. “We think it’s all going to the TV. That’s why our focus is also on the platform and the controller, which, for the most part, has been an afterthought.”

Boxer8 is looking to raise $950,000 on Kickstarter to produce the initial batch of Ouyas. Current investors include former Digg CEO Jay Adelson, and Hosain Rahman, the founder of Jawbone.

Update: In just eight hours and with 29 days left to go in its campaign, the Ouya has surpassed its fund-raising goal of $950,000, with more than eight thousand backers throwing money behind the new game console.

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