Eric Johnson

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Julie Uhrman: Ouya Reception “Great,” Pigeonholers Don’t Get It

ouyaTomorrow will mark three weeks since the Android-powered gaming console Ouya hit store shelves, though some Kickstarter backers have had their consoles a little longer than that. So, how’s it doing?

The early buzz online has been mixed, but Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman said in an interview that the console is doing “great.”

“Gamers are remembering what it’s like to just have fun without so many expectations,” Uhrman said of the free-to-try games and apps developed for the Ouya store.

Not everyone is sharing in those memories, though. Review aggregator Gdgt gave the $99 device a “below average” score of 62 (out of 100), advising buyers to “pass on it.” Gdgt users have been a bit kinder to the console than critics.

One of those critics, AllThingsD’s Lauren Goode, concluded that “until Ouya offers more both in terms of games and media, I think it will be a supplemental device for people who already own consoles. Right now I can’t see it having broad appeal.”

(For what it’s worth, even Uhrman said the Ouya “doesn’t replace what you have.” Instead, she said, it’s trying to offer a different twist on TV gaming.)

An essay posted last night on IGN, “In Defence of Ouya,” sheds a bit of light on that twist from the consumer perspective. In it, games writer Tim Biggs speculated that the label “Android console” skewed expectations of players, who assumed Ouya would offer only games already on their phones, which is not the case.

Instead, Biggs argued, Ouya’s value stems from its openness to all developers, many of whom don’t have the resources or clout to develop for other TV-connected devices. In her interview with AllThingsD, Uhrman agreed. Ouya titles are “fun, creative games that would never find a place on traditional consoles,” she said.

“With any new product, there’s an education. Someone wants to pigeonhole you in one way or another” based on what’s already on the market, Uhrman added.

Ouya is in many ways a harbinger of the near future for TV gaming. Potential competitors coming soon include the USB plug-in GameStick made by PlayJam, the GamePop and GamePop Mini made by BlueStacks, and the Unu, a “portable Android console” made by Snakebyte that will work both with and without a TV.

Once the “Android console” (or whatever term we wind up using) category opens up, then we’ll be able to see just how much pigeonholing is really going on.

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