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Editorial: A Month with the Ouya - Is It An Indie Success or Failure?


Marcus Estrada

If you“ve managed to never hear about the Ouya before today then you“re one of the few. The Ouya is an independent video game console which saw an incredible Kickstarter campaign last year. Raising over 8 million dollars, the project was obviously very interesting to many.

 

Although some backers, reviewers, and developers got the system early, it only officially launched on June 25th. Now that the system has been out for a month the developers have started to report on game sales.

 

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One of the most highly-touted features of the Ouya is that every game on the marketplace has to have a free option available. Whether that is a free game with in-game purchases or just a demo is up to the developer. They can do anything as long as there is some free download available alongside a paid version (if there is even a paid version at all). As anyone can develop and self-publish their own game onto the market, there are a great deal of differing implementations of this rule.

 

Things are off to a rocky start. CEO Julie Uhrman recently reported that 27% of Ouya owners have made a purchase on their system. Of the many thousands of systems shipped to backers as well as retail/Amazon purchases that“s not a huge amount. Why buy when you can simply play the free games or too friendly free mode options? Obviously the system is just finding its feet but apparently the audience is not particularly fond of spending more on the device.

 

Thinking about it, it really makes sense that the purchase amount is so low. After all, what was the most touted feature of the Ouya? Sure, it was neat to see the system as being “open” to all developers, but it was also $99. Thrifty gamers are probably not keen on snapping up a lot of games on the system. Of course, one could also consider the possibility that the biggest unspoken selling point about the system was being able to easily run Android-based classic console emulators on TV.

 

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But enough with considering the mindset of the Ouya populous. Let“s take a look at the numbers which many indie developers have been kind enough to make public! Unfortunately, every developer is reporting their statistics in different ways.That means some share all the interesting info from free versus paid downloads as well as the money they“ve made off them. Others simply report the purchases and how much they“ve earned the company. Well, regardless, we“ll try and make the best of stats from a handful of very, very small to the more popular games on Ouya.

 

First, let“s look at the most successful games currently. They are TowerFall and Hidden in Plain Sight. TowerFall, while unwilling to give full stats, have sold their $14.99 game 2,000 times for $29,100. This cost is my estimate which factors in the 30% fee that Ouya docks on each sale. As for Hidden in Plain Sight, they have seen the highest ratio of free to paid downloads. Of 5,000 downloads, 1,900 have chosen to purchase the game. With a 38% turnover rate, no other game (that detailed their statistics) can even come close. These purchases have generated $4,381 for developer Adam Spragg.

 

Of course, both of these games are vast exceptions to the rule. It appears that most games are seeing much more modest sales, with some seeing very poor results. So far it appears that Bombball is in the lowest position according to a postmortem by E McNeill on Indie Games. The game has been downloaded a massive 11,000 times but that has translated to only 77 sales. That“s a 0.7% purchase rate and the lowest so far reported.

 

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As a whole, if you disregard Hidden in Plain Sight“s massive rates, the percentage of free to paid downloads averages out at 2.53%. Considering the wealth of Ouya owners out there and the fact that they are definitely downloading games... well, this is pretty unfortunate. It is quickly becoming apparent that the Ouya“s golden rule of a free download is backfiring on developers. Will Julie Uhrman and co work to solve this issue or do they care? After all, Ouya gets back 30% on all purchases.

 

What seems likely is that developers themselves will figure out the best ways to work within the confines of a free demo while still offering incentive to purchase their game. It seems incredibly weird, but this supposedly “indie friendly” console“s effect is that it is teaching independent developers how to efficiently monetize their properties. Ignoring TowerFall“s great, but average-skewing success, the average amount generated by developers is $2,137. Again, this is only the start of Ouya“s official lifespan.

 

Thanks to charts posted by some of the developers, which were then organized cleanly by IndieStatik, we can already see a trend in downloads/purchases. They were all very low before official launch and once launch hit the downloads skyrocketed. However, we already see a constant trend in the data presented which shows a steep decline in sales shortly after launch. Is the Ouya already dead in the water so shortly after launch? We will continue to watch Ouya developer stats to see if a resurgence is just around the corner or if this is one of the quickest console failures in modern gaming history.

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