Since the OUYA console debuted on Kickstarter it has gotten a huge amount of attention. Both positive and negative comments have been spread about the device which has yet to start production and as it stands nobody knows how things will play out. Regardless, the OUYA will certainly be an interesting part of gaming's history in the future. So, let's just ignore the logistics of when and how the system will launch and instead assume that everything goes according to plan.
Let's say that in March 2013 the console is just rolling out of factories and heading into the homes of some 80,000 people who paid to receive the system on Kickstarter. What then? Who will this device appeal to once it's available and for sale?
There's one audience that those writing about are mostly ignoring. Instead of it, they speak of how the device is basically a tablet and that it will be unable to run games comparable to a PS3 or 360. Sure, that's true, but these systems didn't come out costing around $100 either. So, who might this appeal to? The casual market, of course!
No doubt there are many folks out in the world who love those games they play on their smart devices. Sure, they're not interested in playing the next Bioshock but they enjoy spending some downtime with Angry Birds. If someone were to approach them with a way to play their portable games on their living room TV they might just jump for it. Some would no doubt have the same reaction as more core gamers about not wanting to play the games like that, but others might be quite pleased. Smartphone screens are pretty small and cramped, so why not have some fun with a "bigger" version of the games?
The cost seems low enough to interest this group of consumers at least a little bit. However, they would probably ahve little to no knowledge about the whole "point" of the OUYA at all. That the system is a devkit or is made to push indie titles would fall on deaf ears. However, if the OUYA could harness the casual smartphone/tablet gaming market they probably wouldn't care much that their ideas go completely ignored by this audience. The question is, would this audience even be aware of the system? How would the OUYA team work to market to those who are wholly unaware of Kickstarter?
Tech Savvy Collectors
You probably know someone who fits into this category or maybe you are this person. You know the type, they like to have their hands on every new piece of technology as soon as it's available. Anyone who falls into this category probably looks at the OUYA with at least a bit of excitement. Although it's relatively easy to modify game consoles, smart TVs, and many other devices to bend to your will, this one at least touts that as an expressly allowed feature.
The simple fact that a device announces it is friendly to the hacking community is mostly unheard of in consumer tech. Companies tend to do their hardest to keep it at bay. Since the OUYA is different it seems to get a lot of interest from the tech-obssessed crowd. Even if they don't care about indie development they care about being able to put things like emulators onto it or maybe hacking it into a simple media server. Why not? If there's one thing this group of people can't get enough of it's having loads of devices that have many of the same features. There's nothing wrong with it either, just as long as you have the money for it!
Gamers Hoping It'll Make a Splash
So many people are wound up by the OUYA. Although indie developers can easily publish their own games on the PC in many ways, or even get onto consoles with marketplaces like Xbox Live Indie Games, it still feels like a lot of games can't get visibility. It seems to be because of this that so many are funding this system. With the freedom for everyone to create it only means more and more games for the owner. The hope definitely seems to be that really great games will arrive and show everyone that you don't need a massive budget to make something special.
Strangely, it seems that many people in this group are both excited by the prospect of new indie titles but also sending a different message to the OUYA developers. What do I mean? Well, there was recently a survey put to those interested in the system about what games they wanted to see most. What games ended up being the top dogs? Oh, titles like Minecraft, Torchlight, Limbo, and others. Sure, these games are indie titles but they are massive indie darlings. They are not the small games that desperately seek attention. Basically every title on the list (that was an indie game) is one that has had critical acclaim and success. Many gamers want an OUYA but are, like the casual audience, are not quite wanting it for the reasons that the development team hoped they would want it.
Of course small developers are part of the audience. If there's one person the OUYA is definitely marketed towards it is all these people. While a two person group probably wouldn't be able to buy some massively expensive development kit for an upcoming system, they would probably be able to pick up one of these. The appeal to make development more open is very appreciated, especially if developers know that there is already a built-in audience. The audience is of course the tons of people who have contributed to the Kickstarter. Sure, it's not as much of an audience as the PC world, but in a way that might be better. With a smaller install base there will be less content and it will all be right there for you to access, instead of on some random homepage somewhere.
The appeal is already causing reactions. So far, over 500 developer special rewards have been pledged to. Interest is certainly there and so hopefully it will remain through development and eventual production of OUYA. While it is easy to imagine possible issues with a fully open game marketplace, there is still something to be said for it even being allowed in this gaming age. The appeal is strong and expect to see a few "bigger" indie names showing up if the device does well.
At the end of the day it's impossible to predict who will be snapping up OUYA units but we already have hints. Some gamers are going gaga for the device while others are keeping it at arms length. Some developers have embraced it, such as Robotoki, but others are still not sure what to think.
What do you think? Who will be around to welcome the OUYA once it is finally out in the world?