Ouya has been touted recently as the Next Big Thing, with a Kickstarter campaign that has shattered records and currently clocks in at just over $5 million pledged. The platform is developed around the concept of being open and free, claiming itself to be hackable and flaunting a requirement that forces all games listed on the platform to have some form of free, playable content. Additionally, the system will be priced at $99 once manufactured and is shooting for a March 2013 release.
Despite how well the console idea is doing on Kickstarter right now, in an interview with Develop on Friday, Julie Uhrman stated the following:
“This is a really big undertaking and it’s going to be expensive.
“We’re looking for additional funds of money but more importantly we wanted to take it to Kickstarter regardless. Because Kickstarter will give us the support we need from the gamers and developers to get additional content on the devices and bring additional partners to us.
“It is unbelievable validation where gamers really demonstrate their enthusiasm with for what we’re doing with dollars, and those numbers demonstrate that there is a market.”
On Monday, our own writers also gave their thoughts on the Ouya, echoing each other on their skepticism at the ability for the console to deliver, especially at the given price point. However, the most important statement on the matter came from our Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Bowen, who called the Ouya out on a deceptive business model prior to Friday’s news:
“Personally, I think the backers on Kickstarter are being played in a sense because this is just initial funding, something they can take to venture capitalists for more funding. This is less a noble ideal than it is the first stage of a multi-faceted business pitch. It has to happen like this because there’s no way this is going to go anywhere otherwise.”
This thought seems to have been on the mind of the media, so much so that Uhrman has now turned around and retracted her statement, instead labeling it a misunderstanding.
“Let me be clear, OUYA is not seeking additional funding outside of Kickstarter.
“Our priority now is to continue to focus on building a great game console while engaging in our on-going Kickstarter campaign.
“Our intent in going to Kickstarter was to raise money that would take us from functional prototype to product on the market.
With respect to our funding, we have been candid in disclosing an early round raised through friends and family that included backing from investors like Digg founder Jay Adelson, Flixster founder Joe Greenstein, and Jawbone founder Hosain Rahman.
We do not intend to engage in any conversations related to funding while we are on Kickstarter. And, it’s not like we are going to start speed dialling VCs as soon as the Kickstarter campaign ends.
Once our Kickstarter campaign closes funding our priority will be getting OUYA to market, and delivering the best game experience possible. Fundraising will not be top of the list.”
Analysis: I can’t get over how ironic this is. First of all, many, including myself, have said they did not make enough money to pull off what they wanted to do with the Ouya. There was no way they could financially succeed with it, and Urhman made that clear when she talked to Develop. She’s right—it will be expensive. To mass produce the Ouya and bring it to market is a huge financial burden; the amount of money that has been brought in with Kickstarter in addition to the undisclosed funds provided by their initial founders, friends, and family will simply not do.
But the biggest irony is in the statement made to retract the previous one:
Urhman calls the previous statement a misunderstanding, saying, “Let me be clear, OUYA is not seeking additional funding outside of Kickstarter” while simultaneously implying that they will do so once the Kickstarter campaign has ended. Her clarification misses the point entirely, not grasping that people are upset because they were duped into thinking the kickstart campaign was the end-all be-all finale before the Ouya goes into production, when in fact the Ouya will inevitably turn to investors to accomplish that goal. This upsets the masses because they know that investors are the very same reasons that much of the gaming industry is failing and metaphorically defecates upon the consumer on a consistent basis.
This is a big issue because the consumer now feels like the developers of the Ouya were being underhanded. By not disclosing that this was, in fact, a viral marketing campaign for a much larger business plan that would simultaneously bring in cash flow, they have lost the trust of many people. The point is a bit moot by now, as Kickstarter does not refund donated money, but it will probably bring the influx of cash to their campaign to a crawl and hurt their public relations in the future.