Xbox co-creator speaks about Ouya project

Once the head of game publishing at Microsoft, Ed Fries certainly knows the importance of a strong ecosystem when launching a new console. The new crowd-funded (via Kickstarter) console, named Ouya, is set to launch with an Android-based operating system – open to any publisher, with the rule that every game must have a free portion (that may include a demo or a free-to-play model).

In a new interview with Game Informer, Ed Fries discusses the console that he’s advising on (due to his industry contacts), and talks a little about how it might be set to change the industry.

The Ouya console itself is a low-risk concept, according to Fries, as it wouldn’t have had success on Kickstarter had it not been something people were interested in. Although, he doesn’t discuss what the plan B was if the console didn’t get the funds it needed on Kickstarter. Would they have revised based on feedback, or would they have pulled the plug?

Whilst Ouya is based on Android, a platform that’s proving to be fierce competition in the mobile market, Fries doesn’t see Ouya as a direct competitor to existing consoles. He believes that the big three console manufacturers will look at this new concept as a niche product, with a limited market, although no-one really knows how successful this product will be.

The other thing that makes Ouya a great platform in Fries’ eyes is that it doesn’t charge developers for updates. That can be a large problem for developers on consoles like the Xbox 360, where updates can cost developers tens of thousands of dollars.

For the detailed version of the story: Game Informer

Author’s notes:

The Ouya platform itself may also end up being a victim of the mobile gaming industry. Products like the iPad and iPhone already allow for large-screen gaming, and already have massive game marketplaces. The next generation of consoles isn’t far off either, and will likely leave a product like Ouya looking as outdated as the Wii did against the Xbox 360 and PS3. And finally Google, the company behind Android, are unlikely to really support a product that isn’t using their Play Store.  

The other risk is that the team behind Ouya don’t know what Sony and Microsoft have up their sleeves for their next-generation consoles. Microsoft is making a massive push into the mobile gaming market with SmartGlass, and Xbox expanding to Windows and Windows Phone devices – and of course Kinect has been a success. Sony will be working hard on something too, trying to differentiate whilst also investing in mobile.

There’s really not a lot of room for a device like this to become mainstream, but it’s certainly got potential to be a hit with media enthusiasts and the indie gaming crowd.

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