But those are just appearances – we want to know what prominent and plucky indie developers actually think the Ouya can do for the industry. So we asked a few, including Minecraft's Markus Persson, The Binding of Isaac's Edmund McMillen, Retro City Rampage's Brian Provinciano and five other indie starlings. Their thoughts are collected below in the order each developer responded to the email thread, because that seems more fair than arranging them by "best hair" or something.
A few of the indies are tenuously linked to the Ouya and have already been quoted on the Kickstarter itself, or have a game listed in the mock-up images, but none of the following developers have seen or played the Ouya. These are initial reactions to an idea, and speculation about a rapidly evolving industry:
Chris Hecker (SpyParty): I'm supportive of the idea and potential of an open console, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the reality. There's a continuum between totally closed, curated platforms like XBLA and PSN and totally open laissez-faire platforms like the PC, but there appear to be several valleys in that continuum where bad things happen, things like extreme downward price pressure, huge discoverability problems and a lack of a strong correlation between game quality and sales. I think we've yet to find a healthy "mostly open platform" business model, but maybe these guys will do it. That would be awesome, and I'd totally put SpyParty on it if it turns out to have a healthy market for quality games.
I plan to stick to Sony and Nintendo platforms for the time being, but if Ouya takes off I will definitely look more into it. It has the potential to be what XBLIG could've been and will hopefully give indies more opportunities to make a living from developing their dream games.
Regarding the audience, let's say $3 million represents 30,000 developers (at $100 a console).
Maybe in total there's 100-200k hungry app developers across the world hunting for a new gold rush. So that's $10-20 million, which is a lot of money, but is in a much smaller league compared with the big consoles with millions of sales. Even though the Ouya fills the one current console market gap (free-to-play), as long as the market is so small for it.
I don't think it would exert much pressure on the rest of consoles to change. Additionally the low hardware specs (for a future console) are only going to be a hinderance to luring a larger segment of gamers to buy it. Wii fought the odds, but it'd be amazing to see another console pull that off.
On the bright side, I can imagine a scenario in which developers create really compelling, mind-blowingly original hardware and software that could get a larger swath of people interested in buying it (like making a Kinect sensor work with Ouya in a new way we can only now imagine, or building something amazing for 3D TVs). Overall, it's extremely exciting to see and think about, especially how it could change the market. But the more I think about it, the less likely it seems like it will sell enough to matter overall.
Content control isnt something start-up devs are going to be fans of, it's going to be discouraging, but if you want people to take a platform seriously there needs to be someone who says, "No, this game is a rip-off of this game," or "No, this game is undercutting everyone and offering the same gameplay," or even "This game isn't good." I know most aren't going to be a fan of this, but there are ways to innovate around these pitfalls. I think Steam Greenlight was an attempt at this, and I'm sure there are other ways around it as well.
I hate to sound all pessimistic here because I do think if everything goes the way they project and/or want it to that this system could be pretty cool, but I'm not gong to get my hopes up til I know for sure.
Some of the Kickstarter reward tiers are a bit scary as well. It looks like they are guaranteeing exposure to select developers who offer up certain levels of money. The marketing of a game should be based on its brilliance, not the money behind it. What kind of effect will that have on the marketplace? On the other hand, I am happy they want to get to know their devs.
Even with all our skepticism, we're donating and holding our breath, hoping they succeed.
Something like the Ouya could solve a lot of these issues, making it easier to find and navigate between content, and putting a good community in place around it. But as Will said, the lack of a solid launch title will be a problem. I keep my other consoles pretty much not even plugged in when there are no good games out, and I could see this one going the same way as the Pandora. I bought that one on launch to get an open handheld gaming device, but the lack of interesting content has kept me from using it.
I hope it does well. It would be amazing. It's basically the Steam box.
I really hope it does well.