Enough With The Ouya Hype

Polygon today published an interview with Words With Friends creator Paul Bettner in which he claimed that the Ouya would “usher in a new era for living room gaming.” While the headline is Polygon’s, Bettner’s exact quotes refers to the ability for developers to work on an open platform, which would ostensibly open up the possibilities for consumers by extension. 

It’s a shame that those possibilities are so limited, and it’s a shame that businesses are creating a hype for the Ouya that the console won’t be able to live up to.

The system specs have all been public for quite some time, and in short, it’s a smartphone that will play on your television. People – perhaps like Bettner – are expecting performance akin to an Xbox 360 out of the Ouya, which is powered by a mobile GPU chip, the Tegra 3. That math doesn’t add up, and anyone suggesting otherwise is setting consumers up for disappointment.

Granted, the performance may not be what people are excited about. Again, Bettner seems to think the game-changing aspect of the Ouya is its open nature; the fact that anyone, anywhere can develop and publish for it.

But take time to think about that. Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) doesn’t publish every game made for it, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t make a game for it. The platform is absolutely open – anyone, anywhere can make a game for XBLIG. The same argument holds true for iOS. Just because Apple doesn’t allow everything to be published to the app store doesn’t mean that it can’t be made in the first place.

I can hear some of you screaming at me, “And that’s what the Ouya is for! It’s so I can publish anything I want!”

That’s precisely what we don’t need. XBLIG, iOS, and even Steam Greenlight act as filters to keep substandard products out of their marketplaces. And if you think about it, that’s actually terrifying. There are some awful games on those services. Think about the worst games you’ve played on iOS, and then remember that there are games worse than that, and Apple didn’t allow them in the store.

Though thanks to the Ouya, all of those horrible games can finally be at your fingertips!

So, the future of living room gaming is reduced to a maddening search through the wastelands of pitiful content allowed to proliferate on the Ouya? Standards will be lowered to cater to vanity: anyone who figures out how to cobble together a couple of sentences in Twine will finally be a “developer,” and every moron who wants to put a pair of boobs in a game will now have a platform.

This is a perfect example of Steve Jobs’ famous remarks about people not knowing what they want. It’s true, they don’t. But is the Ouya really the answer? Doubtful.

There are tens of millions of people who own home consoles who have never even connected them to the internet. Do you think those people are really clamouring for an “open” platform? On the other end of the spectrum, does the consumer who only purchases Madden and Call of Duty every year really care about an “open” platform to play on?

Apologies to Bettner and anyone else who agrees with him, but an open platform already exists. It’s called the personal computer. No one has ever developed a game on the PC and felt a stinging sense of limitation, and no consumer has ever slighted by the choice of games available on a PC.

  • plsburydoughboy

    Interesting argument, although I would remind you Apple does, in fact, let a lot of shovelware through, and the quality of a game is rarely the reason they remove it from the App Store.

    It would be naive to think that the Ouya management had not already thought about this, and will likely implement some kind of quality control down the line, but it will definitely be a problem with the 500 + games they plan to release out the gate come launch, of which I’m sure none will be blocked, good or bad.