The Kickstarter-funded games console, the Ouya, was launched last Tuesday, after shifting an unprecedented number of units, selling out at retailing giants, Amazon and Target. The console was designed to offer gamers an economically viable platform, on which to play android-based video games, priced at a respectable $99. The device was designed by Yves Béhar and, subsequently, pitched through online crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter, where it was unanimously praised and heaps of unrequited love was lavished upon its curators. Backers soon rallied round the idea, and the original Kickstarter goal of $950,000 was very rapidly breached, with a final fund total of $8.5 million being settled.
Unfortunately, much of the magic and giddy excitement has worn away, likely attributable to the botched release and a string of poor review scores. Early backers were less than thrilled to learn that their console goodies would not be arriving by the previously agreed deadlines, the dispatch of which was promised as high priority. Frustrated fans and backers took to the company’s Facebook page and forums, venting their spleen. In failing to live up to its promise, Ouya impugned an “affiliate partner in Hong Kong”. Ouya founder, Julie Uhrman issued an earnest public apology.
“I am pissed. Some of you have not yet received your Ouya, and to you, I apologize. I did not promise to ship to most of you before we hit store shelves. I promised to ship to all of you. I’ve been reading your comments, and we are working to solve this.”
As was to be anticipated, the review scores reflected the limited budget, at the disposal of its development team. Gaming website, IGN, critiqued “It’s a compelled concept, but the resulting product is decidedly not. For all its promise, the Ouya falls victim to design missteps, poor performance, and a critical lack of compelling content.” The article’s author, Scott Lowe, cites technical issues with Wi-Fi connectivity, a narrow selection of “stellar” launch titles, lack of interconnectivity with other android-based devices and the absence of entertainment apps, like Flixter.
Substantiating many of the issues mentioned by IGN, Entertainment Weekly was a little more complimentary, praising the console’s compact size, installation simplicity, price, launch selection (200+ games), free-to-try catalogue and emulator software, which enables users to launch retro titles (via downloadable ROMS).
Intriguingly, this does call into question the nature of the Kickstarter setup, as a whole. Many projects that have been launched on Kickstarter are pitched, developed and launched without a hitch. However, these ideas and designs are not launched by large, faceless corporations. It’s almost as though there’s an unwritten agreement between the financial backers and the developers that problems are likely to manifest. The event organizers articulate these sentiments best on their own website, “Some projects taken longer than anticipated, but creators who are transparent about issues and delays usually find their backers to be understanding.” Naturally, many would aggressively argue, if instigators of these campaigns are unable to fulfil their own self-imposed objectives, using financial limits that they define, maybe they shouldn’t bother in the first place. Undoubtedly, this is a valid repost, but when designing, manufacturing and distributing an item as intricate as a games console, on a scope that is truly eclipsed by the R&D efforts and finances sunk into their bigger console counterparts, perhaps a little patience and compassion would go a long way.
Uhrman, acknowledging shipment delays, missing controllers and stalled responses from her customer support teams, seems to go beyond the port of call by endorsing a $13.37 store credit to those who have been adversely affected by the issues:
Overall, despite technical glitches and the whole storm of controversy over its launch, it’s still early days for the Ouya. Firmware updates are likely to improve system stability and performance, whilst the selection of games is bound to expand. But, critically, perhaps people’s perception of Kickstarter needs to alter. When donating money to these campaigns, it would seem prudent to set realistic expectations and, instead, work with the creators to try and get the best out of them.
Written By: James Fenner