SXSW Games: Julie Uhrman, CEO of OUYA, on Kickstarting an open gaming platform…

SXSW1Logo2This afternoon’s SXSW session saw game industry veteran Julie Uhrman, now founder and CEO of OUYA, discuss the future of an open gaming ecosystem. 

Aiming to “crack open the last closed gaming platform – the TV”, OUYA is a “beautiful affordable console built on Android”, developed via a $8.6m Kickstarter campaign. The OUYA is essentially taking the low-cost / high-performance aspect of mobile gaming and moving it into a TV-friendly space (watch a promo here).

But the ambition was never limited to hardware: “OUYA is a game ecosystem…we are basically bringing a software system to the television”. Uhrman has previously reported that even with the popularity of mobile gaming, TV gaming still wins over mobile. The average gamer spends 4 hours a week on consoles, versus 3 hours on mobile. For core gamers, it’s 7 hours a week on consoles, compared to 3.5 hours a week on mobile devices. Console gamers are also worth 6 times more than mobile gamers…

But how to drive users into this new ecosystem? By copying the Apple model and creating a closed loop ecosystem: inventive, proprietary, free-to-try gaming will drive the hardware purchase. Adoption of the app store model will also create lower barriers to entry for independent developers to sell on to the platform. “What we did is challenge the status quo…for less than the cost of two games on traditional hardware you are getting a system where the games will be free to play.” OUYA is “about enabling the creators” and already has 7,000 sign-ups to the Developers portal. Uhrman reported that mobile and triple-A game developers are being attracted back to creating for the “immersive, private and personal TV screen”. She also said that as a platform, OUYA will think differently about indicators of a good game, by prioritising “fun, engagement metrics” over traditional download metrics or user numbers. OUYA platform content will be curated by discoverability and community enjoyment, to drive the more traditional metrics of success.

Lastly, Uhrman reported that OUYA is talking to the content-giants Google, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. OUYA “will have content beyond games”, signalling that the ambition for the hardware, beyond a game-specific console, is to capture the content ecosystem as a ‘set-top box’. Disruption runs deep for OUYA, with the hardware remaining a “hackable box”, albeit feeding into a proprietary ecosystem and platform.


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