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At $99, Ouya promises to deliver a bevy of free-to-try video game content through its custom Android 4.0 interface and online store. Crafted by renowned industrial designer Yves Béhar, the system’s wireless controller will feature a touchpad in addition to “standard controls” — two analog sticks, a directional pad, eight action buttons, and a system button — allowing game developers to craft unique, Ouya-exclusive gameplay experiences. Meanwhile, the console will boast an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal flash memory, and Bluetooth 4.0 support.
Despite Ouya’s warm reception from thousands of Kickstarter backers — at the time of writing, 39,337 backers have contributed $5,020,639 to the project, which has 22 days left to raise additional funds — some tech journalists lambast the company for its overly optimistic launch plans.
"Hardware development isn't something that can be done easily in a Silicon Valley garage or a DUMBO loft," wrote PCMag reporter Sascha Segan in a scathing editorial. "Hardware concepts can be done, and Pebble and Ouya are both great concepts. But actually building a reliable, functional product requires expertise in supply chain management, mass hardware QA, and negotiations with component makers and assemblers that these companies by and large entirely lack."
A mockup of Ouya's online store
Prominent gaming website Penny Arcade also tries to slow down the Ouya hype train, highlighting lack of development progress — on both hardware and software — and piracy concerns as reasons to be skeptical of Ouya’s vision.
“So not only is there no finished hardware, no service at the moment, no controller, and no games — although we’re being asked to take their word that they can create each of those things in eight months — but focusing development costs on an incredibly risky platform with a small installed base and features that make piracy all but given makes no sense for most developers who release games you’d like to play,” wrote Ben Kuchera in the Penny Arcade Report. “It’s an environment that not makes little sense for commercial development, in many ways it’s actively hostile to people hoping to create games for it.”
Video game expert Chris Kohler, an editor for Wired’s GameLife blog, is a bit more optimistic about Ouya's market prospects — or at least about the idea driving its development.
“I believe the concerns that have been expressed about Ouya, the difficulties it is going to face, are valid,” Kohler told Crowdsourcing.org. “But the thing is, I also believe that Ouya has read the market correctly. The home videogame console space is ripe for the introduction of a business model akin to the App Store's, where games are cheaper, developers have increased control over how their wares are presented in the store and when they go on sale, and free is the most lucrative price.
“There are many open questions; Ouya has to execute successfully in a lot of different ways to make the product appealing to consumers,” Kohler continued. “They have a long row to hoe. But they have the right idea.”
The Ouya team aims to launch its eponymous video game console in March 2013.