Talking tech since 2003

The Ouya, once a darling of the Kickstarter community, has had a rough go of it so far. The system launched at retail before systems reached the console’s Kickstarter backers and, to boot, the system and the games available for it have been pretty disappointing. Personally, I have turned on my Ouya one time since picking it up a month ago, and that was just to see if a system update had come or if new games had been added. No such luck.

atari-jaguarAccording to The Verge, 73% of the system’s buyers have yet to pay for a game. I’m not sure those folks are playing demo versions all day long. Instead, they might be just like me — gamers who excitedly scooped up a system and, after trying it out, haven’t found a compelling reason to turn it back on. And if that’s the case, the Ouya could become one of the worst console releases since the Atari Jaguar.

History is full of game system failures. In the past 10 or 15 years, you can look to the Dreamcast on the console side and the and Nokia N-Gage on the portable end. We don’t have any sales numbers on the Ouya, but let’s just pretend that 200,000 systems have been sold (likely a very high estimate) and about 50,000 are owed to Kickstarter backers. At 250,000 units, the Ouya would still have a smaller installed base than the (which sold 300,000) and would be miles behind the N-Gage (3 million units) and the Dreamcast (10 million worldwide).

The Atari Jaguar, one of gaming’s most famous failures, sold fewer than 250,000 units total before it was discontinued in 1996. That system’s main downfall was its lack of games and, later, competition from systems like the original PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. While the Jaguar originally launched as a more powerful system than others available, the Ouya has entered into a market where it can’t compete on power, titles or even brand recognition. It’s actually in a worse position than the Jaguar, and that’s not a very good place to be.

One of the best-selling titles on the Ouya is Matt Thorson’s Towerfall. That title, priced at $14.99, has made about $21,000. A little bit of division tells us that, in all, Towerfall has sold about 1,400 copies. Chalk it up to the Ouya’s confusing demo/full title system or the fact that it doesn’t have a large installed base, but those are pretty poor numbers. There aren’t solid numbers for the assumed best-selling Atari Jaguar game, Alien VS. Predator, but many of the console’s devotee’s believe it drove at least half of the Jaguar’s sales — so, a lot more than 1,400 units.

With both Sony and Microsoft welcoming indie developers into the fold on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, respectively, common sense says that these developers will be able to get in front of a lot more eyes on those systems. That means the potential to move more units. I wouldn’t be surprised if developers like Thorson wind up self-publishing on the newer consoles when they’re released, even with the increased competition from larger companies. The upside is just too great to ignore.

I’ll likely keep my Ouya and turn it on occasionally to see if the company has made any progress on the user interface, or if any new games or apps have been added to the market. At this point, though, the next-generation of home game consoles is around the corner, and both Apple and Google are eyeing their own entries into the home gaming space. The Ouya still has a very small window to make an impact, but it looks like that window is going to close before it happens.

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