Ouya's retail launch yields online sell-outs... and unhappy Kickstarter backers
Ouya has launched at retailers nearly one year after its Kickstarter debut, but it's already in short supply.
Ouya launched its Kickstarter campaign in July 2012 and became the second-most funded project of all time, with $8.6 million in pledges. (Only the Pebble smartwatch was more successful, with $10.3 million pledged.) The console runs a heavily modified version of Android and promises the kind of small-scale games found on phones and tablets.
The games make use of Ouya's included controller, which is fashioned after traditional console controls with dual thumbsticks, buttons, a directional pad and triggers. It also includes a touch-sensitive panel. For developers, Ouya promises a self-publishing model with no license or fees necessary. The main requirement is that all games include some sort of free element, whether it's a timed demo or a free-to-play game with in-app purchases. So far, Ouya says it has 173 games available on the platform.
Ouya is open to hosting music and video apps as well, but at the moment only TuneIn Radio and TwitchTV are available. CEO Julie Uhrman told The Verge in February that the company is “in conversations” with Google, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon about accessing their services, but obviously those conversations haven't panned out in time for launch. As an alternative, users can sideload apps like XMBC.
Not all roses and retail
Reviews of the retail version of Ouya are still scarce. Although some reviewers have tested the Kickstarter edition and found problems with controller lag, button stickiness and software bugs, Ouya says it's worked out the kinks, both in later Kickstarter models and the final product. Engadget, which had rendered a harsh verdict of the Kickstarter edition, says it's “optimistic” after spending time with the retail version.
But not all Kickstarter backers are feeling warm and fuzzy about Ouya anymore. Some backers are still waiting for their units to arrive, despite being promised early access to the console. A recent message to backers claimed that all units have shipped, but may be in transit from the company's fulfillment partner in Hong Kong. Uhrman said that Ouya has tripled its customer service team to help out with these issues. However, some backers are now leaving negative reviews on Amazon, complaining about shipping delays, customer service issues and the lack of available games so far.
It definitely hasn't been smooth sailing for Ouya since its big splash on Kickstarter. But with the retail launch out of the way, hopefully the company can now focus on building up the platform and improving the hardware. Sadly, Ouya reps have reneged on their commitment to the already-announced yearly refresh of hardware, confirming via email that they "don't have any specific targets for a future/next OUYA" and that updated versions of the Ouya hardware will be released at a pace akin to the rapid refresh of the mobile device market.