Cautious Excitement and OUYA, Together at Last!

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Published by Jim Sterling 6 years ago , last updated 1 month ago

(This is another edition of /RANT, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

A good few folks have asked me for my opinion on OUYA, the open-source, Android-powered, $99 console that recently smashed Kickstarter in the face and raised an obscene amount of cash. It is exciting, to say the least, especially when you chart the way in which Kickstarter has gone to resurrecting old game franchises and funding beloved developers to driving the momentum of an entire bloody game system. From the standpoint of sheer wonder, it’s fascinating to see what kind of ambitions can be made reality simply through the sincere enthusiasm of the potential audience. It’s the kind of thing that reminds me why the Internet is so scary to organizations like the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA. Audiences making their own entertainment without anybody else’s help? Pretty terrifying, and hilarious to watch as a hater of such awful organizations.

That said, of course, there are reasons to be skeptical. OUYA is all promise, but no proof of delivery thus far. The system has no real confirmed games, there’s only one working prototype, and we have no idea what kind of support this thing will receive in future. Penny Arcade’s Ben Kuchera has drenched the project in questions and urged his readers to be careful. He said the reality does not match the hype, and that the team working on the project offers a “dream, not a solution.”

The thing is … isn’t that true of every console we pre-order? Wasn’t the Xbox 360 little more than an idea, once? The PS3? Isn’t the Wii U currently little more than a fancy in our minds, a potential future? We have no idea if the games confirmed for the Wii U will be any good. We have no idea if third parties will support it for too long with a new generation looming. The handheld gaming market demonstrates this uncertain future perfectly. Expensive little handheld systems that are frequently updated with new and better models, destined to become obsolete fast, and have no guarantee of continued support. Look at the mess that was the PSPgo, a system that tried to push all-digital content, failed by marking up the game prices on PSN, often failing to have retail-date digital releases, and became utterly abandoned by the platform holder within a few months. That can happen to any system, and we happily buy them anyway, often for amounts of money that far exceed $99 plus whatever amount you choose to toss at the Kickstarter.

Being skeptical of a system we haven’t seen is wise. It absolutely is. Being too skeptical, writing it off and criticizing it before we’ve seen anything, however, does little but sow an inordinate amount of mistrust. The hype doesn’t match the reality because there IS no reality yet. To write the system off as overhyped before we’ve even seen anything seems a little presumptuous.

I am not yet totally convinced by OUYA myself, I should point out. At this stage, I cannot imagine it being any sort of major game changer, not to the point where Sony and Microsoft will run scared of it. I am not envisioning OUYA being the system we talk about for years to come. However, I do think it could absolutely be a cool little device, something fun to check out, and worth a punt. At the very least, it’ll be a customizable little media hub. Nearly all of us have spent more than a hundred bucks on a piece of crap before, so I see no reason to be so fearful of OUYA yet. It could be good, it could turn out badly, but at the very least I have the feeling that these guys have an idea, an ambition, something they want to give a damn honest try. I don’t think we should be so quick to pour scorn and derision on a team who wants to try their hand at something new and daring. Judging by the project’s success, it seems many gamers are willing to help them do it.

Kuchera tells us to be “cautious, not excited.” To parrot one of his commenters, why can’t we instead be cautiously excited? Why can’t we be eager to see how far this project can go, while retaining the reality in our minds that it could go nowhere? To be totally convinced that this will blow our minds is silly, but to be scared of it based on little more than a fear of uncertainty isn’t much better.

To answer those that want to know what I think of OUYA, I say this: I wish them all the best, because a win for them will be a win for anybody who wants to try something else. I hope they do well, and I hope that remaining cautiously excited pays off.

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