A freight train plowed into the console games business on July 11th, forever changing the console games landscape, unleashing user democracy and elevating Kickstarter to the new kingmaker of the games business. Of course, I'm talking about Yves Behar's Ouya Android-powered game console which has raised over $4 million in the first 48 hours.
I was blown away by the conversation with Behar during the GamesBeat/MobileBeat conference in San Francisco where he said the game console will be rebooted.
I believe this announcement will go down in history as something as big as the launch of the iPhone five years ago. The amazing outpouring of 25,000 pre-orders of the console in 24 hours shows gamers want the TV experience to be democratized.
I spoke with Brian Fargo of InXile (who raised $900,000 for Wasteland 2 on Kickstarter in March) and he believes customers are frustrated with traditional game publishers and are demanding more creative products instead of the endless sequels released by the leaders. In 48 hours, the console business has been turned on its head by a sub $100 open console whose mission is to make games less expensive and free to play. It is the Apple 1984 commercial equivalent to the games business (see that commercial here) - their revolutionary sounding Kickstarter description is below.
"The immediate loser in this battle will be Nintendo that has failed to create a meaningful online business"
Let's open this sucker up! It's time we brought back innovation, experimentation, and creativity to the big screen. Let's make the games less expensive to make, and less expensive to buy. With all our technological advancements, shouldn't costs be going down? Gaming could be cheaper!
We're handing the reins over to the developer with only one condition: at least some gameplay has to be free. We borrowed the free-to-play model from games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Triple Town, and many others. Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask you to subscribe.
The Ouya can be seen as a descendant of the Sega Dreamcast and much maligned Phantom console whose vision of a download only game console was debuted at E3 in 2004 - I was a member of the advisory board of the company whose vision was accurate to where the industry was going but failed to execute on delivering the product.
Ouya has taken advantage of the perfect storm of excellent design, a stable and free Android OS, a shift of developers from console to mobile and tablet development and the winning business model of freemium and free-to-play gaming.
The immediate loser in this battle will be Nintendo that has failed to create a meaningful online business. Sony and Microsoft will undoubtedly need to revise their strategies to meet an agile new platform competitor that will be fueled by a flood of content. The velocity of the app market with 650,000 apps available should show the supply of games that will quickly populate the new console.
Although mobile gaming has been successful, its success has been driven by the iPad and tablets that have taken the mobile experience to a whole new level. How will a great tablet game work on a 60-inch flatscreen? The combination of the speed and agility of the mobile market combined with the living room TV experience offers another major paradigm shift for the game business, an enormous new blue ocean opportunity for developers and what could be a dangerous blow to the console platform incumbents. Let's see where this takes the games industry - my bet is this will be very, very big.
Mark Friedler is a game industry veteran, former publisher of IndustryGamers, founder and CEO of GameDaily, Gigex and VCast. He runs a mobile, social and advertising games consultancy Worlds and Games LLC, focused on strategic and monetization growth of several leading games businesses. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org