Can OUYA shake up console gaming?

People have been speculating about the impending death of the game-console market for the past decade. The thing is, they may be right, at least if we’re talking about the big-three market of today.
Why? Here are just a few of the reasons some see traditional console gaming as being in its last throes:

  • The console cycle has stretched out. It used to be that there was a new generation every five years, but now it’s every six or seven years.  There’s good reason for that — i.e., consoles hitting a wall from a graphical realism perspective and the high cost of processor and GPU development in a multicore era — but that doesn’t mean gamers don’t get bored and yearn for the excitement of a new console.
  • With content-tossing technology such as Miracast and Airplay and huge developer ecosystems in place (not to mention much lower average game costs), tablets are becoming ever-bigger threats to traditional consoles, particularly in the casual gaming segment (which is the fastest-growing part of the market).
  • Traditional console gaming is expensive. The new Nintendo Wii U, which is a console that largely brings Nintendo up to par with current generation consoles from a graphics fidelity perspective, starts at around $300. The new Xbox and PlayStation will be even more.

With all these things going against traditional gaming, the excitement over OUYA’s forthcoming Android game console is not surprising. In a sense, OUYA directly answers all of the weaknesses of the current market in that it provides a new console competitor in the stagnant three-horse market, it leverages the app ecosystem created by the smartphone and tablet market, and it also puts console pricing into  a much more affordable price band.
Despite all of this, OUYA still has some challenges. One of the biggest will be getting quality games that work well with the device and are optimized for HDTV. While the Android ecosystem has matured, there is still significant fragmentation, and most of the developers today are creating apps for the tablet or smartphone market. Let’s hope the majority of games aren’t simply up-res’d versions of smartphone applications available through Google Play’s store. The good news is that OUYA seems to be aware of the need for quality games and has deployed some of its Kickstarter funds for game development.
The other challenge is distribution. OUYA seems to also be addressing this head-on, as it announced it has reached distribution deals with Amazon and others.
Let’s hope that OUYA can meet the high expectations set by its well-publicized Kickstarter campaign. The gaming console market could use the fresh blood.