Ouya courts mobile developers with access to the TV

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By Kathleen De Vere Comment

Boxer8, the company behind a new Android-based console called Ouya thinks what mobile game developers really want is access to the television — the screen that until now has been controlled by major console manufacturers.

The company, which launched its Kickerstarter campaign today in order to fund the first production run of its $99 console, is aiming to disrupt the market by bringing the openness of the mobile platform to console gaming.

According to founder Julie Uhrman, Ouya was designed from the very beginning to appeal to developers. “When you talk to developers about bringing games to the living room, it’s incredibly complicated and expensive process,” she explains. The end result of the current game development environment is more and more developers moving to mobile, she says. “You’re seeing a lot of the AAA console developers leave their shops.”

But even with the popularity of mobile gaming, the TV and the living room are still where gamers want to play, says Uhrman. She points out that more than half of all mobile gaming happens at home, and that three out of every four gaming dollars are still spent on the TV.  “Now there’s a chance to easily and affordably get your games to television using something you already know — Android,” she says.

Under the hood, an Ouya box is essentially a very good Android tablet, and its design includes several nods to its intended developer community. The system has a Tegra3 quad-core processor, 1 GB of ram, 8 GB of internal storage, and will run Android 4.0. The controller will have a touchpad in order to help developers port existing mobile games to the platform. The custom Android-based Ouya SDK will be free for developers, and every Ouya system will also function as a debug console. Unity Technologies will be a launch partner, a win considering the popularity of the Unity engine among mobile developers. Monetization-wise, all games on the platform will be free-to-play in some way, wether it be through demos, subscriptions or in-app purchases. Developers will take home 70 percent of all revenue, the same deal they already receive from Apple, Google and Amazon.

So far the system received a lot of well-publicized support from celebrity developers like Brian Fargo and Jordan Mechner. However, more importantly mobile developers like Spry Fox’s David Edery, Storm8’s Perry Tam and Madfinger Game’s Marek Rabas have all endorsed the console. For Ouya to succeed in the long term, support from free-to-play experts like Storm8 is likely far more important.

Of course, as a Kickstarter funded project, Ouya’s fate lies in the hands of consumers, but so far the project is off to a roaring start. Since going live this morning at 6:00 am, Ouya has already raised more than $328,000 of its $950,000 goal.

Update: Ouya has already surpassed its $950,000 goal. As of 2:50 pm PST, the project has raised more than $1,112,058.00.

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