The Academy of Interactive Arts and Science’s D.I.C.E. Summit is underway, and while Gabe Newell and J.J. Abrams stole much of the game industry’s announcement with their talk of Bad Robot making movies of Half-Life and Portal, the summit is turning out to be a coming out party for a much-hyped but unproven player in the field. OUYA, the little Google Android game console that could, is grabbing plenty of attention from a field in flux.
While old rulers of the video game hardware roost, Microsoft and Sony, prepare to announce new consoles and Newell’s Valve tries to rethink the PC as a console competitor, OUYA is quietly attempting to revolutionize the console industry first. The machine’s $99 price point is just the start of its disruptive thinking. New models of the console will come out annually, just like mobile phones.
“Our strategy is very much similar to the mobile strategy,” OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman told Engadget on Wednesday, “There will be a new OUYA every year. There will be an OUYA 2 and an OUYA 3. We’ll take advantage of faster, better processors, take advantage of prices falling. So if we can get more than 8GB of Flash in our box, we will.”
In keeping with OUYA’s policy of openness—the console was built on the Android OS to better allow developers and consumers alike to mess with its innards—the company will prop up this is annual hardware cycle by tying players’ games to a central account, not unlike Apple’s iTunes or Valve’s Steam. Sony and Microsoft only allow digital games to be downloaded to a limited number of machines, while Nintendo only lets its customers download Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games to a single device. All OUYA games will also be backwards compatible according to Uhrman.
The first OUYA model will ship out to the company’s 63,000 Kickstarter backers in March, with the console hitting retailers like Amazon, GameStop and Target in June. Indie developers like Phil Fish and major publishers like Square-Enix have already said they’ll support the platform.