Earlier this morning, it was reported that OUYA may be in talks with a variety of major firms to sell the company off. The current frontrunner seems to be Xiaomi — a company OUYA announced a partnership with last month in order to get into the Chinese market. China lifted its 14 year ban on consoles and OUYA Everywhere will be put on Xiaomi’s set-top boxes and smart TVs. OUYA’s Kickstarter was one of the biggest ever, and it’s tried some interesting things to set it apart from other systems on the market. For the first year of its life, everything on its marketplace was free-to-try, and they had a fund-matching system setup with the Free the Games fund to foster development on the system.
OUYA was the first Android microconsole on the market, and faced competition from the GameStick (which has been on sale for $20 at Gamestop for weeks now), and the Mad Catz MOJO, which recently got OUYA Everywhere included on a firmware update that enables owners of that system to play some, but not all of the OUYA’s games. Amazon’s recent Fire TV was theoretically going to be the best gateway device for Android microconsoles, but even that has struggled to find a niche with the game-buying public. The OUYA has over 600 games on its marketplace, with many more playable via sideloading either the Google Play Store or the easier to install Amazon Appstore.
Rumors of OUYA wanting to get out of the console game itself have been swirling from within the OUYA community once OUYA Everywhere was announced, as it seemed like a way for the company to take advantage of stronger hardware without having to pay to make it themselves. Early on in its life, the company planned substantial annual hardware updates, but those haven’t quite happened yet – although the hardware itself has been updated in bits and pieces. The initial 8GB of storage was doubled over the past holiday season with a white variant, while a later model used black as its core color and upgraded the bluetooth capabilities to ensure a stronger signal. The controller saw significant upgrades as well, with redone analog sticks and better buttons that wouldn’t get stick in the pad’s metal faceplates.
The rumored sale of the company would be an initial blow for its dedicated fanbase, but could go in many different directions. If the idea was to simply change ownership and leave everything in place outside of that, it should be a fairly seamless transition. Company operations would still continue and all that would change is the company would have a backer with more available funds than the company itself can raise. With Xiaomi being the lead company rumored to buy, that would seem like a best-case scenario for all involved since they want to break into the console market in China and the OUYA crew has shown that they can carve out at least a passionate niche for a console and Xiaomi clearly values what the company has done so far or they wouldn’t have partnered with them. Xiaomi wanting to buy the company could just be a sign of supreme confidence and wanting to make sure that they reap as many benefits as possible from a console launch in China, rather than splitting it.
While buyouts usually signal a doom and gloom reaction, if OUYA was sold to Xiaomi, it would seem like a best-case scenario for both companies. OUYA gains a stable backer, while Xiaomi gains an established console brand. Moreover, if work has already begun on an OUYA successor console, which has been rumored in recent OUYA Dev Talks via Google Hangout, they could theoretically launch not only a regular OUYA as a budget model, but also its successor as a premium device – giving them two possible revenue streams for gaming hardware with one company purchase made at the right time. Company sales can go in any number of directions at the last minute. The recent sale of Twitch to Amazon came about after it was believed the company was all but sold to Google.
The $100 system has a lot of shovelware, some of which we have some fun with in jest on the Hardcore Gamer Show, but there are also some must-haves like Magnetic By Nature, Shadow Blade, Soul Fjord, Duck Game, and Tetris Battle Fusion that are worth checking out alongside other well-made games like Super Pixalo, Freedom Fall and the original killer app for the system, TowerFall. TowerFall’s success led to the upgraded TowerFall Ascension, and has since gone on to receive critical acclaim on both Steam and the PlayStation 4 where it was made a PlayStation Plus free title recently. The system has shown that it can be a haven for creative game development, and with fascinating concepts like Thralled set for release later that year, it’s a trend that should continue throughout the life of the console. The OUYA has been an exciting venture since the first day it was announced and this chapter in its story should be intriguing if nothing else. I’ve personally enjoyed the console quite a bit over the past year+, and look forward to seeing how this situation shakes out. More details should emerge as the week wears on, so keep a tab open to Hardcore Gamer for any new information.