Why Ouya will disrupt the console space

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

The late Jack Tramiel was fond of saying that Commodore built computers for the masses, not the classes.

Indeed, the Commodore VIC-20 was the first microcomputer to sell one million units, while the Commodore 64 subsequently made its way into several million US homes.

But does the $109 Ouya console have the potential to do the same?

Clearly, the Android-powered system will be disruptive, but whether or not the console ultimately succeeds depends on a number of factors.

Firstly, $109 is a considerably lower price point than any of the upcoming next-gen consoles from industry heavyweights like Nintendo (Wii U), Microsoft (Xbox 720) and Sony (Playstation 4). Of course, an appealing price tag is no guarantee of success, but it certainly helps. 

Secondly, the current console cycle is stagnating. Frankly, at this point the industry should be embarrassed at how long gamers have been forced to play on woefully outdated hardware. As Crytek founder and CEO Cevat Yerli recently noted, current consoles are "drying out."

"The longer we wait for the next generation of consoles, the higher the likelihood that they could fall behind tablets in terms of being the first thing people reach for when the time comes to play games," Yerli warned in a recent interview. 

"Tablets are putting pressure on the gaming industry, and taking over in some ways, so that should be kept in mind."

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Ouya actually listens to customer feedback and is flexible enough to implement relevant changes. Obviously, this is partially due to the fact that Ouya has not yet been mass produced. Still, one can’t help but get the feeling that Ouya may actually be the first truly crowd-sourced console.

Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that lingering industry concerns about Ouya are likely justified, as it remains unclear if the choice of OS (Android) and lack of high-end specs will allow it to compete against high-end consoles like PS4 and Xbox 720.

But there are many gamers out there, including core players, who understand that specs alone don’t make a console. We’re living in a post-overclocking world, and the overall experience is what counts, not accelerated frame rates driven by nitrogen covered processors.

Perhaps Ouya could also offer an advantage over more traditional systems by designing an easily upgradeable console that is essentially modular in nature. Want a faster processor? Simply pop open the front hatch and swap out the Tegra 3 for the Tegra 4. Ditto for RAM. Obviously there are a number of significant challenges inherent in this sort of approach, but you get the general idea.

In short, it is quite clear that Ouya will disrupt the console market on multiple levels. Hopefully, it can succeed as well.