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Game Console Ouya Lures Buyers With $99 Price Tag

Jun 27, 2013
Originally published on June 27, 2013 11:37 am

Sony and Microsoft are preparing to launch their latest gaming consoles this fall with price tags from $400 for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. But this week, a $99 game console went on sale and sold out at Target and Amazon.

The Ouya was designed to break down barriers between game developers and game fans, and its launchpad came from those communities, which supported it to the tune of $8.6 million on Kickstarter.

The console was the idea of Julie Uhrman. "The O in Ouya stands for openness," she says. "U is for universal and the YA just completed it. Ouya sounds good to say."

Uhrman gets passionate as she talks about bringing openness and universality to the way people buy and sell games. On a console like the Xbox or PlayStation, people have to spend $60 to buy a game they haven't played. The Ouya lets gamers try it for free, and game developers can decide on a price.

"The developers have total freedom on how they want to monetize that content. So it could be a free demo, and then you can unlock the full version of the game for $19," Uhrman says.

The Ouya is a box the size of a Rubik's Cube made of aluminum and plastic. It comes with one game controller; you can buy additional controllers for $50 each.

Uhrman says she got inspired to build the Ouya because big console games like Call of Duty or Madden NFL cost tens of millions of dollars to make.

"Very few developers can do that, in fact, and you can see that because you don't see a lot of new content," she says.

So, instead of making games for consoles and TVs, a lot of developers limit themselves to mobile phones and tablets. The Ouya launched with more than 135 games, and the Ouya game store works like Apple's app store. Ouya gets a 30 percent cut, and the game maker gets 70 percent.

But its graphics don't hold a candle to the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3, and when Sony and Microsoft release their new consoles this fall, they'll look even better. But for a lot of gamers, $99 for the Ouya may be about the right price to pay to scratch that itch to play games.

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And also this week a $99 game console went on sale and quickly sold out at Target and Amazon. The Ouya console got its initial funding from a wildly successful multimillion-dollar Kickstarter campaign.

NPR's Laura Sydell takes a look at what's behind all this buzz.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: You're probably wondering where Ouya got its funny name.

JULIE UHRMAN: The O in Ouya stands for openness.

SYDELL: That's Ouya founder Julie Uhrman.

UHRMAN: U is for universal and the ya just completed it. Ouya. Sounds good to say.

SYDELL: When Uhrman is talking about openness and universality, she's talking about the way people buy and sell games. On a console like the Xbox or PlayStation, people have to spend 60 bucks to buy a game they haven't played. The Ouya let's gamers try it for free and game developers can decide on a price.

The developers have total freedom on how they want to monetize that content. So it could be a free demo and then you can unlock the full version of the game for $19.

The Ouya is a box the size of a Rubik's Cube made of aluminum and plastic. It comes with one game controller and you can buy more for 50 bucks each.

Uhrman got inspired to build the Ouya because big console games like "Call of Duty" or "Madden Football" costs tens of millions of dollars to make.

UHRMAN: Very few developers can do that, in fact, and you can see that because you don't see a lot of new content. You don't see a lot of new developers entering the television.

SYDELL: So, instead of making games for consoles and TV's, a lot of developers were limiting themselves to mobile phones and tablets. The Ouya launched with over 135 games. Ouya's game store works like Apple's App Store - Ouya gets a 30 percent cut and the game maker gets 70 percent.

But, its graphics don't hold a candle to the existing Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 - and this fall, Sony and Microsoft will be releasing new consoles that look even better.

Consumers will pay a big price for those sexy graphics - 400 bucks for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. For a lot of gamers, the $99 price point for the Ouya may be just enough to scratch the gaming itch.

Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.