May 10, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Many Kickstarter backers of the Android-based console Ouya are still waiting for their units to ship, and it turns out there may be a bright side to the delay we're (yes, I'm one such backer) experiencing.
While disseminating the good news that Ouya has picked up $15 million in funding from new investors, and the less good news that the official launch of Ouya has been pushed back from June 4th to June 25th, CEO Julie Uhrman mentioned to sites like Engadget that the controller has been slightly redesigned.
Early recipients of the Ouya console mentioned that the face buttons on the controller would sometimes get stuck due to being caught behind the edge of the faceplate. Uhrman says they've modified the design to make the button holes slightly larger in order to rectify the situation. When asked if the new design was the reason for the launch delay Uhrman said it was not and "We made that change very early so all the units are being produced with those larger button holes" which at least suggests that those of us who have not received our units will get controllers with the new design. Hopefully Ouya will offer replacement faceplates for people who got earlier units.
So why the delay then? They claim it's due to high demand. They want to have enough stock to meet supply when they finally launch.
But all is not sunshine and roses. For one thing, this means that Ouya and rival Android gaming console Gamestick will launch on the same day. But the other cloud comes from a new competitor entering the same space: Gamepop.
Gamepop comes from the BlueStacks people and it's yet another way to play Android games on your TV, but their business model is a little bit different. Instead of selling you hardware, Gamepop wants to sell you a $6.99/month subscription that gets you access to "500 top mobile games" on your TV.
Of course you do need hardware in order to accomplish this, but if you pre-order a 1 year subscription before the end of May, Gamepop will send you a console and controller free.
There are still a lot of un-answered questions around Gamepop. For instance, how powerful is the console? All we really know is what it looks like (and it looks like they purchased surplus cases from Boxee — remember the original Boxee Box with that completely impractical sunken-cube design?), and that it comes with an HDMI cable and controller (though you can opt to use an iPhone or an Android phone as a controller if you prefer).
How much will it cost, if you don't get in before the end of May? We don't know. What games are included in the subscription price? We don't know that either.
I think Gamepop is squandering an opportunity by being so opaque at this point. A one year sub, plus the $9.95 they charge for shipping, puts Gamepop at $93.83, just a bit less than Ouya. That's your cost for a year of gaming, whereas with Ouya $100 gets you the console and then you have to purchase games. So for the first year at least, Gamepop is cheaper. Whether it's cheaper in the long run will depend on how many different games you play and how often you'd upgrade your Ouya (assuming Ouya goes forward with its plan for annual upgrades). But with so many unanswered questions, pre-ordering a Gamepop sub is a true leap of faith right now.
So now we have 3 stand-alone Android-games-on-TV solutions, plus a few that add a controller to your existing device. The big question still remains: is there really a market for mobile games on the TV? I guess we're going to find out in the months to come.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.