March 25, 2014, 6:00 AM —
The Kickstarter-funded micro-console Ouya is in the news again. In case you haven't been introduced to the Ouya yet, the idea was to produce an "open" $100 console that ran Android. All those mobile developers would have a platform to let them get their games on the big-screen TV. The only catch was that they had to include some kind of free gameplay to let customers test drive their games.
On Kickstarter Ouya said:
We're handing the reins over to the developer with only one condition: at least some gameplay has to be free. We borrowed the free-to-play model from games like League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, Triple Town, and many others. Developers can offer a free demo with a full-game upgrade, in-game items or powers, or ask you to subscribe.
On their website they say "Today there are 721 games and counting (seriously, that’s the counter right there). They’re ready to play and free to try. "
So what's the news? Well, Ouya is changing this policy. In a blog post Ouya's Bob Mills said "In the coming weeks, we’re going to let devs choose if they want to charge up front for their games. Now they’ll be able to choose between a free-to-try or paid model."
I hope you didn't base your Ouya purchase on the idea that every game would have a free trial of some sort, because that will no longer be the case.
Apparently game developers don't like giving away free content. Not because they're cheap, but because it means extra work for them. They have to create a demo or some kind of gating mechanism to keep players from accessing all of the game. Since many of the teams making Ouya games are tiny by game developer standards, this extra work becomes a considerable burden.
At least that's the official policy. My Ouya has been in the closet for months due to lack of use, but when I did have it set up I'd just drift from game to game, sampling many but paying for none. I felt like I was so awash in free-to-play content that nothing seemed worth paying for. That's not meant as a criticism of the games, but I always felt like I could go back and make some purchases once I'd sampled all the free stuff in order to make sure I was spending my money on the right titles. But I never really got to the end of the free stuff so I never got around to the 'spending' part of my plan.
Fewer free options would have caused me to open my wallet, and I'm guessing I'm not unique in this. After all you once you buy a console you're going to want content for it. If it isn't free, you'll buy it.
Ouya was a Kickstarter success story but since launching it seems to be struggling. Maybe this new policy will attract new developers that can offer something compelling enough to be a system seller. Ouya has also started talking about "Ouya Everywhere;" a plan to bring the Ouya OS to other hardware.
I wish them well but I think a lot of active Ouya users will miss all that free content, since it was one of the selling points of the console. I guess Ouya is in a position where their need for a healthy development community is greater than their need to avoid upsetting existing customers.
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.