Unveiling the next cutting-edge startup, app or service promising to make waves in an industry is what SXSW Interactive is all about. During her keynote address Sunday, Julie Uhrman attempted to do just that by touting OUYA, her crowd-funded gaming console built on Android that will have a limited release at the end of this month.
The conversation, moderated by Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of The Verge, covered the idea behind OUYA and its beginnings with Kickstarter, with Uhrman attempting to play down mistakes that she may have made along the way.
OUYA is a return to the traditional home-gaming approach, Uhrman said. She aims to recreate the childhood experience of playing video games with friends — hands cramping from gripping the controller too hard, sitting in front of the television for hours with the volume on max and all.
Uhrman said if you ask someone if they’re a gamer today (and they answer honestly), they’ll say yes. Almost everyone plays games like Temple Run and Angry Birds on their mobile phones and tablets. The issue, she said, is this type of gaming is a distraction, not an immersive experience.
“The question was how do you get people excited about a new gaming system?” Uhrman said. “And that’s what makes OUYA unique—anybody can build any game. It’s about enabling creators.”
Uhrman owes the start of OUYA to a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $1 million in a little more than eight hours. The Kickstarter collected $8.6 million with the help of about 63,000 backers by its August deadline.
OUYA will start at $99 and run on a version of Google’s Android software. The console will have streaming capabilities, and Uhrman said she is in discussion with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others to offer their services once OUYA is launched.
Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will receive their consoles at the end of the month, and OUYA will hit shelves at Amazon, Gamestop, Best Buy, Target and other retailers in June.
Uhrman said she doesn’t see OUYA as an either-or decision for people who already own gaming consoles made by Sony and Nintendo. She sees OUYA as more of a device sitting between the big-name consoles and smartphones. She insists that OUYA is “going to have content that no one else is going to have.”
This is one of several vague comments and explanations Uhrman made about OUYA, which (from what I could tell) frustrated both audience members and Topolsky, the moderator.
Uhrman was tight-lipped about details of the kick-ass (her words, not mine) games OUYA will offer, and didn’t give a firm release date for June. Topolsky asked her questions about manufacturing partners and the number of consoles that have been pre-sold, but she avoided those as well. Audience members began to file out of the room as things became more and more awkward.
“I don’t have a lot of hardballs here because I want this thing to work,” Topolsky said about halfway through the talk.
Topolsky asked Uhrman if she made a mistake by not having a website for OUYA when the Kickstarter began. He insinuated that critics initially thought this was a glaring oversight for an Internet-based gaming business.
“Is OUYA a scam or not?” Topolsky asked.
This was just one of many awkward questions. For instance, Uhrman said it is important that OUYA works once it hits shelves. “Does it not work?” Topolsky asked jokingly (I think). Uhrman didn’t seem to appreciate that one.