In our three part series on the Ouya console, we ask industry leaders in social, casual and mobile gaming if the surprising Kickstarter console can bridge the gap between core and casual, and successfully transition the Android OS to a living room entertainment device.
Part 2: Laura Andros – Content Integration Specialist, WildTangent
What WildTangent does well: As one of the industry’s venerable digital media service platforms, WildTangent provides a full cross-device gaming service alongside robust advertising and a huge portfolio of third-party titles and developers. Players can engage in premium games at no cost thanks to intelligent brand advertisers, or simply rent games at a minimal fee and have every rental contribute towards ultimately purchasing their game outright.
Thanks to its flexible digital currency, WildCoins, and a vast network of brand partners helping to serve 175 million consumers monthly, WildTangent provides one of the industry’s best value propositions – and with rewards that players actually want.
Why OUYA could matter to WildTangent: Through the company’s ever-expanding Games App, varied in-app purchasing system, and a renewed push into the Android gaming space, a well-positioned portal on the Ouya’s digital marketplace would serve to expand WildTangent’s foothold as a cross-device Android games service. As with many of the biggest players in casual and social games, WildTangent is cautiously monitoring the progress and adoption of the Ouya console before committing to the platform.
Gamesauce: When we got to talking about the Ouya console, right away you mentioned the potential for core games. What’s the immediate advantage there?
Laura: Since core games can be a little tougher to play well, or to their full potential, on a phone or tablet, I think it would be really fun if you could try them there – on the Android console.
GS: The biggest successes on the platform are still in the casual or short session game genres, by a large margin. Do you think there’s a place for casual gaming in the living room on a $99 Android console?
We’re definitely seeing a wider range of games on [Android] now. I think as long as more core games are available for a console, there can be a place for it.
GS: Do you think the success of the Ouya may depend on those core titles?
I actually think it would. The kind of games, personally, that I would want to play – and I think a lot of other people – when the game is connected to my TV and not my phone, is a more core gameplay experience.
GS: Most people agree there’s an issue with hardware fragmentation on Android: What kind of Android device am I making my game for? The Ouya provides a defined target spec for an Android developer to fully harness the hardware.
It’s true, that’s something new for most Android developers.
GS: The console’s twin stick analog controller also has a touchpad on the front face, so making games for Ouya won’t necessarily eliminate the possibility of more casual, phone and tablet gesture-based gameplay.
No, it certainly doesn’t, but the casual games available on Android are inherently the kind of experience I want to jump into real fast, get a quick burst of fun, and I’m happy with that. If I can actually sit down and dedicate a good deal of time to a game, I’ll be looking for a more complex experience.
If I can actually sit down and dedicate a good deal of time to a game, I’ll be looking for a more complex experience.
GS: That’s something we traditionally associate with home consoles. It’s been a little different this generation: Several surprising success stories for smaller, shorter, more casual games on digital storefronts. In that regard, casual games shouldn’t be out of place on the Ouya.
If you look at the fundraiser, that console is going crazy. There’s clearly something there that people really want. Android fans are definitely interested in all types of games being made for it.
GS: The theme for games on Ouya will be free-to-play and freemium – yet open pricing will be an option. Considering the hardware offers fairly sophisticated performance, the temptation is there to make larger-scale games. Do you foresee a market for games on the console at price tiers like $4.99 and $9.99, or maybe even $19.99?
It really depends on the type of gamer it pulls in, whether it’s the iOS player looking for an affordable way to see what’s on Android, a console gamer comfortable with console prices, or maybe it’s the casual player thinking about moving over to console, and this offers them something new that’s in between both extremes.
GS: It’s already a weaker spec when compared to an Xbox 360 or PS3, although it’s far more powerful than a Wii, and that console managed to move over 90 million units this generation despite being the inferior spec – thanks to novelty and lower pricing. Does the Ouya fit that mold, the unique and affordable alternate console?
It does kind of have that Wii quality to it, where it could do extremely well for those reasons and contrast with other consoles – at least when starting off.
GS: Do you think mainstream buyers will even associate the Android OS with the Ouya console, or will they simply view it as a newly introduced console?
Probably not? I don’t think most average users even consider “Android” when they look at their phone. They just think: That’s my smartphone or mobile device.
GS: There’s already a theme on forums where people ask, “Why bother with an Ouya, when I already have an Android tablet I can connect to my TV?”
Well, remember a lot of people used to say, “Why do I need a tablet when I have a computer?” And we see how that one turned out.
GS: It proved that a ton of people were waiting for an alternative to their computers for simple, day-to-day tasks like browsing and enjoying media. Let’s say Ouya experiences a similar phenomenon, co-existing with PCs and other consoles, and manages to move four or five million units early on. Could you see the console unifying the Android development world?
I hadn’t actually considered that before. It’s totally possible that people will rally around it and start focusing there, on that specific configuration. The lack of upgrades might become an issue, though.
GS: Right; the OS will upgrade, but apart from rooting and gutting the device, which won’t even be a consideration for casual users, the Ouya’s hardware probably won’t age particularly well. That being said, it’s still plenty powerful for a small indie team to work with.
Oh yeah, it might be a great opportunity for them. Teams that maybe really wanted to make a console game, but it’s always been too risky or costly. There are so many Android developers out there right now, from every background. A lot of them are still looking for the perfect platform.
GS: But let’s face it, there’s a lot of garbage and throwaway games on the OS right now.
[Laughs] Yeah, there kind of is. To be fair, that’s how things usually start out when a game platform is young and expanding: There’s a bigger gap between the great games. You’re even going to see a lot of stuff trying to be a game, that doesn’t really qualify as one.
GS: This is the first time a home console won’t be based on physical media like cartridges or discs. Storefronts like XBLA and PSN have been successful, so the concept of monetizing smaller, digitally-distributed games won’t come as a shock to console players, right?
At first, years ago, I thought the concept of in-app purchases and upgrades would be hard to swallow for average users, but it turns out that people are very comfortable with it. I had the same concerns with current consoles, but look at downloadable content on the Xbox now – it does extremely well. We’ve reached a point where the value can make sense and people are really OK with it.
At first, years ago, I thought the concept of in-app purchases and upgrades would be hard to swallow for average users, but it turns out that people are very comfortable with it.
GS: Do you think the Ouya can support every type of gamer in a household? Mom could fire it up and play a few minutes of her favorite casual title before diving into some chores, and her teenage son could take the console into his bedroom for some fun with the latest hardcore action game. Or – brace yourself! – Mom might play a game with her son in the living room.
Again, it might just have that Wii level of mass appeal, where the more affordable console also brings the family together to play it because it offers a wider range of game types and prices.
GS: Playing multiplayer Android games in the living room through a single device is a new concept. Until now, you’d be sitting around with a bunch of different Android phones and tablets, crossing your fingers that the multiplayer is going to work, and that the game is going to run on every device.
It’s true. And if people really want that to work well, the games will have to be built for console-style experiences in the living room, whether it’s single or multiplayer.
GS: Let’s hope developers working on the console carefully consider where and why the Ouya will be played. From WildTangent’s perspective, is the Ouya a platform you’re currently looking into supporting?
It’s not the easiest device to explain to people at first! But as you can probably tell, we’re watching it closely. Right now we’re working hard to build our overall Android games catalogue, which will only benefit Android players going forward, but we’re taking a wait and see attitude before becoming directly involved with Ouya. But who knows, right? I think everyone is waiting for new ideas to come to the console space, and we’re all looking for positive growth on Android.
GS: Thanks for the candid insight, Laura.