D.I.C.E. 2013 – Conquering TV’s Social Space With Ouya

By Kevin Kelly

You’ve probably heard something by this point about Ouya, the Kickstarted gaming console coming this year, which also just announced that it will now be carried by major retailers as well.

Julie Uhrman, CEO of the company, took the stage at D.I.C.E. with a montage of clips from famous television stunt “Who Shot J.R.?” from Dallas back in 1980. She has a self-proclaimed love of the television, but points out that most of us don’t admit that we love television in public, because it has become socially unacceptable.

Most people watch an average of 34 hours of television per week (!), but it has been taking a beating lately. It’s central to many of our lives, and often occupies a place that could be construed as the altar of worship in most living rooms. But Uhrman believes it is poised for a comeback, mostly because of the power of consoles. In a recent poll, 60% of all gamers have said they couldn’t live without a console, and the value of a console gamer is worth six times more than a mobile gamer.

She used the upcoming GTA V as a point: it’s a huge game, and will most likely do very well. Which is big for the consoles, and as a result, it’s huge for television. But, it also underscores the reason the console gaming is dying. As a result of games like GTA V, there are fewer and fewer developers working on console titles these days, due to the fact that there are very few companies that are making the big games that generate huge revenue. The smaller developers are shuttering and frequently leaving console development to work on mobile titles.

According to Uhrman, it’s not about building a new Xbox or a new PlayStation, which really resonates as we’re about to enter a new console cycle, and the fact that she’s the CEO of a company that is introducing… a new console this summer. But, she uses Ouya as an example of a different direction, showing a clip from a recently concluded game jam that had some impressive results, and the fact that they have had over 25,000 of the Ouya Development Kit.

According to Uhrman, the TV is the best device to get sucked into. Not literally, we hope. Unless it zaps us into a Tron-like existence. The television is “still a closed system,” she said, and she is convinced that with platforms like Ouya, they can turn the tide and give television it’s revenge, and restore its social status. Uhrman is convinced that this will come about through new types of games and experiences brought to us by small, nimble teams of developers, rather than the Activisions and Electronic Arts.

What do you think? Is she right? I’m not sure I agree with her that watching television makes you a social pariah, and she’s touting her own upcoming device as something that will save the television from a fate that it might not need saving from. While the Ouya is a very low-cost console, with some exciting prospects, we haven’t played one yet, so we can’t comment on it. And in a world soon to be crowded with the next PlayStation, the next Xbox, and the Steam Box, we’re suddenly facing a crowded console market again, where only big companies with blockbuster titles will most likely be the only standouts.