Julie Uhrman is the founder and CEO of OUYA, an open source video game console for televisions. She is an inspiration for women in gaming everywhere and is revolutionizing the industry. Here are some excerpts from an interview she did with The Blueprint:
Tell us a bit about OUYA.
OUYA is a video game console for the television that’s different. Based on Android, OUYA is entirely open, enabling any developer access to the television. As a result of being open, we have triple-A independent game developers and new game-makers publishing on OUYA. We wanted OUYA to be inexpensive and affordable to gamers so we sell it for $99 for both console and controller, and nearly every game is free to try. It is for new, inventive, immersive, innovative games on the television; games that were purpose-built for the television and a controller. We got our start on Kickstarter in the summer of 2012.
We knew OUYA was one of those things where it’s a really big, disruptive idea, especially because, historically, game consoles were a closed system. They were controlled by an oligopoly of competitors—three in fact—and nobody thought about entering and changing the space other than possibly the idea of streaming games to those consoles or PCs.
We wanted to play the new, inventive games that we’d started to see on mobile, but in the living room. We built this open platform and went to Kickstarter and said essentially the opposite of Field of Dreams, “If you come, we will build it.” We wanted to raise $950,000 and over the course of the campaign from over 63,000 backers, we raised close to $8.6 million. We launched in June of 2013. We’re now available in retail in the US and Canada, Western Europe, and the Middle East. We now have over 930 games, 38,000 registered developers, and we’re growing our engaged community of gamers and developers daily.
How did your path lead you to the decision to challenge the status quo in this industry?
I love creators. I’ve been part of the video game industry for a long time and I was seeing a number of trends. One major trend was the explosiveness of mobile as a gaming device. I think the reason for that is because it was so much easier for developers to access that device. You were also starting to see more of the inventive content go to that device—a device that wasn’t purposely built for gaming. Touch isn’t the right controller for accuracy and precision, and the screen is significantly smaller.
I was also watching a lot of great developers move to the mobile platform. When we had the idea, we were in what seemed like the last cycle of the traditional consoles lifecycle, and yet they were still super expensive at over $300. Plus, games still cost $60 and it continued to be a hits driven business. Add to all of that, the Android platform was growing, the price of chips was declining every single year, we felt it was time to create something that didn’t exist, which was an open platform for games on the television. What Sundance did for independent filmmakers, we wanted to do for independent game makers.
It was January of 2012 and the first question was, can we do this? We wanted to make sure it was accessible and affordable for gamers. $99 is really the sweet spot for bringing a new device into the living room. I spent a ton of time on Alibaba.com and looking at teardown reports figuring out what were the quintessential specifications for our device. For example, we knew that NVIDIA made an incredibly powerful Tegra GPU, which could play great games. I just started looking at all these different configurations and realized that I could build this and sell it for $99. Once I checked that box, then the next step was to figure out how to develop a community. That’s the harder part, especially in our case where it’s a two-sided market.
That resulted in the chicken and the egg problem of: how do we get gamers if we don’t have great content? How do I get developers to developer for a new console, if I don’t have gamers? That’s what Kickstarter really did for us because once gamers said they wanted this device, developers said, “OK. I’ll build for it.” The opportunity cost for developers seemed to decline.
Read the full interview here.
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