When OUYA was first revealed, it sort of blew everyone's mind. Raising nearly 10x the amount of its fundraising goal, the tiny portable-that-could raised roughly $8.6 million, proving to everyone that the OUYA's existence was very real, and that it had the potential to be more than just a niche, hobby gadget for open-source enthusiasts to tinker with. Could it just be that maybe, just maybe, a new challenger would emerge to compete with the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo? In a market dominated by three well-established brands, could there be room for a fourth…maybe even more?
Considering the recent announcements of NVIDIA's Project Shield, the GameStick, and Valve's Steam Box, it certainly seems that there is plenty of room for competition in the console market. The question that remains now however is have we bitten off more than we can chew? Competition is certainly a good thing and its great to see so many fresh ideas comes out of the gate in an era that is entirely too concerned about what Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have to offer. Yes, these companies are where your core gaming experiences are going to come from, but that doesn't mean that the buck has to stop there. The problem is that with all these consoles hitting the market in what appears to be very span of one another, do any have a chance to be anything but marginally successful? Could the market become over-saturated with a bunch of consoles destined to be forgotten?
Probably not. Personally, I welcome our new Android-based overlords. Over-saturation of the market is a non-issue with the way things work nowadays. For one, I honestly don't foresee parents buying their kids an OUYA on their birthday. I also don't see a bunch of wide-eyed children unwrapping a brand new Project Shield on Christmas morning. What I do see however is a friend bringing over a GameStick to his buddy's house to show it off. I see a Steam Box resting on the shelf of every Steam account owner across the globe.
If you are inclined to believe that the likes of OUYA and Steam Box will one day end up like those 200 Games in 1 junk 'consoles' you see floating around a Chinatown market, think again. This new blood of consoles isn't a threat, but a welcomed change. On the surface, many argue that you are 'just playing mobile games on your TV', and yes, that is somewhat true. That doesn't mean that these systems don't have a place in the gaming market. I, along with a handful of other staff members, have backed these projects. And I honestly can't wait for my OUYA and GameStick to arrive. Forget for a moment the idea of putting a console in your pocket and taking it with you to friend's house or even on vacation without taking up any luggage space (seriously, GameStick is like super-portable), the potential for innovation, creativity, and games being made solely out of passion is too great to ignore. There will be no massive budget, just a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears from a group of developers that just want to make fun games.
What these consoles are doing is providing would-be developers a viable place to start. It's also a place for groups of seasoned developers to get together and develop something fun without the red-tape that comes with AAA title development. I'm sure it's every young developers dream to work on a high-profile title, but at the end of the day you must answer to the person who's paying you to create your content. And with the Steam Box's case, Valve is validating their loyal consumer base by giving their community a physical presence in the console gaming arena.
As gamers, it's hard not to be wowed by the efforts of OUYA, GameStick, Project Shield and Steam Box. It won't exactly be niche, but the likes of these fresh-faced systems won't exactly do away with consoles gaming as we know it. So Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo needn't worry; just take note of the changes that are coming to the closed ecosystem you have tried to maintain over the last four decades.
Written by Associate Staff Writer Bryan Le. Questions for the author? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.