The Future of Micro-Consoles
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The Future of Micro-Consoles

In our previous blog, we explored the journey of the micro-console Ouya before its launch. The company recently announced that the micro-console now has over 25,000 registered developers. On August 9, 2012, Ouya finished with $8,596,475 at 904% of their goal from more than 63,000 backers. The sum is nine times the company’s original fundraising goal of $950,000. Investors who pledged $95 or more get a free console. Four months after the console’s official release in the US and UK in June 2013, Ouya’s store is now filled with more than 481 games and apps for download.

In its short life, Ouya has developed partnerships with entertainment platforms such as Vevo, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and XBMC. In July this year, NPD described the retail sales of the Ouya console as “Relatively light,” and attributed this to the lack of a major marquee title driving consumers to seek out the console, low awareness due to Ouya being a new brand, and low inventory volume due to manufacturing constraints. Though it is fair to say that Ouya has had a soft launch, Ouya was significantly improved in June since March and is continuing to do so.

Micro-consoles could potentially represent a huge change in the gaming console industry. Some of the reasons why they could possibly hold a reasonable market share are: low prices, common operating systems, developer empowerment and free-to-play economics.

Developers seem to be most glad and excited about these emerging platforms: If there is a key promise of the micro-console model that appeals to developers, it is the appeal of delivering a console-style experience without the expense and red tape of publishing your game on a traditional console. These platforms now offer increased support to game developers and offer lower prices on developer kits. Thus they are removing many of the old roadblocks that developers used to face.

Traditional gaming consoles could get boxed into a niche: Traditional gaming consoles are facing a future of fewer games and decreased diversity. Then there is always the question of cost. Manufacturers are trying to cram a lot of new features into their consoles, and while doing this, they are moving from the fun bracket to the serious-purchase bracket. They want to lock consumers into their ecosystem for a long time and always pay a premium. However, that is not how many people want to play games these days. It is casual, on-the-go gaming on portable devices that has been a huge trend in the recent times. Many of these users look for a richer gaming experience, but still do not want to invest in a traditional console.

The micro-consoles are an attractive option for this growing segment. The micro-consoles of today are first-generation. It is quite possible that they will evolve rapidly and eventually get it right. Things have suddenly started to get a whole lot more interesting in the gaming hardware space. Micro-consoles deserve a chance to grow as a medium. How much success they eventually will achieve depends on vendor commitment, the pace of innovation and ultimately, customer acceptance.

Ishma Siddiqi
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