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Exclusive interview – Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman believes Ouya is “challenging the status quo”

Earlier this week, darkzero was able to obtain an exclusive interview with the CEO of Ouya, Julie Uhrman. We see the Ouya as a system with quite a bit of potential, and Julie’s comments about the system reveal that not only is her company aiming to revolutionize the market, she wants to challenge the established hierarchy of gaming. Yes, that means you, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.

While it’s clear that console gaming from days long since past is the inspiration for this console, what led to its conception?

I grew up playing games on TV. I think I felt likeand I don’t think I was alone in this—that the game industry has experienced a ‘brain drain’ in recent years. Some of the most creative minds in game making have abandoned console development for the comparative ease of developing for mobile platforms. I wanted to lure them back to the television with a console that was more developer friendly. That was the first germ of the idea. When I saw a device built on Android, it occurred to me that perhaps I could base a console on Android. kinds of gamers and all kinds of developers to get in on the fun.”

My first thought was how this would affect indie developers who have found the PC as a place of refuge for their work.

Indie games have brought new life into the PC, allowing it to break away from modern console gaming. How do you feel your console will impact independent developers, as well as indie gaming on the PC?

We think many of those indie devs were lured to the PC because fundamentally PCs are more open. With OUYA, our plan was to be open. Whether you are an indie darling or an AAA powerhouse, we want your games! We’ve removed the challenges typically associated with console gaming and we think that by making it easier for devs to make games for the living room we can bring them back to console gaming. It’s time to come back, guys!”

With that in mind, we transitioned to discussing a problem the Android Marketplace has been facing for quite some time. While the open OS is wonderful, the Marketplace has become plagued with mature content since its release.

The Android marketplace has had a hard time policing “mature” content for some time now. While it’s clear that crafty individuals will be able to mod the console and download these products from other sources, do you have any plans for policing the game console to ensure that a parent or child won’t stumble across something with adult content while looking for casual games?

“We are currently building out our software solution so this is something we can’t speak to now except to say that we are working on it.”

Unfortunately, while the notion had indeed been brought to Julie’s attention, she couldn’t comment on how her company would handle the issue. However, they were aware of it and countermeasures will implemented. It will probably be impossible to keep crafty hackers away from publishing some adult content, but our hopes remain that they’ll figure out a way to keep it away from families.

The next question pertained to the topic of the big three. For the better part of a decade now, three giants have dominated the world of gaming. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo had long since dug their trenches and are well established to struggle against one another, let alone a new start-up console. How will the Ouya take on the Goliaths of gaming?

You’re bringing a new product into a world dominated by three giants. What makes this console something a consumer would want to purchase instead of an Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii?

Fundamentally, we are challenging the status quo. We don’t believe that consoles are dead, but we do feel that the traditional console manufacturers are entrenched in the business of running the business, and often the costs of that business land on the gamers themselves. For example, with the advancements in technology, it’s no longer necessary to use a custom chipset. Something off the shelf will provide [a] great performance. But because console systems have always had them, and consumers have really never questioned this, consumers pay the price at retail.

I do think that we offer an attractive alternative”, continued Julie. “At $99 dollars, it’s cheaper than the cost of two new games. I for one own multiple consoles and I expect that I’m not alone in that. In addition to being cost effective and beautifully designed. OUYA will also offer a broad range of games. We’re not building a new home for mobile ports. In fact, we think that our unique controller —which offers everything you’ve come to expect: fast buttons, triggers, laser-precise analog sticks, a D-Pad – PLUS a will inspire developers will be create new types of gameplay for it. And, we’ve already announced the first title to be built from the ground up for OUYA: an episodic prequel to Human Element from Robert Bowling’s Robotoki studio.” [Further information on the aforementioned prequel can be found on the official Ouya Kickstarter page.]

It’s important to note that Julie mentions her console isn’t “a new home for mobile ports.” That statement confirms that titles that have previously appeared on iOS, like Final Fantasy III, will be rebuilt specifically with the Ouya in mind.

At this point, our questions deviated to hardware. The first concern was if this console could really threaten something like the Xbox 360 regarding performance. While Julie had already mentioned that custom chipsets were no longer necessary for a great console, the concern was still there.

Without necessarily going into what may be classified secrets concerning the console, what can you tell us about its video limitations? At $99 dollars, it seems a bit unbelievable that this console could run games like Skyrim or Rage.

We’ve had a lot of questions about this, people asking whether or not Tegra 3 could handle the types of games that they want to play and we’ve been directing them to the Tegra 3 demo from NVIDIA.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBl-goBrWno&w=560&h=315]

People familiar with the Tegra 3 in today’s mobile devices need to remember that this is not a mobile device. We won’t have a screen. We won’t have a battery. We won’t have to balance (and trade) power to increase battery life. So we can crank up the performance of these chips. And, we’re already working closely with Nvidia to do just that.

To put it simply, the Ouya is not a phone. It gets plugged into the wall, and receives all its power from that power source. Unlike Android based phones, the Ouya can push the Tegra 3 to its limit and showcase previously unseen aspects of the hardware.

Similarly, we are also concerned with the console’s storage capabilities. While 8 gigabytes of storage would be great if someone wanted to store a television show on the $99 hard-drive, it might seem too limited in handling multiple large titles.

Concerning the memory of the console. While 8 gigs of storage is fine if the consumer only intends to download low demand games, is there a contingency plan for if gamers purchase and download more than 8 gigs of data?

We are confident that our specs will support our vision. If we promised a datacenter of storage, we wouldn’t be able to meet our design and cost goals. That said: We did include a USB port that gamers can chose to use for an external hard drive which would expand storage space exponentially. And of course, our partnership with OnLive facilitates hundreds of streaming games on demand, which won’t tax memory.”

In other words, gamers will have to use the Ouya as the designer intended to fully enjoy it’s offerings. While you’ll be able to expand beyond the 8 gigabytes of storage, it’ll have to be through additional external hard drives.

Finally, we had to ask about how Julie and the rest of her team intend to use the additional funds donated through Kickstarter (as of August 2nd, the project had met 673% of it’s anticipated goal).

The Kickstarter project has more than quintupled the requested asking donation; how do you intend to use the extra funds?

“We don’t view these as extra funds or donations; we consider them to be additional console orders. The tremendous OUYA support means people want this console. The majority of our backers invested in the OUYA console, and they’ll receive their console on launch day. What the Kickstarter support allows us to do is show the world that people want to see OUYA hit the market as much as we do. Once we exceeded the initial target (which would allow us to develop our console from functional prototype to product on the market), we decided that the additional money would be put towards pleasing our two constituencies: game developers and game players. For developers that means increased functionality and features, for gamers that means content.”

The Ouya, if it lives up to what Julie promises, has potential. Now the question is if that potential will be put to good use. We here at darkzero would love to see it succeed, and we’ll be sure to keep you informed as we find out more about this exciting new console in the coming months.