Very interesting challenge, how to go up against established industry leaders to offer something innovative, different and well-designed. This project is slickly executed without losing sight of the goal, to empower the community of indie gamers with a tool that works for them. – Jesse
Love the grassroots/hacker effort. Kickstarter for gamers to give wider access to design and innovation. Love the match of beautiful product design with a hacker. Broad access device. Will enable future innovation! – Kate
A great, elegant solution to the gaming world. Love the approach for gamers, opening the door for the most creative community. Love the disruptive nature and the ‘why not?’ mentality—all in all a well-designed (form and function) object. – Susana
Ouya is a new company and offering in the gaming industry, bringing open source gaming directly to your TV and disrupting a market dominated by established tech giants. This strategy has established OUYA as a strong new brand that responds to and reflects the passion and creativity of the community that helped to build it.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
HIGH WALLS AROUND THE GAMING INDUSTRY
With a lengthy and complicated approvals process and high fees, console makers have created a huge barrier to entry for independent game developers. The challenge for OUYA was: How do we reach out to these passionate, yet disenfranchised game developers with a new gaming platform that feels credible, compelling, and promises a large enough market to make it worth their while?
IF A GAME DOESN’T FIT INTO A KNOWN CATEGORY, IT’S TOO RISKY
Like big Hollywood movie studios, established game developers fall back on proven formulas. They are focused more on what will sell than creating truly exciting, cutting edge content. The result is a formulaic and uninspired marketplace that does little to support real innovation and creativity. OUYA has the chance to bring a much broader range of games to a mainstream audience, elevating the long tail of gaming and reinvigorating the gaming community.
A GROWING MOVEMENT WITH NO HERO TO RALLY AROUND
After years of independent game creators and aficionados toiling and sharing in relative obscurity on their PC’s, the release of the widely acclaimed “indie game” movie brought new awareness to the mainstream. But still, the movement was fragmented, with no clear hub for the community. As such, the challenge for OUYA was to create a new brand and product that the indie gaming community could rally around, and leverage to draw new people into the fold.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBER OF POLYGONS
Early on in the development process, we mad a choice. We decided that it was more important that the console be affordable (the people’s console) than super powerful. The reason to buy an OUYA is for the creativity and inventiveness of the games that you won’t find elsewhere. But how do you explain that value to many gamers who have been trained to evaluate game consoles purely on tech specs, such as frame rate, # of polygons, etc.?
LACK OF INITIAL INTEREST AND FUNDING
As a new idea in a crowded market, initial investors were skeptical about the probability of the company’s success in this industry. They did not see the consumer’s need for a fresh new gaming experience. How do we capitalize on what we see as a great opportunity for a new offering and spread awareness and excitement for the product, both within the industry and beyond?
After the initial Kickstarter success of OUYA, the time came to take the insight and input from over 63,000 backers and create a truly unique and expressive gaming experience across the board. To do this, we had to consider many different components throughout the design process:
SPEAKING TO GAMERS
We spoke to gamers of all different ages and from many different cultures, both online and in person to learn about the existing indie game community, their passions, beliefs and needs. As this is the audience that had backed the company from the start and would own the system ultimately, understanding their needs and incorporating their feedback was essential to the process.
REACHING OUT TO DEVELOPERS
Working with OUYA, we reached out to game developers – both those who were building indie games and those who were not, to find out what was important to them and what drives their choice of development platform. Just as with the gamers, we needed to know what developers require from their platforms to ensure Ouya’s success.
What we learned from talking to the community influenced us to:
PUT CONTROL BACK IN THE HANDS OF CREATORS
Give game developers the ability to market, position and price their games the way they want, which is not possible on big consoles.
KEEP IT OPEN
This is a proud community of people who learn by experimentation — hacking, tweaking, modifying. Rather than block this activity, we decided to embrace it. This “open” philosophy is reflected in both the hardware and software which is designed to allow modification and hackability without negative consequences.
EMBRACE, AND CELEBRATE A NEW DIVERSITY
Don’t try to make every game fall into a known category. Provide room for outliers, and create a place for enthusiasts of the hundreds of micro-genres to connect and share.
GIVE THE COMMUNITY A REAL VOICE
Traditional gaming consoles don’t facilitate communication between gamers and developers, and if you do make a comment or suggestion to the console maker, it often feels like your voice is lost in the void. With OUYA we wanted to design in a way that encourages transparency and communication, and where the voice of the community has real decision-making power.
A Successful Crowd-Funding Campaign
For many, Kickstarter is just about access to otherwise unobtainable funds, and while this was a consideration for OUYA, it went beyond that. We developed a unique Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness around our passion and interest in moving the entire gaming industry in a new, different direction. For OUYA, it served as a powerful communications platform to reach a seed group of evangelists who helped us build momentum and buzz around the effort.
The response was tremendous. Ultimately OUYA raised 8.59 million towards the initial production run of consoles, and gained a ton of valuable input from comments and support of the 63,000 backers worldwide.
Bringing gaming back to its essence:
Everything about Ouya is considered and designed with a passion for gaming, working to capture the pure joy that comes from the experience. The name itself, for example, is fun to say, a rally call around a new type of game play. The design of the interface also employs this tactic, using horizontal parallax scrolling in homage to classic games like Sonic and Super Mario. The hardware is simple and ergonomic, allowing users to focus on the game at hand. Using sculpted forms and quality materials, the console and controller were designed with input from actual gamers, ensuring it delivers a premium experience. Each touch point of OUYA is meant to bring the user back to a more classic, true gaming experience.
As the project developed from the Kickstarter campaign throughout the design process, it was incredibly important to create a cohesive brand message, throughout each touchpoint.
Simple and Bold Design: The hardware, UI and packaging focus on simple and bold gestures, removing distractions from the game at hand. The console and controller are clean and easy to use, with an organized design that eliminates unnecessary parts and pieces with innovative removable sides that hide screws and batteries. As with the OUYA hardware, the UI’s main focus is reducing clutter and improving ease of use, through simple gestures and the removal of unnecessary details. The navigation is intuitive to use, ensuring the user is never more than one click away from the main menu.
From the user experience through the gamer’s interaction with the physical components, OUYA succeeds as a holistic experience. OUYA’s distinct mission of creating an open universe for gamers and developers alike lead to the building of a smart and adaptive system that brings the user closer to the experience they crave. Both the interface and hardware are truly open, available to be hacked, changed and built upon in a real way. The console form plays off the brand’s graphic elements in a fun, gestural way. The O,U,Y,A controller buttons are laid out to correspond directly with the user interface in both order and color. Also, the use of an innovative material that is not generally associated with gaming ties the product offering together in an iconic way.