It wasn’t that long ago that Ouya became a crowdfunding success, earning millions from gamers eager to play Android games on their TVs. It launched in March for Kickstarter supporters, then went to retail in June to strong sales. But the buzz quickly vanished as next-gen consoles neared release. Now Ouya seems to be confirming its position as a moribund fourth wheel with a new white edition that unfortunately brings to mind the Dreamcast--that beautiful beast of a cautionary tale from Sega's past.
Originally gaining notoriety for its cheapness as the $99 console, the limited edition white version costs $129 (a $30 premium over the standard model), and includes 16GB of internal flash storage (more than double the standard). It’ll be delivered before Christmas if pre-ordered by December 8. Perhaps this will give it the holiday boost it needs, but it’s hard not to see it as getting completely overshadowed by the PS4 and Xbox One. Both those consoles are opening up more and more to indie devs, which is one of Ouya’s greatest strengths. And even if that doesn’t happen, multiple Android-based competitors are coming home, as are affordable alternatives like the Vita TV’s eventual stateside release (it is eventual, dammit).
The Ouya’s ominous situation brings to mind the Dreamcast’s ill fate just as much as the coloring limited model and controller. The Dreamcast was also an affordable alternative that launched with positive buzz and a quality library heading into 2000. Then the PS2 hit the gaming scene, taking all of the mainstream’s attention and torpedoing the system. By early 2001, Sega was out of the console race, its final, white console becoming a tragic story of good system that launched at the wrong time. It’s a road that Ouya is already going down after its first six months.
Then again, the Dreamcast’s situation might be preferable to Ouya’s current one. The Droid-based system is aching for exclusives, a problem Sega didn’t face thanks to its deep bench of internal developers. And while Ouya’s having to face a number of pretenders and challengers, it launched with a more stable UI and online functionality than the Dreamcast ever had.
There are worse systems to be compared to--just imagine another special edition Ouya that looked like an Atari Jaguar or 3DO (actually, I’d probably buy something that painfully niche). But Ouya’s corporate owners don’t need to further highlight the similarities between its device and Sega’s final console failure. If Ouya keeps going down its current path, it’ll perhaps be remembered well by a continually shrinking group of fans ala the Dreamcast, but it’ll never be the transcendent system it hopes to be.