Five Finger Discount: Ouya Special

Hello and welcome back to Five Finger Discount! Here we talk about our five or more favorite games from each video game platform, and with fully catching up to the current generation so close to the next-gen launches in November 2020, I thought it’d be fun if the final entries in FFD drew a direct path leading into launch! This tour will be starting of course with summer 2013’s iconic Ouya today, followed by the PS4 on October 21st, the Xbox One on October 28th, and finally the Nintendo Switch on November 4th, one week before before the two Xbox lines and the PS5 launch. And sometime in the future we’ll revisit these consoles that are still getting new releases to see how our lists have continued to evolve.

(My dearest thanks to Merve and the Gamescast for the header image!)

My idea with this week’s discussion specifically is that we’re focusing less on the system’s games for self-explanatory reasons, (although by all means if people want to talk about how much they like Extremely OK Games’ Towerfall, they should) then the history of microconsoles like this generally, why the Ouya in particular failed as hard as it did, and whether these kinds of products are worth revisiting.

And for those of you that might need a quick history lesson, Ouya was an indie Kickstarter project that launched in June 2013 and was discontinued by July 2015. Designed around transferring app store games to the TV, while also being very easily developed for and modded at both the OS and hardware levels. It was supposed to be, in a sense, liberating for devs and players alike to work with and experience games removed from the constraints of the mainstream ecosystem, but design choices from the UI to the controller, and the system’s overall lack of parity in performance with iPhones of the time, made it dysfunctional and unappealing both audiences it was aimed at. It had similarly reckless business practices, like the hands-off approach to how their “Free the Game” dev recruitment was being abused. As such, the Ouya secured no base and no funds to keep going, netting its most acclaimed and bestselling title, the aforementioned Towerfall, only 7000 sales on by the time it was ported to PS4 and PC. The marketing campaign also sent its message of “disrupting” the games industry in a way that did not nail its tone in the same way Devolver Digital’s has in years since.

Serious Content Warning for: overall severe grossout, gore/vomit

Next week, the decade’s hardware truly starts to hits its stride as the PS4 arrives on the scene as loudly as possible!