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Developers Speak Out: Why Microconsoles?
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Developers Speak Out: Why Microconsoles?

August 28, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

The Allure of Consoles

But these devices have another major appeal -- one that's less business-focused. They are consoles -- not PCs, not tablets. They are hooked to TVs, and use familiar game controllers as their default interface. Many developers have long wanted to make console games, and the microconsoles can make this process much easier and more direct.

Though Tale of Tales has primarily released its games on PCs, Harvey and Samyn founded the studio in hopes of releasing games on a PlayStation platform. With Ouya, for the first time, Harvey can make a game for a console.

"I sort of feel like that's still the ultimate experience of a game, and the most meaningful games I have played have been in that sort of situation, and we've always wanted to create for that situation, and hopefully now we'll have a chance to do so," she tells Gamasutra.

Righi Riva is even more blunt. "I've played on consoles my whole life. So going back from controllers to a keyboard and mouse was terrible -- a terrible experience," he says. "Being on Ouya brings back the possibility of doing something with controllers, and with that space."

"We just found that we were enjoying sitting down and playing games together the way we did with the Nintendo 64," he continues. "And it's exciting to be able to make games for this thing that other people can experience in the same lighthearted way."

But not every transition is natural. Jaako Maaniemi blogged about how his team created a bug in the transition from touch control to pad control, and Double Fine's Franzke notes that Broken Age's traditional PC adventure game controls are not a perfect fit for the Ouya. "Obviously, the controller is not the most natural way to play the game, so that will be interesting -- to make it work on there," he says.  

Leydon, meanwhile, doesn't even see a place for Game of War on a microconsole, as it's an always-online MMO that relies on the persistent connection of a smartphone. "It would be really painful to play a persistently online game on a TV," he says. These platforms are not for all developers.

Bertil Hörberg, creator of Gunman Clive -- available on smartphone and Nintendo 3DS -- doesn't have any technological qualms. He's worried about the "small audience" microconsoles will attract. 

"My point on the Ouya and other consoles, is that they just seem like another Android platform to me. I don't see the point of doing a specific version for those," he says.

Microconsole Pitfalls

The Ouya has quickly gained a reputation for being a playground for indies -- but as Hörberg says, that reputation carries with it talk of a small audience. A small audience means low sales and low profitability for developers. Can Ouya or other microconsoles attract enough players to be worth developers' time?

"I think they are going to have a very tough run. It's hard just for the big consoles to make a big impact, but I think that the smaller ones will have a big issue with fragmentation, and getting the right content to them," says Mojang's Daniel Kaplan.

Double Fine's Franzke thinks that it's quite likely that core console consumers -- the ones who buy a handful of games a year, and drive the big sales of those consoles -- will completely ignore microconsoles.

"Because if you're a casual gamer, and you really like your Madden -- that's just an example -- then you might not be interested in an Android console because EA is probably not going to bring out Madden on there anytime soon. It's really for tech enthusiasts," he says.

Without tent pole games, microconsoles could have an uphill battle for mindshare.

"I'm not sure what they're trying to achieve," says Kaplan. "Because consoles are a niche product, and they're making a niche product and a niche user group that are indie developers or indie gamers -- people who like indie games. They're making a really niche product for an even nicher group, so I think it's going to be very tough for them in the long run."

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