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The future of Ouya, according to Kellee Santiago Exclusive

The future of Ouya, according to Kellee Santiago
August 30, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

The Ouya enters at a time of major market upheaval and transition. The first of an oncoming wave of microconsoles, the Ouya will live or die by the strength of its developer support -- just like any other game console.

Enter Kellee Santiago, one of the first high-profile figures attached to the Ouya. An alumna of the University of Southern California's interactive media program, Santiago was a co-founder and key player within thatgamecompany who helped bring its Sony-exclusive titles flOw, Flower and Journey to market. After leaving thatgamecompany in 2012, Santiago came aboard Ouya's team as head of developer relations this past February, and has been working since to promote the platform to devs large and small.

"Ouya gets it," Santiago said at the time. "This is the first console company that really understands how important it is to remove the barriers to development."

With the Ouya now in the wild, Santiago remains enthusiastic about the platform. She was an instrumental force behind the recent announcement that Ryan Green and Josh Larson's That Dragon, Cancer would be coming to the console as an Ouya exclusive, and we're likely to see even more from her in the coming weeks and months.

"The types of players that come to Ouya are looking for unique, standout experiences," Santiago told Gamasutra. "What we're finding out on Ouya is that the games that resonate with players are the unique experiences, original IPs, games that are unique to Ouya."

The most successful titles on the platform to date are Matt Thorson's TowerFall and Adam Spragg's Hidden in Plain Sight, the latter of which previously appeared on Xbox Live Indie Games. The current paucity of originals and exclusives like TowerFall is something Ouya is presently seeking to remedy, through its Free the Games initiative and direct investment in titles like That Dragon, Cancer.

"You have to keep in mind that developers have only had kits since December at the earliest, and that reflects the kind of content we see on the platform today," Santiago reminded. "Games like That Dragon, Cancer take longer to develop, and... I do think it speaks to what I hope is an evolution of the platform."

Santiago says her current goal in her work with Ouya is bolstering a supportive environment for developers. That entails new tools and resources, formalizing the resources that Ouya has, as well as fostering a community for devs.

"We are always talking about 'what is it that the developers need?' And when [we] say developer, that means any developer," Santiago maintained. "[We're] not talking about what the largest studios need versus the perhaps 'lesser' important needs of one person."

"Ouya has already created an ecosystem in which guys like Josh Larson and Ryan Green and women like [Rose and Time developer] Sophie Houlden can get their experiences in front of audiences on a completely level playing field."

Asked about upcoming rival microconsoles such as the GameStick, Santiago seemed unconcerned. If anything, she was simply focused on her own work.

"With any console you need to justify your existence in some way," she said. "And what I see happening in this phase is that a lot of companies are seeing this potential market opportunity by bringing the open marketplace dynamic of mobile into the living room. It could potentially unlock a new userbase; a new spending base that hasn't been tapped into yet."

"As for me, I joined Julie Uhrman and Ouya because their message has been led not by identifying this need in the marketplace but by seeing an opportunity to create a living room console that is driven by developers first."

This week is microconsole week on Gamasutra. For more about microconsole game development, check out our official event page.

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