Ouya, the maker of a $99 video game system running on a modified version of Google's Android mobile operating system, is going to great lengths to get players to buy into its platform -- even if it means giving away 800 games for the price of one.
Starting Monday, Ouya will offer access to its entire game library for a 12-month period, all for a nonrefundable fee of $59.99. The program, a $2,000 value, Ouya says, applies only to one-time purchases under $30 such as full-game unlocks and downloadable content.
Gameplay-enhancing purchases that can be made more than once also are excluded. That leaves intact many of the microtransaction revenue streams for Ouya games, all of which are required by its platform to have some type of free-to-play mechanism to make titles more accessible to players. Buyers of the pass get a coupon code that, when redeemed, renders the cost of all applicable downloads as $0.00.
The offer, called Ouya All-Access, is not yet a permanent initiative that customers can renew annually, the company said.
"Ouya All-Access is a pilot subscription program we're offering to new and existing Ouya users for a limited time only. For the price of one console game, players receive access to the entire Ouya catalog of more than 800 titles, for a full year. It's just one of many things we're exploring to give players the best value, and developers the best visibility. Results of this test will dictate if/how we proceed with an official subscription program," Ouya said in a statement.
Following its notable $8.5 million Kickstarter campaign nearly two years ago, the company headed up by outspoken CEO Julie Uhrman is feeling the heat from competitors in an increasingly crowded market for low-cost devices called micro consoles. These systems bridge the gap between mobile gaming and high-end console gaming, and are now beginning to offer a bevy of entertainment options that beef up the value proposition of buying one. All-Access is Ouya's attempt to keep its blood flowing after announcing back in March that it would shift from a hardware-first company intent on competing with the likes of Sony and Microsoft to a software platform to embed into third-party set-top boxes and television sets.
The timing is important. The All-Access deal comes on the heels of Google's I/O developers conference last week in which Google, the purveyor of the very software Ouya relies on, debuted its very own big-screen software initiative, Android TV. A large component of Google's Android TV will be gaming, from casual Android mobile games to experiences more akin to console gaming that rely on additional technology like game controllers. Google may even plan on building and bundling its own controller with Android TV sets, according to a model given out at I/O and posted on Google+ by attendee Artem Russakovskii.
Furthermore, Google has already partnered with hardware makers Razer and Asus, both of which are onboard to produce their very own Android TV micro consoles to do exactly what Ouya said it was pivoting to provide back in March. Of course, Ouya is not the primary target here. Google is setting its sights on established incumbents in the streaming market like Apple with its Apple TV set-top box and Roku with its line of streaming devices. There's Amazon too, which became a recent entrant to the market with Fire TV and a strong focus on gaming as well.
Uhrman once boldly claimed the gaming revolution would be televised, and it appears that while Microsoft and Sony are still the largest players in the gaming-first realm, there are even larger dangers beyond trying to upend the game industry status quo. Because what Ouya did not quite anticipate was that micro consoles would begin to converge with streaming boxes, and that Google would be at the forefront of the software charge to power all of those devices.
Still, Ouya is hoping that its accessibility, lower costs, and willingness to cut big deals like All-Access with customers will prove it's a platform that can stick around.