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Consoles

Ouya, video-game console startup, gets scooped up by Razer

Gaming hardware maker Razer will integrate Ouya's app store and publishing business into its operations as it seeks to expand into content. The future of Ouya's hardware is unclear but looks shaky.

Ouya's game console launched in 2013, but it's the app store and publishing business Razer sought. CNET

Ouya, a game console startup and a darling of the independent development world, has been acquired by Razer.

Santa Monica, California-based Ouya has agreed to sell its software and app store, said Razer, a computer and accessories maker popular with gamers. Razer said Monday it will bring on Ouya's roughly 15-person staff, aside from CEO Julie Uhrman.

Ouya's hardware business was not part of the deal, which closed June 12, and it will likely shut down.

Razer will offer Ouya's technology, such as its app store, to other device makers under the name Cortex and will continue operating Ouya's game publishing business as a wholly owned subsidiary. San Diego-based Razer declined to disclose financial terms of the acquisition.

Uhrman said Ouya brought new thinking to the video game industry.

"I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished," she said. "Ouya was created with the goal to give developers more freedom. In doing this, we created the first open platform for television. And, with more than 1,000 games, we offered more content -- and a broader variety -- than any other platform"

Bringing on Ouya's app store and development efforts will represent a major expansion for privately held Razer, said Min-Liang Tan, the company's CEO. Ouya already offers its app store for several TV set-top boxes, including a few in China, but Tan said Razer's resources will allow for further expansion. The same, he said, will be true of the game publishing business.

"It makes us one of the biggest players in the living room," Tan said, adding that few companies offer both devices and content. "It's a huge bet for us."

The sale marks the end of independence for Ouya. The startup, which launched in 2013, was one of the first to offer an alternative game console, powered by Google's Android software. It attracted lot of attention, with a multimillion dollar crowdfunding campaign and $15 million in funding from some of Silicon Valley's top investors. But ultimately Ouya struggled to find a large enough audience to buy its boxes and the games offered on its devices.

The Ouya game console turned out to be among the first of an array of Internet-connected TV boxes that have become commonplace in millions of homes. Google, for example, has introduced two set-top box technologies: Android TV software to power devices made by other companies, and a device called the Chromecast, which can wirelessly send videos, music and other items from a mobile device to a television. There's also Amazon's Fire TV, as well as Roku, which has notched more than 10 million units sold since going on sale in 2008. Apple's set-top box, called Apple TV, has tallied more than 25 million units sold since landing on store shelves in 2007.

What Ouya offered that was different, though, was its app store and publishing business. The company styled itself as the go-to place for small game developers hoping to break into the console games industry. Several high-profile games launched on Ouya, including TowerFall, a fighting game, which later expanded to the PC, the Mac and Sony's PlayStation 4 game console.

Still, that wasn't enough. In April, Fortune reported Ouya was putting itself up for sale, and in June, CNET reported the company was in negotiations to sell itself to Razer.

Razer's Tan said he will continue to offer support for Ouya's namesake hardware console for the next 12 months and will offer those customers discounts and promotions to encourage them to transition to his company's Forge TV console.

Tan expects Ouya's publishing business to continue as an attractive option for small developers, offering them help testing their games, translating them to other languages and working with app stores in other countries.

"There's a huge amount of competitive advantage and value that Ouya can bring," he said.