OUYA is a $99 Android-powered box open to any developer for hacking. That means you can crack it open, play with the hardware, and develop any kind of Android application for a television.
It's not the biggest Kickstarter funding project of all time, but it's raised more money than many startups raise through traditional fundraising. And throughout the whole process, OUYA has been able to pick up customer feedback, tweaking the product and perfecting it before it launches.
That's a comfort many startups don't have when they are looking for their first batch of seed funding to get a project off the ground.
By embracing the hacker community, OUYA is making a strong, alternative play to the rest of the devices hoping for control of the living room. And with good developers come good apps and good hardware—and a better end-user experience.
In addition to running Android applications, OUYA is going to carry a ton of games you can play for free. Developers, by default, have to make part of their games free to play, and can make money by charging for in-game items or features.
But instead of raising money through traditional means to build the console, which is difficult for a hardware company, OUYA decided to try and raise $950,000 on Kickstarter. It's since blown past that goal.
We caught up with Julie Uhrman, CEO of OUYA, to find out what it's like to raise $7 million in a matter of weeks. Here's what she said:
OUYA has committed to 80,000 consoles shipped in March. The extra funding past its $950,000 goal is being used to ship additional consoles.
More funding means more developer tools. The company has been accepting a lot of feedback from Kickstarter backers and incorporated new features, like an ethernet port, into the console.
OUYA is in talks with larger publishers. One of the big complaints for OUYA was that it's not carrying a lot of high-profile triple-A titles. But OUYA is already talking to larger publishers that produce those types of games, but the negotiations take a while because they are larger companies with large legal teams.
Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the interview:
BUSINESS INSIDER: You just raised $7 million — on Kickstarter, no less. How does it feel?
Julie Uhrman: We're feeling great, the idea continues to resonate. It just shows that more and more people want an open, accessible, affordable game console. We're completely blown away. Right now, we're really focused on building a great product and building a business — and as part of that, everything we've done through Kickstarter has been completely organic. We've spent our time putting partnerships together and building something that, along with being a great console for games, is allowing streaming content, streaming music, and now adding an open-source media player in XBMC.
BI: What do you plan on doing with all that extra funding?
JU: Our original goal was $950,000, but the fact we blew through it means we can deliver more consoles on day one and we can deliver more tools for developers. We can continue work on having something great for when it launches. None of the current partnerships required any of the Kickstarter funding. The challenge is that there are a lot of developers that we want to work with that have to go through legal departments and other things. The funding also allows us to build more features and functionality. We've been overwhelmed by incoming inquiries for partnerships. All of these partnerships are a part of sort of running and building a business.
BI: How many consoles do you guys plan on delivering?
JU: We have definitely vetted our numbers and we are confident we can launch in March 2013. We've committed to 80,000 units in March through Kickstarter.
"We've committed to 80,000 units in March through Kickstarter."
The nice thing about Kickstarter is that it's global, anyone can get an OUYA. As for physical distribution, we've been having those conversations. Kickstarter wasn't a pre-order or marketing push for us, we absolutely needed those funds to take OUYA to the market. We went to Kickstarter because we wanted to move quickly because we thought it was the honest and right thing to do.
BI: How receptive has the Kickstarter team been through the whole process?
JU: They've been wonderful, they've been available to answer questions as we've gone along. We had a quick conversation before we went on to Kickstarter, but they've been very encouraging. Kickstarter is certainly new for us and they've been a great sounding board for advice and recommendations.
BI: What do you have to say about some of the criticism that OUYA might not live up to its expectations?
JU: We're still a product that's very much in development. We haven't announced our full launch slate of titles because it's too soon and it's a lot happening between now and then. We've been talking to big publishers but not surprisingly they have big legal teams and move slowly. The announcements are a great sign of things to come, including content that's not available anywhere else. We aren't a final product, and we've been very public that we are in development.
BI: Have you guys accomplished your goal since starting the Kickstarter project?
JU: It was always the goal to get into every living room. The best part of Kickstarter was opening up a two-way dialogue. because we're a product in development we've been able to incorporate feedback. We've changed some of the buttons, added an Ethernet cord. We've thought about how we think about the directional pad. First and foremost this is a great gaming console and we will have great games. The idea that this is a powerful, beautifully designed game controller. I think OUYA is a phenomenal game console, it's $99 where all the games are free to play. Anyone who ever wanted to develop a game for the television could do so. We're definitely challenging the status quo and the ideas that game consoles need to be closed. We're trying to embrace a lot of the business model and bring it back to the television to get more creative, innovative games. The success we've had with Kickstarter has proven that there's a market for OUYA. The audience is definitely split between gamers and game developers.