Can Ouya crack digital retail riddle?

When it comes to Ouya, much of the excitement has focused on the physical box itself: a cheap 99 Android console made famous on Kickstarter.

The hardware launches on June 4th, will be stocked by GAME, and will launch with hundreds of smartphone games rebuilt for TV.

But the platform’s real innovation isn’t necessarily its quick-to-market console. According to CEO Julie Uhrman, its digital storefront has been designed to improve how downloadable games are sold in the home.

In contrast to PlayStation, Xbox and Wii U, the console’s front end is a streamlined menu that emphasises ‘discovery’. The firm plans to maintain a set of subdivisions that separate out content by genre, but will also run its own curated channel, and use engagement metrics based on the amount of time spent on each game to show users the most popular titles.

We’re not approaching this like other consoles are,” Uhrman told MCV last week.

Every step of the way this has been about keeping things simple – we haven’t thrown out anything that you would expect to find on a console, but we have focused on making it as easy as possible to get users closer to games.”

Much of this positioning comes to help smaller developers – the primary source of Ouya games – not the big publishers which tend to dominate the ‘What’s New’ and ‘Featured’ spotlight areas on other digital stores.

The device has 8,000 registered developers. Uhrman said that a fifth of those are new to the Android platform on which the console is built.

Ouya also requires each game to be free to try: in order to give all our users a taste of what can be found on Ouya,” said Uhrman.

Meanwhile, Uhrman said that, despite the emphasis on digital retailing within the console, physical distribution is still important to a set top box device.

She told MCV: There are aspects of the Ouya that are traditional in that sense – and retail is important to selling this device. It’s just that we approach some of these traditional things in our own Ouya way.”

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