Ouya founder and CEO Julie Uhrman says she wanted to re-create the gaming experience she and her sister grew up with.
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Ouya founder and CEO Julie Uhrman says she wanted to re-create the gaming experience she and her sister grew up with.

Story highlights

Ouya is a $99 gaming console that will require all games be offered for free

The console, which runs on Google's Android system, raised $8.6 million on Kickstarter

Founder Julie Uhrman says she wants gaming on TV to be social, fun again

Kickstarter backers get Ouyas late this month; it's on sale to everyone in June

Austin, Texas CNN —  

Julie Uhrman needed $950,000 from Kickstarter in less than a month to make her dream of an affordable, free-to-play gaming console a reality.

She got it in eight hours – and nearly $8 million more after that.

“It was the opposite of ‘Field of Dreams,’ ” said Uhrman, a gaming-industry veteran and former vice president at IGN. “It was, if you come, we will build this.”

And so was born Ouya, a $99 console that’s shaped like and is just a hair bigger than a Rubik’s Cube. It runs on Google’s Android operating system and requires developers to offer a version of their games for free.

Kickstarter backers will be getting their Ouyas later this month and they’ll go on sale to everyone else in June.

Speaking here at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, Uhrman said she got the idea for Ouya (pronounced OOO-yuh) in response to a video-game industry that to her had grown stale.

No new consoles were announced at last year’s E3 gaming conference by the big three console makers (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony). In recent years, almost all the most hyped and popular games have been sequels. And the rise of mobile gaming has been limited, turning video gaming into a solitary exercise rather than the social one she remembered growing up.

“The TV is the best screen for playing games,” Uhrman said in an interview-style keynote with editor Joshua Topolsky of tech blog The Verge. “I remember growing up, playing with my sister … I feel like we’ve lost that. I want to bring back the world of TV gaming.”

The Ouya will cost $99 and all games will at least offer a free trial period.
OUYA
The Ouya will cost $99 and all games will at least offer a free trial period.

For gamers, the strength of a console often boils down to the games they can play on it. To that end, Uhrman said 7,000 developers have signed up for Ouya accounts, from big publishers who create multi-million-selling titles like “Halo” down to the smaller independents.

The only requirement, she says, is that the game must be free or offer a free trial before the player has to buy it. How the game will make money – whether it’s through ads, in-game purchases or sales after a free trial – is up to the developer.

“You shouldn’t have to pay so much money to try out a new game,” she said. “We believe that every single game you should try before you buy.”

During the hour-long interview, Topolsky pushed Uhrman on whether the Ouya, which will have 1GB of RAM and run on an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, will be powerful enough to run the kind of immersive, expansive shooters that have made big gaming releases as lucrative as blockbuster movies.

Her answer came in two parts.

“Yes,” she said. “And why would we?

“Those experiences are great on those devices. You wouldn’t want to play those games anywhere else. But we are going to have exclusive games. … We’re going to have inventive, creative, exciting content that no one else has. At $99, it’s not an either-or decision.”