OUYA have been very hesitant to release their sales figures. But they’ve done enough to convince big retailers of their saleability. So what might the numbers actually be?
I’d love to be able to answer that question with some certainty. As a developer, there are big decisions that could easily be swayed by knowing the potential audience size, not least the budget to shoot for an OUYA game.
This point was brought home to me when another developer complained about being unable to get a bank loan to fund his company’s OUYA game development. Look at it from the bank’s perspective, and it’s not hard to see why:
- High risk, venture capital startup
- Only 60,000 units confirmed sold
- Not willing to state how many pre-orders on top of that. Probably because the number is low
- Competitive market, with big established players (Sony/Microsoft) both launching rival systems this year
Clearly though, the big retailers that OUYA signed up last week think it’s a winner, or can at least serve a purpose. I can’t say I know anything about Target, but I’ll try to break down some of the reasons why the other retailers might want to stock a cost-price console:
Best Buy will use OUYA as something different and unusual and shiny to put next to the TV’s and in the games sections of its stores. The console is already being retailed at cost, so after distribution costs, it will fill a loss leader role, increase sales volume, and plug the hole in gaming until the really profitable new PS4/Xbox720 turn up in time for the holidays.
Gamestop are still absolutely convinced that bricks & mortar specialist game shops have a future. I’m going largely on the basis of this gamasutra interview with Brad Schliesser, director of digital content for GameStop. They obviously realise that with competition from online retailers of boxed disk games, coupled with the rise of digital distribution in the form of Steam and mobile app stores, they don’t have a long term future unless they adapt. They are already pitching themselves as sellers of pre-pay game cards and DLC codes / unlocks. OUYA provides them an excellent opportunity to try out selling a pure digital download console and the digital store currency that goes with it
Finally, OUYA and Amazon have high level connections, and we know this because some ex-Amazon bigwigs have been working on the OUYA project. I would not be surprised if actually the guys from OUYA originally pitched the idea to Amazon and got told to go away and prove first that there was indeed a market and enough support. In any case, just like Gamestop, Amazon can probably also see a time when they are no longer selling disks in boxes. They already have lovefilm (Amazon Prime) for film and tv streaming. It makes sense that at some point, Microsoft and Sony will want to switch over to digital download only, and both will want to cut out the middleman in the form of Amazon. OUYA gives them a chance to work out the logistics of partnering with a digital distribution console at relatively low risk and ahead of the launch of PS4/Xbox720 in the critical holiday season
That still doesn’t answer the question though. My guess is that they initially ordered 100k or 150k units from manufacturers, and when they ran out, they decided to announce the retail deals and put the next delivery date down as June. With 60k of those for kickstarter backers, I think another 40k pre-orders is not unreasonable.
As a developer though, I’m secretly hoping I’m proven spectacularly wrong, and in a good way.