OUYA: is it ok to review an unfinished product?

The Android console OUYA, which I backed almost a year ago, progressively started shipping to the backers recently. Some of the kickstarter units have already been shipped, and ended up in the hands of popular “tech” websites such as CNET, Engadget, or The Verge, who all wrote reviews about it. Although most of these sites were very clear about the fact that they were reviewing an “early” product, the average-to-very-bad feeling that got out of these reviews certainly impacted lots of potential buyers.

The article on The Verge in particular, was especially harsh. Although the review’s content itself seems fair, the final mark (which is what will stick in people’s mind) of 3.5 out of 10 is the equivalent of a nail in the coffin for such a young company.

The article on the Verge actually started seemingly infinite flame wars between pro and anti OUYA readers, but, more importantly, discussions about what kickstarter really is supposed to be when it comes to delivering a product.

If I had to summarize the debate that’s been going on, I think it would be with the following questions: should established tech websites do a review of (and, in particular, give a mark to) a product that has been clearly labelled as “not complete yet”? Should kickstarter be more clear that a pledge is not a preorder? Should OUYA have been much more transparent about their product, and shouldn’t have they expected that people would judge them on an early product?

I think to understand what’s going on it is essential to read the OUYA review on the Verge, and maybe some of the comments from their readers. There are people who believe that by pledging to a project in kickstarter, you are basically preordering the final product. To me it is no coincidence that Kickstarter clarified their policies just a few weeks after the insane success of the OUYA campaign: the Kickstarter owners saw this coming. Projects like the OUYA today on kickstarter would have to clearly state that you are absolutely not preordering a product, that there are risks, potential delays, etc… you can read Kickstarter’s change of policy here: Kickstarter is not a store.

What happened is that the OUYA team clearly overpromised in their Kickstarter campaign. Exclusive games, trophies, a low price, a sleek design, hacker friendly, etc, etc… Now, don’t be fooled, ALL companies overpromise then underdeliver when it comes to a gaming console, Sony are the first ones to do it. But somehow, when it comes to kickstarter, there’s more emotional involvement as a backer, and we tend to believe in the product much more than we should. In particular when a company says they are going to disrupt the market.

How and where did the OUYA overpromise? Well, according to the Verge, pretty much everywhere. The design was supposed to be awesome, but it seems the controllers have a few flaws with their faceplates, that make the design an obstacle to playing, which is really not good. Trophies, achievements are not there yet (and probably won’t be here at launch), controllers apparently have some lag, and the whole interface seems to be in its “alpha” stages. More importantly, it seems the OUYA is lacking exclusive games and AAA titles, and that its hackability is not as “easy” as people at The Verge would have expected.

Although the points made by the Verge are mostly all relevant, I think it’s a bit unfair to call some of these things out 2 months before the actual launch of the product. In particular, I am talking of the software. I’m assuming it would be difficult today to fix some of the hardware flaws such as the faceplates problems, and maybe the controller lags are a hardware problem too (however I could bet some of it can be fixed with a driver update). But when it comes to the interface and the quantity (and quality) of games, as I work in the software industry, I know how these things work: There’s a huge chance that most of the games and interface changes are happening over the last few weeks, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a much better interface, and much more games were available in 2 months.


(picture from theverge.com)

Don’t get me wrong, it could very well be that no progress will be made on the software side because all the OUYA team is focused on shipping the product for the next 2 months. I’m just saying it’s a bit unfair to review software 2 months before its public launch. In my company, software often only exists as a pdf or in the mind of a designer, 2 months before it launches.

I backed the OUYA almost 1 year ago, and clearly I am less excited about the console today than I was back then. I did call that out back when I announced it, that the hardware that looked “ok” back then would feel quite “lowend” today, and in the meantime I got an MK802 III to fulfill my multimedia needs. The reviews of course didn’t help. It doesn’t help either that the OUYA is shipping late, and to add insult to the injury, the OUYA team posted a ridiculous chart of their “shipping expectations” for OUYA backers (seriously, I think if I spat such a chart to my managers – or clients – at work I would get fired instantly), so people are starting to question the credibility of the whole project.

OUYA: the only company in the world that gives you an exponential interpolation based on 1 data point, and keeps a straight face while showing it to you.

As far as I’m concerned, it did put in perspective the entire Kickstarter concept for me. In the end, when you pledge for a Kickstarter project, you are taking all the risks of an investor (putting in money early for a project that might be delayed or potentially not resulting in what you expected) without any of the benefits (in the case of the OUYA, backers will get the same product as people who simply buy the console in stores, and potentially even worse if OUYA ends up fixing some of the hardware flaws: backers would end up with an alpha product). This means that people backing up a Kickstarter need to be 100% behind the product: they are the people who want to see the project see the light of day, not people who are expecting a cheap preorder of the final product.

The OUYA still can be a great console, given enough time. I think it was unfair of The Verge to review the software (firmware and games) so early, and I think it is also unfair to try and compare it to a Sony or Microsoft console. That being said, in the end, what makes a console are its exclusive games, and I’d be on the side of the Verge here, saying that seeing many exclusive games on the OUYA is quite unlikely. As some people have stated though, it will probably make for a decent multimedia player, and the games could be considered as a nice bonus, although I’m not sure that’s how the OUYA company wants us to see it.


If anything, I can predict OUYA will keep disrupting, if not the console market, the way kickstarter works, for a little while. It has revealed lots of “flaws” in the kickstarter system, and I’m sure this will impact the way people pledge for those projects moving forward.

Are you getting an OUYA? Do you plan to use it mostly for gaming, or as a multimedia player?

  1. Jd8531’s avatar

    Good article, it’s been awhile since we got a long one from you :) I think it’s fair to an extent to review it, however in a manner that doesn’t judge it as final. I think it’ll help push the developers to make it better. If its a good product though it should have no issue with early reviews, for example the Oculus Rift. It shouldn’t have been sent if it was at “3 out of 10″ stage to anyone IMO.
    My only problem with Ouya is that it’s getting hardware revisions every year, and its already out dated, really wish it was sporting at least a T4. I may grab one for watching movies and as an on the go “out of town” console.


  2. DeathOfChaos’s avatar

    Not getting an Ouya, never seemed even the slightest interesting.


  3. shadowknight1620’s avatar

    I might get a MK802 III next week now lol :)


    1. poop’s avatar

      right then get the xbox controller dongle and youre good to go.


    2. james way’s avatar

      Might as well wait for there new one that comes out soon enough; mk802 IV.


      I also see the brand miniand has similar model names so as far as I know, also it being a chinese product, they may come from the same company just rebranded.


  4. StanSmith’s avatar

    QUOTE “is it ok to review an unfinished product?”
    Think about it. ALL games these days are unfinished and have 0-day patches so when the reviewers get a hold of it and review it thats not the final and unfinished version so whats the problem here?

    Thats how 99% of reviews are done, with an unfinished product.


  5. gunblade’s avatar

    yea i was getting one for media but might get an mk802 III or that vita android thing wish the valve steam box was cheaper cuz that thing be sick.size wize prety mean..


  6. DNSDies’s avatar

    There’s no problem with reviewing an unfinished product, as long as the review sticks mostly to the points of the product that are unlikely to be changed.

    For example, the Ouya is unlikely to get a faster processor, so it’s being outperformed by the phone du jour of the Android Family, and 27 other phones readily available for less than $100 from an cell provider.

    I think the Ouya especially deserves this review because it was funded by naive fans, and they have a right to know how their investment has been squandered.


    1. BATMAN’s avatar

      Agreed, just wanted it with tegra 4 so no one would talk smack about it


  7. Thrawn’s avatar

    Makes everything shine in a different light.
    Still, lets wait for the finished product.


  8. DNSDies’s avatar

    Also, regardless of what Kickstarter does to try and protect itself, failure to deliver a product is STILL fraud, and they are accessories to it if they do nothing.


  9. uir’s avatar

    raspberry pi still better for me :D


  10. Yes’s avatar

    ” the final mark (which is what will stick in people’s mind) of 3.5 out of 10″

    I think this is one problem with reviews indeed. I dont mind that scores are given in reviews though, but i guess that someone just look at the score and kinda ignores what the actual reviews says. I think it would be good not to give any form of score or rating in these kinda of reviews, since it would “force” people to read the actual review instead of just looking at a score and say “its good” or “its bad”.


  11. Pholly’s avatar

    I knew this thing was going to be a piece of sh…..


  12. tecal2002’s avatar

    Well at least the kickstarter investor got a good lesson in stock trading and investing. Essentially your gambling on someones idea that not only they will deliver but that it will succeed and be profitable. A good return is never guarenteed and startups are especially risky. I think the key lesson is to find out as much about who runs the company as possible before you invest, good management is critical. And if it looks to good to be true, then its too good to be true.


  13. Scarecrow’s avatar

    I think Ouya is a amazing project, really, and it can have multiple uses for a cheap price (99 dolars and a Tegra 3, is ok for me, can even run PPSSPP at his finest). At least is very cheap here in Brazil, where smartphones and shit are expensive like hell.

    The point is, is a good start. Ouya’s creators claimed that will be more versions, so is perfectly possible that we have an Ouya 2 with a Tegra 4 in the future. Ouya just need more positive feedback, somehow I feel this guys are bombing him just for the sake of it. Ouya isn’t made by a multicompany like Sony or MicroShit, and this guys are waiting something at PSVita levels. =P


  14. electriceye’s avatar

    Great article as always, wololo!
    I also think the software absolutely should not be reviewed.
    Although they could’ve made a better controller.
    I may get it, but that’d be hard considering where I live.


  15. shadowknight1620’s avatar

    I’m really happy to see the first person to post was mature enough to not write first that is so dumb and childish.


  16. Chezni’s avatar

    Wait a minute…the 100 dollar console doesn’t include a controller…. this is not really my idea of a deal. I’ll stick to linking my rooted android smartphone to my TV.


    1. wololo’s avatar

      It does include a controller. Not sure were you read the opposite. The *second* controller costs extra, like on any other console.


      1. vitaninja0420’s avatar

        ok heres tha deal, i read this artical and looked into it…..def gonna pre order it. But games have to havwe a free aspect to them sooooooooo…….WAGIC!!!!!!!Right up there on my oyua !!!


  17. KonataIzumiZero’s avatar

    The way I see it is:

    do you see many tegra3 cpu out there for a low price like this? escially since it is quad core.

    I mean compare it to the devices such as the nexus 7 and 10

    I mean it might hardware flaws but people who love modifying and rooting the console can lead into a whole different area.
    They can probably fix the software flaws too even.

    I do not plan to modifying any time soon when it releases. Plus I wonder how a mod of Cyanogenmod 10 port will be good for this :3.


    1. seinre’s avatar

      why compare it to phone ? it’s not even a phone, and it lacks many things that phandroid has :P
      if u gonna compare it, go with XBOX 360 vs PS3 vs OUYA vs Wii U


      1. vitaninja0420’s avatar



      2. KonataIzumiZero’s avatar

        lol its not a phone the nexus 7 and 10 are tablets
        the nexus 4 is a phone with the tegra3 cpu

        and I not going compare that to those because I am saying if you hadn’t read,

        “do you see many tegra3 cpu out there for a low price like this? escially since it is quad core.”

        I was only comparing prices that’s all. I mean where else can you find a android device with the tegra3 cpu at 100$ range


  18. HaYNigloo’s avatar

    I’m a backer, I still feel the OUYA is a great idea. The OUYA team is the problem here, and the mention of the Oculus… The Oculus team also came from KickStarter, but is doing better with transparencies/hardware/software/etc… As far as the question goes, I don’t think I’ll be using my LE KickStarter edition. I’m gonna keep it boxed as a novelty item(1st Gen), and a remind of the risk I took with little reward to date.


    1. seinre’s avatar

      from the start i don’t have any faith to OUYA team. sorry, but it’s no hope for cheap console to bring AAA exclusives


  19. The_S’s avatar

    I for one would love to play games I make on the OUYA and see them on HD TVs. I also would love to play any kind of video format on it because I have a lot of anime in 1080p but all of them are .MKV files and can’t play them on my Xbox or PS3. I’m aware you can extract .MKV files and put them back together into .MP4 so you can play them but I’m lazy.


  20. Dark Knight’s avatar

    Before this OUYA craze, I wanted to get a 3DS. Then when the OUYA was announced, I totally forgot about the 3DS and my mind focused on this device. Now that I’m reading all these articles, I’m really not that excited anymore and the 3DS is crawling back into my mind.

    I don’t really care about the half-assed phone ports or shitty indie games. I only want this machine for emulation and XBMC (which are all working well ’til this date, they’re actually getting better and better (more optimized emulators, support, etc..)) but if there are hardware issues (controller specifically), it may very well impact the way I enjoy this console. Though you are right, it’s too early to judge. I guess I should wait for the final product before I make my final decision…. And I’m still not going to buy anything until I get some customer feedback.


    1. seinre’s avatar

      i’d rather get something from known brand than some bullshit company


  21. tryrush deppy’s avatar

    if it were shown to play back-ups of like PSP, PS2, Saturn and MAME (via emulation) i’d buy it and do whatever needed… jump thru rings of fire while riding a whale… to get that end result.


    1. seinre’s avatar

      lol? i wan’t to emulate PS2 on current gen devices ? it’s crazy


    2. vitaninja0420’s avatar

      hooo raa


  22. svenn’s avatar

    There is no such a thing as releasing before its finished. The moment you go to production, your hardware product is finished as in the first 10k models minimum. So any OUYA will have the same hardware issues as described.

    As to software, its never finished; however once your first version is out that is what and will always be the most important reference. Most def. if you want to go open all the way.

    You buy a game console, the worst thing you can do is make no games for it. I won’t buy OUYA, I dislike TV gaming.


  23. Funny’s avatar

    LOL, this thing looks like a piece of garbage. The Vita looks to have better graphics and this console Ouya looks like it was built for Piracy.


    1. tryrush deppy’s avatar

      don’t let the flapping sails and skull flag fool you, it’s for AAA exclusive titles. really. seriously. i’m not kidding. for reals. i ain’t joshin’.


  24. TStrauss’s avatar

    A fair question, and a tricky one too. I’ll toss in my two cents, for what it’s worth.

    The Ouya made several mistakes that are irreversible.

    First, they gave what is basically a beta product to the public who financially supported them. I would call Kickstarter backers their core demographic. Sorta like how those who preorder the next Halo are the biggest Halo fans. You want them to have a great experience, not sub-par software and shoddy hardware. Unfortunately, many of their backers are also in the media. Burn end users, you lose core customers. Ouch. Burn the media, you get sucky reviews and lose those on the fence. Also ouch.

    Second, while it is probably unfair to criticize things that will change (interface, possibly controller latency, software lineup, etc), hardware is fair play. Lets say they fix the problems people are having with the gamepads. That’s great, except they’ve basically given broken hardware to their core market while giving better hardware to their late adopters. Just isn’t good business.

    Third, if Ouya thought they wouldn’t get reviewed for this “closed beta,” they were sorely mistaken. Kickstarter backers didn’t sign an NDA. Every open beta of Windows gets ripped to pieces in reviews. For weal or woe, this is how the tech industry rolls.

    So is it fair? In some ways yes, in others no. But it is no surprise, and if I ran Ouya, I’d get stuff fixed before the negative press dragged me down.


  25. MYLOkai’s avatar

    I’ve made 3 pledges.
    1. Shadowrun
    2. Nomsters
    3. OUYA

    Nomsters failed to deliver my goods. I was promised in-game currency and a copy of the game. The app on iOS ended up being free and I still wait on my avocados. The ONLY reason why I backed this project is because a good friend of mine is an employee there. She’s kind of cute too.

    I am definitely not saying Oooh yeah! as of yet due to shipping delays, though I sail on the same ship as you, unenthused.

    Shadowrun is the only Kickstarter projected where my faith stays strong. I have been following this devteam since the original games on the SNES/SEGA, and have been hoping for a proper sequel to be announced. Kickstarter made this dream a reality.

    So in the end, I have learned 1 thing. Only back kickstarter projects that I truly believe in.


  26. female adult costumes’s avatar

    I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also go to see this website on regular basis to take updated from latest gossip.



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