'Disruptive' Ouya games console shipped to first supporters

Ouya console
Image caption The Ouya console is powered by Google's Android mobile operating system

A new games console which industry experts say could disrupt the industry has begun shipping to customers.

The Ouya costs $99 (£65) and runs on Google's Android operating system.

Games on the system will be a fraction of the cost of traditional console games, more comparable to those found on mobiles and tablets.

However, it may struggle to muscle in on a market dominated by big players such as PlayStation and Xbox, one analyst predicted.

The Ouya was financed using crowdfunding website Kickstarter, where it attracted over $8m (£5.3m) in funding from 63,416 backers.

The company has begun sending out consoles to the first supporters of the project - while other interested gamers can pre-order the device.

Indie movement

The Ouya will look to capitalise on a growing popularity for cheap, often independently produced games.

Mobile devices have eaten into the handheld gaming market, attracting millions of casual gamers who are not prepared to invest in bespoke gaming devices, but are still keen to dabble in gaming.

While traditional platforms, such as Nintendo's DS or Sony's PlayStation Vita, have titles costing in the region of £30-£40, games downloaded from app stores are considerably cheaper, and often free.

Developers on these newer platforms are instead looking to other monetization methods, such as in-game upgrades.

The Ouya is the first major attempt to bring that same kind of disruption to the home gaming industry, says gaming analyst Piers Harding-Rolls, from IHS.

"The space of TV gaming is getting to that point where it's the one area that hasn't been significantly disrupted," he told the BBC.

"Ouya will get other companies involved in the space, looking at it more intently.

"It will get the existing console companies to be more aggressive in their business models, opening up their distribution channels."

Hotting up

While Ouya is the first major launch of this style of gaming device - it will soon have plenty of company.

Gamestick, a UK-based firm, is also developing its own Android-based console.

Nvidia, traditionally a manufacturer of high-end graphical hardware, announced its Project Shield console at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Image caption Ouya boss Julie Uhrman wants to see new titles written for the little gaming gadget

Perhaps an even greater threat comes from Valve, the PC gaming giant which confirmed it was to make its own "Steambox" - a console utilising the already massively popular Steam network to deliver games.

But Ouya is the first, and likely to be the cheapest.

The console, a small cuboid, can be opened up and upgraded if users wish. It uses off-the-shelf components, minimising manufacturing costs.

Speaking to the BBC in January, Ouya chief executive Julie Uhrman said her device will allow smaller players to get stuck into the home gaming industry.

"Console gaming had traditionally been closed to new entrants," she said.

"That's made it very difficult for small developers to bring titles to the television, and really expensive for gamers [to play]."

However, IHS's Mr Harding-Rolls said the console may struggle in its early days if the quality of titles does not meet expectation.

"It's obviously creating a lot of developer interest, as are others in this space, not just the Ouya," he said, adding that some games may just be direct copies of mobile games.

"I think there will be in the first case a lot of porting that goes on which will not necessarily show off the best capabilities of the device."

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