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£99 Kickstarter console Ouya sells out but is dogged by poor reviews

Designed by Yves Béhar, the Ouya attracted over $8.5 million in funding via Kickstarter

It was supposed to be a fairy-tale: an Android-based console funded by one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns ever.and designed by Yves Béhar (the man behind the stunningly beautiful Jambox and UP).

Yet after its launch yesterday, the £99.99 Ouya (which plugs directly into TVs, downloading games and applications from its own online store) is already being plagued by complaints of late deliveries and sub-par performance.

The launch began in fine style, with the official Ouya account tweeting “Unreal, #OUYA has officially sold out on @amazon US / UK” before following that up with the news that it had sold out at American retailers Target.

"The journey has just begun," said Ouya. "Thanks to everyone who has supported us.”

However, early Kickstarter backers of the console were soon frustrated by the news that they would not be receiving their console at the promised ship date, despite the product being made available for sale in high-street retailers.

The Ouya had originally received a rapturous reception on crowd-sourcing funding platform Kickstarter in July 2012, raising $3.7 million within forty-eight hours, and finishing funding with over $8.5 million pledged (more than eight times the original goal of $950,000). 

Early backers of the project were told that their consoles would get shipping priority, but Ouya failed to deliver on these promises. Julie Uhrman – Ouya founder and industry veteran – sent out a message to those disappointed by the news:

"I am pissed. Some of you have not yet received your Ouya, and to you, I apologize. I did not promise to ship to most of you before we hit store shelves. I promised to ship to all of you. I've been reading your comments, and we are working to solve this."

The failed shipments were blamed on a “fulfilment partner in Hong Kong”, though the company promised that the consoles had left Asia, but would still be 15 to 17 days late.

Angry backers posting on Ouya’s Facebook page did not seem so reassured:

“Hey, you're welcome, OUYA, for being an early backer. Those consoles you sent to Best no Buy? Those are ours. You told me to "hurry" to pre order before Feb 4th so I could get my console by April, not after the f****** street launch in late June.”

However, this has not been the end of bad news for Ouya. There will always be angry gamers without a proper sense of proportion (or decorum), but professional reviews of the console have been equally unkind, if a little more measured.

A review by ITProPortal’s Will Greenwald gave the console two stars, describing it as “an ungainly mess of a consumer product that requires more work than it’s worth to get the most of it.

Greenwald did acknowledge that many problems with the Ouya had their origin in software that would be fixed by subsequent updates, but updates would not fix the controller (“outright junk”), a lacklustre games lineup (“low profile, samey titles”) or a relatively low-powered processor (“it fell short of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2”).

Other reviews echo these complaints, with most beginning by stressing the potential of the console, but finding the reality far less appealing. Destructoid summed it with the headline “The Ouya is a nice idea… at least” whilst DigitalTrends questioned if the console was even made for gamers – citing a laggy controller, poor titles and terrible software.

Most reviewers agree that the Ouya has had an easy ride so far, but it’s failed to live up to expectations.

Some problems with the console will be fixed by subsequent updates and the candid responses of Ouya execs regarding misplaced shipments (tip of the hat to Julie Uhrman) have shown that the crowdsourced funding is more than a gimmick – it inspires a different ethos, and a more responsive approach to corporate responsibility.

Whilst it’s true that the Ouya might one day become the exciting and successful platform it was promised to be, as far as fairy tales go at the moment it’s more Grimm than Disney.