Ouya, the Android-based, open-source game console that raised $8.5 million in crowdfunding last year, is officially available for purchase at North American and UK retailers. Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop and others are all selling the tiny device for $99, as previously announced, with additional controllers going for $50.
The launch comes after concerns over consumer demand and controller design delayed the console from hitting its original June 4 release date. It also begins at a time when a vocal number of the almost 45,000 non-developer backers of Ouya’s Kickstarter, who were told they would get a console for their donations, still have not received their units.
Ouya planned to start shipping pre-retail units out to Kickstarter backers in March, but that was then delayed \’til May. Around that time, early backer units were met with a mostly negative reaction from the tech press, prompting the company to tweak the console’s controller and interface. But today, the company has been met with some backlash across the web from backers who have not had their requests fulfilled.
Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman sent a statement addressing the situation to early backers this morning. “I am pissed,” she wrote. “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.”
Ouya head of operations Ken Stephens went on to write in that same message that the delays stem from issues with the company’s shipping partner in Hong Kong, near where the console is manufactured. “Over the past few months,” he said, “we encountered and conquered many challenges spanning both hardware and software in order to bring the best product we could to market. We have tried to make sure that the challenges we faced did not impact our early supporters, but unfortunately we came up short.
“On average, shipment processing–from fulfillment center to product delivery–runs 20 days, end to end. It takes 3 to 5 days to pick, pack and ship the units out — and then 15 to 17 days of transit time. Therefore, if you received your tracking number with your shipping confirmation email, your unit is on its way.
“I know that many of you are frustrated with the DHL tracking system. While we are working hard to get this issue rectified, I am sorry to say this is still causing problems. When you receive a tracking number, you expect it to work immediately, but sometimes these tracking numbers don’t do that. The reason for this is that when the product leaves Hong Kong, the tracking process does not initiate until it arrives for the first scan at your country’s local depot. As a result, you could have a period of up to 10 days within which the product appears in limbo. This, we all agree, is very frustrating.”
Stephens concluded by apologizing for the delay, and noting that while all Ouya units have left from Hong Kong, they won’t get into the hands of individual backers for another “15 to 17 days” from the date of their “shipping-confirmation email.”
When these backers and consumers do get their hands on an Ouya, they’ll be treated to an aluminum cube that runs on an Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset. The console features a digital storefront that is currently composed of more than 170 games, and Ouya notes that more games from other developers like Double Fine and Mojang will be coming in the future.
Those games come from veteran developers and first-timers alike, but Ouya mandates that all of them are at least free for users to try. Particular highlights at launch include Square Enix’s Final Fantasy III, Matt Makes Games’ Towerfall, and a handful of Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog titles. Non-gaming apps like Twitch.tv, Crunchyroll, iHeartRadio and TuneIn can also be accessed through the Android machine.
Ouya’s launch has been highly anticipated, but it does fall within a larger trend that has hit the gaming industry as of late, one where machines like the Nvidia Shield, Wikipad and GameStick have taken a traditionally mobile OS and emphasized its gaming capabilities. Whether or not this trend will have any traction remains to be seen, but the early signs appear to be encouraging for the Ouya – the machine is sold out on Amazon as of this writing.