The makers of Ouya have surprised the gaming world by raising almost $8.6 million US in crowd-sourced funds on the website Kickstarter for the development of their low-priced, open-source video game console.
Ouya exceeded its initial fundraising target of $950,000 in less than 24 hours, and by the end of the four-week fundraising period Thursday, it had $8,596,475 in pledges from 63,416 contributors, most of whom gave between $99 and $140.
Ouya hopes to launch the small, cube-shaped console in March 2013, at a cost of $99. Investors who pledged $99 or more will get advance consoles and controllers for free before they hit the stores.
The console will run on the Android operating system and will be open source, meaning developers will be able create their own games and applications for it without purchasing a licence or paying a publishing fee.
They will, however, have to make at least some aspects of their games available for free, a condition the company behind the project has imposed as part of its endorsement of the so-called free-to-play ethos.
Ouya promises that all games on the console will have at least a free trial version.
The Ouya system prides itself on being fully hackable, allowing players to tailor the system to their needs, even creating their own peripherals for the hardware.
The system has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal flash storage and runs on a Tegra3 processor. It has a wireless controller with standard controls and a touchpad.
Hardware designed by XO laptop creator
Started by game developer Julie Uhrman, who has worked with Vivendi Universal, IGN and GameFly, the Los Angeles-based Ouya recruited Yves Behar and his Fuse Project to help design the console and controller.
A vocal proponent of technological design that is affordable, sustainable and available to all, Behar is the brains behind the popular Jambox wireless speaker and One Laptop per Child's low-priced XO laptop.
The prototypes of the console and controller have been getting preliminary endorsements from independent game developers, who welcome the company's open-source approach.
"The console business as it is today is completely closed to the independent developer," said Brian Fargo, the founder of gaming company inExile, in a promotional video for Ouya that was posted on its Kickstarter page.
"This is the perfect hybrid. You have something that's inexpensive; it's open; and it comes with a fantastic controller."
Will offer streamed games, music, videos
Ouya said it already has partnerships with the cloud gaming service OnLive, which will provide streamed games to the console, and Twitch.tv, which will enable Ouya users to watch streams of popular games such as StarCraft and League of Legends.
The console will also play non-gaming content like music and videos through co-operations with services such as VEVO, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and the open-source media player XBMC.
Ouya set out to separate itself from the gaming pack by making a TV-based console rather than focusing on the smartphone and tablet market.
That, however, has some asking whether TV manufacturers might eventually adopt Ouya's open-source technology for themselves, building gaming features directly into their television sets.
Uhrman, Ouya's CEO, recently addressed that question in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper.
"We always believed that the console would die away and become a chipset on the television, but you still need a great, responsive controller and a gaming ecosystem with great developers and great games," she told the paper.
"Ouya could be in a TV. Right now, we are focused on building a great business around gamers and games, and right now, we have to be a console connected to a television. That's where the biggest reach and biggest audience is."