Ouya looks East: the struggling Kickstarted console partners with Xiaomi for Chinese distribution


Despite record-breaking Kickstarter success, Ouya has come to be associated with disappointment in the West. The little cheap console that could has suffered early distribution woes, lackluster sales, and lost exclusives. But could a new partnership, and a fresh start in gaming’s fastest-emerging market turn the platform’s fortunes around? When that partnership is with Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi, it’s a real possibility.

(See: 5 reasons not to buy the Xbox One in China)

ouya ui

This time next year, this could all be in Chinese

Xiaomi has in just a few short years managed to surpass increasingly-popular phone brand Samsung, and even topple Apple to claim the top spot as the most popular mobile platform in China.

This is due in great part to its focus on affordability. In the cities, there is an emerging middle class whose spending power rivals Western consumers, and Apple found great success in this market. But the vast majority of the population simply cannot afford to splash out on Apple’s expensive hardware (especially not annually, as some do). Which is where Xiaomi found the bulk of their consumer base, undercutting Apple by making a practical product at a fraction of the price.

(See: Cherry Mobile Pinoy Appshop, home of 100 percent Pinoy-made games)

This dedication to a cheap price point is somewhere Ouya and Xiaomi overlap. But Ouya’s entry into the Chinese market may well be digital, Ouya Chief Executive Julie Uhrman has stated. Rather than simply re-launch the $99 console in China, it’s likely that Ouya will take the form of a channel on Xiaomi’s living room devices, the MiTV and MiBox.

Cheap, light, compact—Xiaomi's MiBox

Cheap, light, compact, and soon to play Ouya games? Xiaomi’s MiBox

Details have yet to be hashed out. But one question, given the Ouya’s initial model using a gamepad, is whether they’ll continue with this approach (perhaps bundling the controller with future MiBox and MiTV units) or try to adapt the software to work with the remotes already provided with Xiaomi’s set top boxes and TVs.

Ouya has seemed like a lost cause in the West for a long time now. But in the Chinese market, it is free to leave its baggage at the door and start afresh. The timing is especially ripe. The Xbox One, the first home console since the Playstation 2 in 2004, is launching next month—but at a much higher price point. In this newly-reopened home console market, there’s a lot of room for a cheap gaming platform, integrated with an already-popular set top box, to seize a respectable market share.

(See: It’s official: the Xbox One will cost $600 in China)

But whether Xiaomi will be able to replicate its triumph over Apple in the mobile sphere when it comes to facing off against Microsoft (and potentially Sony) in the living room, is anyone’s guess.

(Image source, via Reuters)

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