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Ouya game console targets TV play

$100 system will go on sale in June

Any console going up against Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft faces an enormous challenge. And no one knows that better than Ouya founder Julie Uhrman.

The Ouya console, an Android-based console videogame system that will sell for $100, is looking to shake up the gaming biz by eschewing the growing world of mobile to focus on the television as its primary platform. While some have questioned the plan, Uhrman said there was never any doubt from the company which raised nearly $8.6 million from Kickstarter.

“The television has always been there — it’s the middle of our lives,” she said at a seminar at the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas. “It is the most immersive device — and the most immersive thing we can do is play games. We are no longer an observer. We are a participant. I’m not me anymore. I’m that character I want to be.”

The average gamer, she said, spends four hours per week playing videogames on his television, versus two hours on a mobile device. Core gamers are even more dedicated, spending seven hours playing on TVs, as opposed to three-and-a-half hours on mobile devices.

Game development costs for the console, though, are high, and as the market has consolidated, one failure can destroy a studio. Ouya, Uhrman said, is trying to rewrite the rules.

“We need to rethink television gaming,” she said. “We need to do for games what cable did to traditional television. Who says it has to be a 60-hour game? It can be six hours. We just get it to gamers and see if they like it, then build the next six hours.”

The development community seems to be responding to her call. Ouya will go on sale this June online and through Best Buy and GameStop locations. Uhrman said gamemakers have already committed to 450 titles for the system, including some high-profile titles.

Industry legend Tim Schafer will bring his Kickstarter-backed game “Reds” to the Ouya — the only television-based console it will support. And “Words With Friends”-creator Paul Bettner’s new studio will bring its first title to Ouya, as well.

“It’s time to get creative again,” Uhrman told developers. “You don’t have to do things the same way.”

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