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Is Notch Having Doubts About the OUYA?

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Betteridge’s Law of Better Gaming: Asking the Hard-Hitting Questions Nobody Else Will

The OUYA is the upcoming video game console that has touted itself as revolutionary and “a new kind of video game console”. This messiah of gaming is already being met with a lot of criticism for a lot of reasons, but it would be frivolous to list them here. There is a good review of the console by the Verge (3.5/10), and the Something Awful forums has a thread essentially dedicated to cataloging its successes and failures in the light of the gaming media. But is it only these popular websites that are skeptical of the OUYA?

ouya10kbackersFor those not “in the know”, the Kickstarted console is famous for raising nearly nine million dollars on the crowd-funding platform based on only mock-up images and dreams. The highest tier reward for backing the system was, at $10k. Twelve of the possible twenty rewards were claimed, and thanks to a still from Engadget’s look at the cube we can see them displayed on the system.

We already knew Notch, the super successful creator of Minecraft, had backed the system for a healthy amount, and we can see he definitely donated at least $10k by looking at the Ouya itself now. Probably more. Right at the top he sits — backer number eighty-five — a remarkably early and high profile backer of the system. Surely such a feat would mark him as one of the biggest fans the OUYA can lay claim to, right? Well, hold on to your fedoras because that might not actually be the case. It could be that his support for the OUYA is not quite as personal as it may seem. Notch’s affinity for all things indie has never really been a secret. Ever since his Minecraftian success  the guy has tried to involve himself with cultivating the indie scene as much as possible, as is especially evident with his contributions to Humble Bundles — both in monetary donations and by working with them to create the for-charity “Mojam” game jams.

Even though Uhrman has said that “Notch and Monjang are supportive” about the OUYA, and referenced “several conversations before and during the KickStarter campaign”, there hasn’t been that much from the man himself besides a “woderfully” (according to Notch) vague quote from Mojang as a whole on the console’s KickStarter: “If OUYA delivers on the promise of being the first true open gaming platform that gives indie developers access to the living room gaming market, yes that is a great idea. We will follow the development of OUYA and see how it resonates with gamers. I could see all current Mojang games go on the platform if there’s a demand for it”.

Almost a year on there is still little news about Mojang games on the system, despite constant questions and demands from OUYA fans to see Minecraft on the system. Even early on Notch said that there was a “problem” with getting the game on the system: the simple fact that “[the OUYA]’s android”. But is this really as simple as just an operating system? After all, Minecraft Pocket does exist, and it has been growing with updates since release. Or maybe Mojang and/or Notch think that OUYA has not “deliver[ed] on the promise” it made?

Minecraft-Pocket

You may think this just speculation, but given some criticisms of the OUYA as of late it’s easy to see why developers who could have thought the system was kind of neat in idea has failed to deliver. The system has been beset by delays and supposed design faults, and has also faced criticism of failing to get enough developers on board with the console, missing out on some big Android games like Shadowrun.

Silence is not just the only sign of a possible rift between Mojang and the OUYA, though. In Polygon’s hands-on and interview with the machine and Uhrman, the latter said that “Minecraft has our development kit.” It’s an odd phrasing for Uhrman to use given her own alleged closeness with Mojang. Why did she avoid saying the company’s name and just shoot straight for their flagship IP? It could very well be a conscious or subconscious attempt at disassociating the two things. It is very possible to extrapolate from this that things might not be all too well with the “getting Mojang’s games on the OUYA” front, which could have provided the console with the positive spin it so desperately needs in the mere weeks leading up to the big release date. But could it just be that the indie game savior of a console, the darling child/underdog of the gaming press has fallen too far from grace to be saved by Notch, Mojang, or Mr. Minecraft — having turned them away already too? One thing is for certain though: something is definitely “up”, and the OUYA probably won’t be getting a Minecraft port anytime soon.