A few months ago I posted a long essay on my professional future. Should I try to make a career of BMOW blogging? Find an electronics industry job? Return to video game development? Launch a start-up company? Since then I’ve been engaged in many parallel paths, trying to do all those things at once. I’ve drafted business plans, pitched to Sand Hill Road venture capitalists, taken countless coffee meetings with angel investors, rubbed elbows at meet-ups, and generally abused my network of friends, their friends, and their friends’ friends for any worthwhile leads on interesting opportunities. It’s been a crazy, exciting, and confusing time.
I’m happy to say that all those parallel paths have finally converged, and this week I joined Kickstarter wonderkid OUYA as Head of Engineering! It’s software + hardware + games, and I could hardly imagine a better opportunity. OUYA is a $99 video game console, based on the Android OS, where all the games are free downloads. By removing the roadblocks associated with traditional console development, it opens up the TV as a platform to smaller indie developers for the first time. Every OUYA console is also a dev kit, so there’s nothing more to buy. It’s built on Android, so developers already know how it works. Gamers benefit from increased variety and the ability to try any game in the OUYA catalog before purchasing additional in-game content. Hackers are welcome, and rooting won’t void your warranty.
The hardware is based on the Tegra 3 SoC, which combines a quad-core ARM processor with an nVidia GeForce GPU. This is the same chip used in Android tablets like the Google Nexus 7 and Asus Transformer Prime. Those who don’t follow mobile technology closely will be amazed at how powerful this hardware is. Placed in a game console with HDMI output, and freed from concerns about battery life, the Tegra 3 can compete on the level of the Playstation 3 and XBox 360. The bluetooth controller combines analog sticks, buttons, and a touchpad, and boasts a beautiful industrial design from fuseproject’s Yves Behar.
OUYA launched its Kickstarter campaign earlier this summer, and blew past its funding goal within the first few hours, eventually raising more than $8 million in pledges and pre-orders. The response from both gamers and developers has been overwhelming. Clearly the OUYA concept has struck a chord within the community. There’s been some understandable skepticism about OUYA in the press, suggesting it’s a group of well-meaning amateurs with no hope of actually delivering on its promises. But after digging into the details myself and getting to know the leaders of the company, I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I’m confident in betting my own future on its success.
This is a hardware blog, so I need to emphasize that I’ll be running the software development part of OUYA’s business. The hardware development is in the capable hands of Muffi Ghadiali, a veteran of past consumer electronics projects such as the Kindle Fire and HP TouchSmart computer. nVidia and its Asian manufacutering partners are also a huge source of assistance. So I won’t be breaking out my soldering iron at the office, but my background in electronics means that I can work effectively with the hardware team. And I get to geek out with pre-release hw prototypes!
My task is to finish development of the OUYA SDK, the console’s browser/store interface, the developer portal web site, the payment system, and all the other technology that’s needed for the March 2013 launch. I’ll be doing all this with a team operating from a satellite office in the San Francisco Bay Area (marketing, sales, and OUYA’s corporate office are in Los Angeles). This is much the same kind of work I’ve done in the past at Trion Worlds and Electronic Arts. At Trion we built the MMO RIFT, which was a great experience in leading a team to build a complex online service from scratch. And at EA I created many console games for the Playstation, XBox, and other systems, and I know what a pain it is to deal with the balky dev kits, tools, and mind-numbing technical requirements. I’m thrilled to be introducing a new kind of video game console that will open up the TV platform like never before.