Following a number of scathing reviews for the intial release of the OUYA Android gaming console, the company has responded in a statement to GamesIndustry.biz claiming the console is not yet ready for reviews:
"We will be making Ouya review units available in early to mid-May so that you are able to review the more complete consumer experience and prepare your coverage in time for the June 4th retail launch," a representative said. "To clarify for you--Ouya has sent no review units out to press. Any reviews you have seen online are a result from individuals who received early backer units from supporting our Kickstarter."
Although I can't find exact numbers, the company has begun to ship out thousands of kickstarter edition products to it's many supporters, yet at the same time claim that console is not ready for commercial release. Whilst this may make sense in an abstract sense, I just don't think this forced distinction holds any water in the real world. Developer previews of unfinished hardware and operating systems are commonplace in the gaming world and are necessary for development and testing. By comparison the OUYA is being sent to thousands of paying customers, not to test software but to be used as gaming machines, complete with consoles final hardware.
This move is somewhat understandable as the high profile kickstater campaign has forced the company into this early release of the product - but the question remains, will it do more harm than good? Has the funding model that enabled the creation of the device also created a set of expectations that are next to impossible to deliver on and which may ultimately kill the product?
As we work our way through the new world of crowd sourced funding these issues highlight rather dramatically the potential downsides inherent to the funding medium - particularly in regards to the management of consumer expectations. The OUYA may yet be a success, but it's development thus far can serve as both a source of inspiration and concern for other kickstarter creators.
The development of any creative product takes time, often much more than initially envisaged and when you add in thousands of eager investors in your product these set timeframes have the potential to lead to disaster.