The Sounds of Silence
March 28th must've been quite the day at Ouya Headquarters. Dinner. Champagne. Speeches. Plenty of Ouya cheerleaders were present: android-friendly bloggers and news-types, developers, and high-profile Kickstarter backers in the 10,000 dollar range. I however, like most of us sitting on the wait list, will remember March 28th as something different: the day the clock started ticking. Since March 28th, I've waited for my Gmail to light up with notification from Ouya Inc., alerting me to the impending estimated shipping arrival of my console. It is now April 15th and I'm still waiting. Indeed, most people are waiting.
In the last 18 days, Ouya has been very tight-lipped. Their first response placed shipping blame on the time-honored Chinese holiday of Easter when they released a statement on April 5 relaying the following:
Essentially, as backers, we should write off the days between March 28th and April 7th because starting April 8th, shit will start getting real. Ouyas will be flying off the production line so fast, they'll make your head spin. So don't worry about a thing! Interestingly, during the Qingming Festival, the official Ouya Twitter feed released this statement April 2nd: "Stay positive! We're ramping up development and sending out more @playouya shipments each day!"
"OUYA is shipping! I know you are anxious to play and probably want to know when to expect yours. Here’s the plan:
We began shipping last week, 3/27 in fact. We had two days of manufacturing and then we had to stop for Easter. This week, we got 3 days of work and then had to stop for the Qingming Festival. I know this sucks but we will be picking up the pace.
Starting next week, we will be building and shipping units 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, we are bringing on new vendors to help us deliver faster. However, we will not sacrifice quality for speed.
The rollout will be as follows: We are starting with the standard OUYA unit (grey console+controller), then working on the Kickstarter exclusive units and units with more than one controller.
Also, every Friday, on our blog (www.ouya.tv/blog), we will update you on our progess [sic] and plan. As of today, we plan on making our final delivery in May. In fact, until now we were sending shipping alerts only when your shipment left the assembly line. Because you asked for it, we will now send out pre-shipping alerts a week before to let you know your order is queued up."
Another week went by of silence leading up to April 12th when Ouya released a blog highlighting their shipping plans.
This 5̶t̶h̶ ̶g̶r̶a̶d̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶t̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶j̶e̶c̶t̶ graph was included:
"Last week, I promised a weekly update to our early backers providing greater transparency
into the progress of OUYA shipments to all of you who have supported us since the beginning."
I believe the word they were looking for was "ambiguity" instead of "transparency" because I think most people were far more confused after this blog entry was released than before.
Making Sense of the Senseless
So. For the last 18 days this is what we've gotten: sparse updates, conflicting messaging, and few facts. In the interim, the netizen community mostly made up of OuyaForum members have started compiling lists of those who have received consoles, those who have received confirmation, and those who have received neither. The numbers are staggeringly bad for Ouya. Presently, of the 1266 respondents, only .47% of a percent have received their console. Tooling around the net seems to back this claim. Nearly everyone who backed the Kickstarter campaign has not received their unit. And if you follow the graph above, you probably won't get it any time soon.
Just what the hell is going? Why would a company be so quiet with hundreds if not thousands of people complaining? Why are we left to speculate so much?
Unfortunately, we can only look to what has been said, and what we already know about Ouya, to find some semblance of the truth. A truth, I'm afraid, most backers will not appreciate.
Here are some hard facts:
1. Ouya's official release date into the public is June 4th
2. Ouya has struck deals to be carried at Amazon, Target, and Gamestop
3. Ouya fully intends on releasing their console on a mobile phone schedule (~ yearly)
4. Ouya has never given their Kickstarter backers a firm shipping date
Many have speculated since March 28th Ouya must be in trouble (I know I did). We've read about controller issues leading some to theorize Ouya must have stopped production and done an internal recall. Other evidence might point to issues with shipping partners and DHL. In fact, the April 5th blog (quoted above) alludes to such problems. l found myself also thinking that maybe Ouya is having money issues. Maybe Ouya can't cover production costs and they don't want to admit they're in trouble? Unfortunately, none of it adds up. All of these problems are not really that big of a deal. Admitting anyone of them wouldn't hurt their image one iota. And, if there really was a BIG problem, you damn well bet it would have pushed June 4th to the right on the calendar. And June 4th hasn't budged one bit.
So what's the problem?
The problem is there are no problems, minus a few pesky loudmouths on some geek forum. There are no shortages of Ouyas. There are no production halts or shipping issues. There's probably plenty of money. They've been making these things for weeks, if not months now. February 28th, Engadget reported:
Do you really think March 28th snuck up and bit them on the ass? Please. They are purposely not shipping them to us because these units are slated for their new customers: moms and dads at Target; kids at GameStop; the online shopping masses who log on to Amazon. Do the math. There are roughly 2,000 Targets in North America alone, and 6,600 GameStops. Plans to put 3 in every store June 4th would tally up to over 25,000. I have a feeling the targeted number is much higher. And that's not factoring in Amazon's quota, either.
OUYA announced this afternoon that its Android-powered game console is shipping to Kickstarter backers starting on March 28th. The company took to its Kickstarter page to announce the news, which says, 'Parts are in the factory and assembly lines are buzzing.'"
This is their concern. Not us.
The Silent Treatment
Ouya's message since March 28th is no message at all. It's easy to see why. June 4th is a VERY important day. Botching up a real release is way different than screwing with 60,000 geeks who "donated" money back in August. They have to hit June 4th running and you can bet the hype machine will kick into full gear by the middle of next month. Ouya needs to become a household name. Hence the silent treatment toward backers. Admitting they're fucking us over (which, by the way, they are) is extremely bad publicity and will hurt they're image. It's best to say nothing at all, followed up with blog entries saying shit like, "we're learning more every day" or, "production is ramping up." The longer they obfuscate what's really going on, the closer they get to launch without a major PR nightmare. Which is exactly what they're trying to do.
So, until June 4th enjoy the silence.