“If You Come, We Will Build It” – Crowdsourcing Hardware Ideas

“If You Come, We Will Build It” – Crowdsourcing Hardware Ideas


Ouya is a new kind of game console for the television. It is open and allows any creator to develop games.  It costs $99. All the games are free to try. Hackers can dismantle the device by loosening 4 small screws — without voiding the warranty.

It may have crossed your radar last summer when it blew the lid off its Kickstarter campaign, raising $8.6 million, eight times its original $950k goal.

But what you may not know is what an “exciting, crazy, upside-down education” process this has been for the small (around 25 employees) Los Angeles-based company that is on track for its June retail launch.

Tim DaRosa, Ouya’s marketing guy, is going to tell the whole backstory at the upcoming Hardware Innovation Workshop. He’s on the Tuesday afternoon start-up panel (with David Merrill, co-founder and president of Sifteo, Alice Taylor, founder of MakieLab, Lisa Qiu Fetterman, co-founder of Nomiku, and Jay Silver, founder of MaKey MaKey).

photo of tim darosa
Tim DaRosa, Ouya’s marketing guy.

There’s still plenty of time to buy tickets to catch DaRosa and the rest of the Workshop, but for those who can’t make it, DaRosa gave a preview of his remarks to MAKE.

Lesson #1: Although DaRosa and his colleagues “have a ton of experience in the game industry” — they have shipped literally hundreds of games — “building and shipping hardware is a different beast.”

To make things more difficult, Ouya developed its product in the public eye, constantly soliciting and seeking developer and gamer feedback.

Most hardware companies, such as Apple and Amazon, don’t breathe a word about a new product until the final production process is either over or very nearly complete, and the game plan is rock solid.

Not Ouya.

Like many crowdsourcing success stories, the idea of Ouya was launched first. The promise: “if you come, we will build it.” The really hard work started after the public validated the vision of Ouya.

To make matters even more challenging, Ouya wanted the console’s features to be strongly influenced by the gamers and game developers who inspired the console. Which meant that Ouya’s details didn’t become solidified until the team gathered feedback and suggestions from backers, partners, and the media. Tweaks and improvements such as adding an Ethernet port, renaming of the buttons, and changing the cross-style control pad were all products of this process.

“And it all had to be managed while still maintaining focus on our promise to deliver units to early backers on time,” DaRosa adds.

Finally, the team had to establish relationships with manufacturing partners who could not only deliver on quality and on time but would treat them as “big boys” allowing Ouya to establish itself as “the fourth console.”

“Yves Behar and the Fuseproject were valuable partners from the beginning, working with us and our original design manufacturers,” DaRosa says.

The team at Ouya delivered their developer consoles, and first Kickstarter units, on time. Now they are focused on their June retail launch with the major U.S. and U.K. game retailers.

DaRosa’s attitude: “Game on.”

8 thoughts on ““If You Come, We Will Build It” – Crowdsourcing Hardware Ideas

  1. Antares165 says:

    Unfortunately, the reviews of this gaming device are universally negative. From poorly designed/built controllers to sorely under powered processing power, it seems buyers will be disappointed. An interview with one of the developers clearly demonstrated hubris far beyond anything Steve Jobs ever demonstrated. Clearly ignoring early reviewer concerns, the creators seem hell-bent on pushing it to market despite many perceived flaws. Hopefully, the open hardware architecture will leave plenty of room for others to improve upon the machine.

  2. Juan Mario Inca says:

    ​Really interesting, thanks ​!

    Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across that theorizes about crowds and such similar phenomena.​ ​

    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115

    In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!

  3. Monopole says:

    The OUYA is the worst possible example of Crowdsourced Hardware. As an early backer, and strong advocate, who just recieved my OUYA I cannot describe how underwhelmed I am with the OUYA. Despite quite decent hardware for the price the decision to do a “walled garden” of astonishingly substandard games and emulators has effectively killed the platform. Had they simply integrated a standard Google Play marketplace with a reasonably good controller touch mapping systems (like the vastly superior JXD 5110) they could have easily produced a brutal gaming/media center. As it stands my rooted UG007 Stick PC runs rings around it.

    Go to the OUYA, XDA and XBMC forums and you’ll see the same message. While I could understand challenges in incorporating Netflix or to a lesser extent Plex but leaving out XBMC? Frankly, I hang the entire debacle on marketing.

    Hopefully somebody will port CyanogenMod 10.1 over to it soon.

    1. Monopole says:

      The exemplar for croudsourced hardware should be the Teensy 3.0, well defined goals, on time production, and excellent execution.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

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