Razer has announced that it has acquired the software assets of Ouya, one of the earlier Android-powered microconsoles. The company will be integrating Ouya's content catalog and online store into its overall Android game platform, the Razer Forge TV. Ouya's tech and developer relations teams will also be joining Razer's software team.
"Razer has a long-term vision for Android TV and Android-based TV consoles, such as the Xiaomi Mi Box and Alibaba Tmall Box, to which OUYA already publishes," said Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan. "OUYA's work with game developers, both triple A and indies, went a long way in bringing Android games to the living room and Razer intends to further that work. This acquisition is envisaged to usher more developers and content to the Android TV platform."
Razer is hoping that current Ouya owners will eventually migrate to the Forge TV platform and it will be providing "a clear path of migration" with that in mind. The Ouya store will eventually be relaunched as Cortex for Android TV.
The Razer Forge TV was originally announced back in January at CES 2015, but no manufacturer - including Razer - has been able to answer a question I posed back then: Who are these Android microconsoles for?
As pure streaming content boxes that can also play games, there's a solid niche for Android TV boxes. A tiny box that goes under the TV that can play Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and HBO Go for around $100 is a decent, logical purchase for non-enthusiast consumers. The problem is when you try to make games the primary selling feature.
The enthusiasts who are buying these consoles aren't sustainable customers; they're buying these boxes to run emulators. After those DIYers are those who play games on a regular basis, who already have a console or PC for those purposes. Blowing up smartphone games onto a 32-inch+ TV isn't all that compelling, as most people will just watch something else on TV and play those games of their tablet or phone. Finally, developers have no real reason to support these platforms specifically. Android on TV requires a different focus than Android on mobile and the overall platform isn't big enough to justify the effort for many developers and publishers. (Yes, there are exceptions like Madfinger Games.)
Razer has been quiet about the current prospects of the Forge TV. Perhaps the microconsole is doing really well. It's more likely that the Forge TV is as unsuccessful as every other box that's not from one of the major companies: Apple, Roku, Amazon, and Google. So this is Razer beefing up its Android TV userbase by combining two smaller groups into a slightly larger one. I've seen no hint at highlighting a compelling need for the Forge TV platform, at least when it comes to gaming.
Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan is a smart man with a good team behind him. Perhaps he has a solid plan for the Razer Forge TV that we haven't seen yet. He'll be answering questions about the acquisition and the future of the Forge TV in a Reddit-style AMA thread on Thursday, July 30 at 8:00PM PST. Maybe that's when he'll blow my mind away, but I'm not holding my breath.