In two days, Boxer8's much touted Ouya system hits stores around the world. The Android-operated gaming system promises to break down the barriers between the average Joe developer and the gaming industry by being manufactured to essentially be modified by the consumer.
There have been critics of the console both praising and negating such a concept but regardless to say, so far the media has shown the console as a David ready to fight it's way into a world of Goliaths. The Kickstarter campaign that launched the product was a major success when it raised over $8.5 million despite only having a minimum target of $950,000. Most news articles seem to picture a brave new world Ouya will supposedly bring us and for a while all seemed good.
But is this going to be one of those cases where maybe some people let their imaginations run wild when the reality of the situation has been rearing it's ugly head during the weeks leading to launch?
If one decided to look at the comments page of Ouya's Kickstarter campaign, the pages are littered with thousands of negative comments, with criticism varying from backer to backer.
The most common complaint is the actual absence of the console itself. While the system will be released to the general public on June 25th, the people who funded this project were meant to get theirs back in March. In defense of Boxer8 they did announce a delay and claimed the consoles for backers were pushed back to May which would allow for a better product to be manufactured.
On May 24th, the company announced that all Ouyas for Kickstarter backers had been shipped from their manufacturing center in Hong Kong and would be in the hands within three weeks (give or take a few days depending on where you lived). As I can't link you to the Backer's only update I'll quote the message here:
[quote]Drumroll ... the day has arrived.
Yep, 100 percent of all early backer orders have successfully shipped this week from our warehouse in Hong Kong and are en route to all of you still waiting patiently for your OUYA.
And yes … that means ALL early backer orders -- regardless of your geographical location, standard edition or limited edition, extra controllers, etc. -- if you are an early backer, your OUYA is on the way![/quote]
Unfortuantly on June 8th, this email was sent out:
"It's not in your living room yet -- and we know that SUCKS. There are approximately 7,500 early supporters like yourself that are still waiting for their OUYA.
You want answers and we want to give them to you. So here it goes:
Two weeks ago, we provided an update through Kickstarter that 100% of early backer orders had shipped from Hong Kong. This was/is a true statement. All units were manufactured, packaged, and on route to one of our distribution facilities (based on your mailing address). At these facilities, your OUYA is labeled, scanned, and shaipped to your doorstep (hence the 1-2 week delay in receiving your shipping email and activivating your tracking code).
In your case, things didn't go as planned. It's important to note at this point that the cause(s) behind your delayed OUYA isn't the result of a single point of failure -- rather, it is the result of several small(ish) logistical hurdles (new) that we encountered late in the game.
What we do know is that 5,000 unuts will ship this weekend -- so many of you can expect your first email very soon. Do not be surprised, however, if it does not have a tracking number. In that case, you should receive a secondary email (which included your tracking number) shortly afterwards.
I don't expect this to make you feel *much* better (well maybe a little). I can tell you that everyone is pushing and working ard and YOU are important to us. If for whatever crazy reason you do not receieve your MY OUYA HAS SHIPPED email by Wednesday (6/12), we will email you. We will keep you in the loop. PROMISE.
Now, go have a great weekend. I'm getting back to work.
All my best,
Come June 12th, most backers had still not received an Ouya and no further updates have been published.
If the fact that the item was not in most people's hands was bad enough it would become more frustrating for others. Some have reported that they had received an email stating their console has been shipped but the problem is that many are absent of the tracking link that allows customers to see where in the world it is. Others have received links that do not work until a few days before Ouya's expected arrival.
While this is a problem that lies more with the shipping company, Boxer8 have not made things easier on themselves with a lack of communication to their backers. Also there are plenty of issues with shipping that is their fault.
My prime example being if you are an international backer. Anyone from outside North America had to add an extra $20 for shipping. Yet, most backers have claimed they have had to pay a customs charge upon the item arriving for the product that ranges anywhere from $5-50 (once again depending on the country). Many feel that if this was explained during the initial campaign they would have just wait for the system to be released in the shops as it inflates the price quite drastically.
They have also messed up in regards to Europe by not including CE stickers on the packaging. For those of you who don't know CE stickers are lawful requirements for items to prove they have been made within the regulations of the European Economic Area. Those without them are withheld until proof of their legal status is proven. Many German backers are suffering this problem.
In addition to this there has even been a case of a backer from the Netherlands whose package found its way to Newfoundland, Canada.
If the madness that had prevented backers from receiving their system wasn't bad enough, some have had valid complaints when actually getting their packages through the door.
If the backer had ordered extra controllers, there's a high probability that they will not be present in the package. Also there have been reports of people who had ordered the $140 brown special edition receiving the bog-standard $99 Ouya and vice-versa.
Even then, if you where lucky to get an Ouya shipped, have it not end up on the other side of the planet, not withheld by customs, arrive on your doorstep within good time, not get slapped with an extra customs charge and had everything you ordered in the box... You still probably got shafted with an inferior product.
Some will probably defend Boxer8 and claim one of the following arguments:
1) "Boxer8 is a relativity new company. They should be given a certain amount of leniency when it comes to shipping out their first major product, especially since they are having to deal with the big bad retailers as well."
I completely agree with you internet man inside my head, they do deserve some sort of space to get things right but they have gone about it in the wrong way. PR should be everything to these guys who have nothing but their own word to get people to buy their console. The lack of communication has lead to a few thousand people getting rather upset with the service.
Most have forgiven the misgiving of getting an earlier build (after all best time to buy newly developed hardware is after a year when the kinks should have been worked out). What is unforgivable is the fact that they haven't kept up communication with the people who have financed this en devour.
A weekly update would have been enough, but instead they have remained quiet for almost a month. Recently Microsoft showed us that sometime the most damaging thing you can do is say very little to defend yourself.
2) "But the people who backed the Ouya did not place pre-orders, they are the bank rollers. Boxer8 has no legal obligations to them, but do to the retailers to get the product in stores on time."
I think this is one of those grey areas. You see Kickstarter have no obligation to get the funders money back if Boxer8 had just collapsed and not been able to produce the Ouya. After all, like any financial investment, there is risk to the reward. But since the product is released worldwide in two days I think you can argue that Boxer8 should live up to their end of the deal.
In case you were wondering I was, once upon a time, a backer of this product, but my experience with the customer service side of things went really well. After explaining that I felt in light of their lack of updates in shipping my Ouya (I never received a shipping email at all) the best course of action would be a refund of my pledge. Within six days they obliged with no issues.
Personally I feel on a wider scale the PR for Boxer8 should have been slightly better organized. Instead of setting up outside E3 to gain some media exposure (which ultimately succeeded or failed depending on whether you believe any exposure is good exposure), they should have sorted out this debacle quicker.
While it may not seem much, as I explained earlier, word of mouth is all Boxer8 has to go on right now as this is their first major venture. Unlike one of the big three who have history to work with, Ouya should of had thousands of backers singing their praises but instead enter a market that could be unsure whether Boxer8 can be trusted to support their product to the fullest extent.