The Ouya microconsole was supposed to usher in a new age of gaming — one in which you didn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on an Xbox or PC to enjoy a high-quality gaming experience. Even though Ouya raised more than $ 8.5 million on Kickstarter, it became clear early on that Ouya wasn’t an instant hit. Developers still launched plenty of games on the Ouya, many of them exclusives. With Ouya poised to shut down in the coming weeks, a team of dedicated archivists is trying to save its game catalog before it’s too late.
Ouya’s pitch to developers was alluring. Its platform was a modified build of Android, so it would be easy to port existing games. However, if someone built a new game and made it exclusive to Ouya, the company would guarantee a cash payout. It even offered tutorials on how to build basic game demos in as little as 15 minutes.
Ouya continued updating its software and courting developers for several years after its explosive 2012 Kickstarter, but the situation was dire by 2015. Running low on funds, Ouya agreed to a buyout by Razer. The Ouya store was available after the acquisition, but Razer didn’t do anything to promote it, and some developers jumped ship after payment disputes. Now, Ouya is shutting down on June 25th. Before it goes away, some gaming fans want to make sure the titles created for Ouya aren’t lost for good.
Vojtěch Straka, who runs a group called the Game History Association, is leading the charge to save Ouya’s game catalog. The Ouya archival project has its own Discord chat where members can work on saving the games. They post details on how to gain root access on Ouya, break its DRM, and back up game packages. The games are compatible with Android after some minor tweaks, so there’s information on how to play them as well. Members of the project also have to purchase some obscure games if no one has a valid copy.
This endeavor is technically illegal. However, piracy is the only way to preserve the content created for Ouya. With such a low barrier to entry, there are numerous indie games on Ouya that don’t exist anyplace else. Most of them are bad games — little more than simple mobile titles blown up for a TV interface — but that doesn’t mean we should allow the data to vanish. Ouya is less than a decade old, and we’re already looking at irrevocably lost content. Good or not, this data is part of our digital history. Thankfully, someone is bothering to save it.