Razer Eyes Android TV
JULY 30, 2015 • This week Razer Inc. confirmed it had acquired the software assets of Ouya, Inc. on June 12. The purchase netted Razer Ouya’s content catalog and online retail platform, plus the latter’s technical and developer relations teams. Financial terms behind the agreement were not disclosed. The acquisition is the first for game hardware maker Razer since it was founded in 1998. The company does not take on Ouya hardware in the deal but promises content access to existing owners of the Android console for up to a year while it puts plans in place to offer these consumers discounted access to its own Forge TV micro console. The Ouya store will be rebranded as Cortex for Android TV. Razer sees Cortex as the primary conduit for premiere game and other entertainment on its Forge systems. Currently, GooglePlay is the primary source of content for Forge TV consoles. Moving forward, Razer is ramping up developer programs to bring more unique Android game titles to market.
Impact: Why Razer would want to become a major game provider for Android TV is intriguing. However, DFC is still not sold on the market viability of Android game consoles in Western markets. What makes Nvidia’s Shield Android TV so interesting are media features such as MPEG-2 decoding support that makes it easy to support television content in the United States, and the beefy hardware specs that encourage use as a home theater PC. The Forge TV does come with the Razer Cortex: Stream app that makes it easy to stream content from a PC, but that is a different proposition than a micro-console capable of performing the same functions on its own. But Razer does have a major presence in China, and we suspect much of the company’s Android game ambitions lie across the Pacific. In that context, the Forge TV offering thousands of Android titles through its built-in Cortex store potentially has more traction.
The Ouya deal is bringing Razer around 1,500 game titles already optimized for Android TV. Plus, the Forge TV is a much more powerful micro-console than the Ouya, so there is plenty of headroom for more ambitious Android titles than Ouya could support. And Razer does seem serious about securing developers to feed more compelling content to Forge TV owners. So much so that the company told Polygon that it was honoring Ouya’s $1 million Free the Game fund for developers despite not being contractually obligated to do so. The program was supposed to provide matching funds from $10,000 up to $250,000 at specific milestones to qualifying studios running successful Kickstarter campaigns, but only one quarter of the development houses had received payments in full. The twist seems to be that Razer is ditching the exclusivity clause in favor of making the studios give away the dollar amount they receive from the fund in a corresponding value of free copies of the game on Cortex. Which all draws attention to Razer’s intent not to wall off its game content. The company’s model is to support open access to its titles for other Android systems. That may be good for freemium transactions but we find it hard to see how that policy would sell Forge TVs, even in China where there are plenty of micro-consoles in production. Razer is making an ambitious content play, we are just not sure what the return will be.