In July of 2012 a Kickstarter campaign was created for the android powered console Ouya. For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a crowd funding website designed to support projects by pledging money. In return for your pledge, the creators of these projects usually give you something in return; from a thank you email to a physical product. In the case of Ouya pledging just $99 guaranteed backers the console ahead of its official launch.
Backers of the Ouya weren't just promised, but guaranteed they would receive an Ouya before it hit retail. Directly from the Kickstarter page: "GET AN OUYA: console and controller. Guarantee we will have one available for you, before it gets to stores." For those who chose to support Ouya and spend their hard earned money on such, the estimated delivery of the console was March 2013. On August 9th, 2012 Ouya was funded, far surpassing their $950,000 goal with over $8.5 million pledged - the second most funded project in Kickstarter's history.
As 2012 wrapped up, things seemed to be well on their way. Developer's were receiving their first-run consoles and Ouya's founder, Julie Uhrman, was frequently posting updates on the progress of the project. As with any Kickstarter, backers are not pre-ordering or purchasing a product, but supporting it. With this said, February came to a close and many Ouya backers were curious if the estimation of a March delivery would be fulfilled. At the time it seemed that backers' hopes would be filled, with a February update stating "OUYAs will begin shipping to Kickstarter backers on March 28."
Fast forward to about a month later. "As of today, we plan on making our final delivery in May," said an April 5th update. By the end of May it seemed that this was indeed so with Julie telling backers that 100% of early backer orders had been shipped.
Another month had passed and on June 25th, 2013 Ouya officially launched to the public. An unknown number of Kickstarter backers, including myself, were still without their console and unaware of its whereabouts. Backers were furious as they watched it fly off shelves and sell out on Amazon while they were still patiently waiting; waiting for their Ouya - their guaranteed Ouya - waiting for an e-mail, a tracking number - anything.
Social media websites began blowing up with Kickstarter backers and the general public alike venting their frustrations, screaming out in anger and mourning over Ouya's failure to deliver what they promised. Just take a look at the comment section of the Ouya Kickstarter page: It has close to 30,000 comments, the majority being displeased. Backers demanding refunds, cursing their decision to back Ouya and generally hating on Julie Uhrman and the brand she has created.
The Ouya Facebook page and Twitter account alike continue to receive a daily plethora of comments from enraged backers demanding some kind of compensation, or at least a more comforting explanation. One Twitter user has even created an often humorous account (@WhereIsMyOUYA) retweeting Kickstarter backers in hopes of getting a better response from the team at Ouya.
It's clear that a large majority of Ouya's backers have been left unsatisfied simply because they have been left empty handed. They are pissed. Apparently Julie is too. On the day the console launched (June 25th), she posted an update on Kickstarter saying, "I am pissed. Some of you have not yet received your OUYA -- and, to you, I apologize. I did not promise to ship to most of you before we hit store shelves. I promised to ship to all of you. I’ve been reading your comments, and we are working to solve this." Julie and head of operations, Ken Stephen, go on to explain that the missing Ouya's have been in the custody of the company's partner since May. They are responsible for shipping them from Hong Kong and this process takes about 20 days. According to the pair, not only is the company's partner to blame, but also DHL, it's tracking system, and your local postal system.
Excuses, excuses, is all I could hear as my patience waned. I received a confirmation e-mail telling me that my Ouya was on the way on June 19th after contacting the company via Twitter on June 7th. Said e-mail contained a tracking number, telling me "track your package by clicking the link below." There was no link - I went to DHL's website, to the USPS's website, and my tracking number did not work. More email's were sent and tweets tweeted.
I even got a response from Ms. Uhrman herself after I tweeted on June 27th, "Was really hoping I would get to @playouya by now. I'm curious if @juhrman and her team will be offering refunds to us poor kickstarter saps." Julie's response? "@XboxBetty We are pushing to get units out -- give backers whatever they want. We are disappointed they don't have their units. Too."
Anything we want, eh?
Then one day out of nowhere a package appeared on my doorstep. After all of the e-mails, the tweets, the heartbreak, I thought I was hallucinating. I finally received my Ouya on July 1st. I must admit most of the excitement had been sucked out of me over all of the months. I thought about taking a hammer to the console or setting it aflame. Then I thought about the money. Ninety-nine dollars is a lot of cash to me even if it didn't seem like much to a company that had raised close to $9 million. I hooked it up to my TV, plugged it into the wall and my adventures with the Ouya began.
Was it DHL's fault? Ouya's partner's fault? Or was it Julie Uhrman and her company's fault? We can only hope that throughout the entire process the team at Ouya has been completely honest with those that supported them from the beginning. Anything else, and we can only speculate.
If you have not been swayed by Ouya's Kickstarter debacle, you can now purchase the console online and at retailers for $99.