Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has made a new investment in OUYA, an U.S. game console manufacturer and open game platform for television. The investment comes to US$10 million according to a WSJ report, though the Santa Monica-based startup declined to comment.
OUYA is best known for releasing an Android-powered video game console in a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. In recent years, the company has started to shift its focus from hardware to licensing its games to other devices and manufacturers.
Through this deal, OUYA will bring its gaming platform and game library to Alibaba’s YunOS system, a forked version of Android which powers the company’s Tmall set-top boxes and other third-party devices. OUYA has over 1,000 games built for the TV and nearly 40,000 developers, said OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman.
The lifting of a 13-year ban on game consoles in China has attracted a flock of startups into the market with budget set-top boxes running downloadable and free-to-play games. “Markets like China, without the baggage of the U.S. console market, could be game console leaders in ten years. That’s where OUYA wants to be,” said Uhrman.
The startup has partnered with Xiaomi to bring its software to Chinese households via Xiaomi’s content-streaming television boxes last year. The investment from Alibaba won’t affect its cooperation with Xiaomi and OUYA hopes to team up with more platforms in future, Uhrman added.
When talking about competition from local rivals, she said, “We will not be competing with Chinese console makers but working with them to bring great games to their users.”
OUYA aims to distribute its platform and games globally. “Not only have we shipped OUYAs to gamers all over the world but nearly half of our developers are outside the U.S. We see tremendous growth in markets like China, India, Latin America,” Uhrman noted.
As the saying goes, “Content is king”. Alibaba has integrated a variety of content from third-party developers, ranging from video streaming services, video games to online education contents, into its homegrown set-top boxes like Tmall Box 2 and other devices running Yun OS. Cooperation with OUYA will help Alibaba to further expand its game library, a major selling point for domestic entertainment gadgets.
Chinese hardware makers are investing heavily in premium content. Xiaomi has allocated US$1 billion for digital content, especially online videos for the Xiaomi Smart TV and set-top box.
image credit: OUYA
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)