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Ouya chief exec Julie Uhrman: No one can silence ‘the people’s console’ (interview)

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LOS ANGELES — Julie Uhrman is a fighter. The chief executive of Android game console maker Ouya is happy to duel with the big box publishers for the hearts of gamers. But she also had to battle with the group that runs the game industry’s biggest trade show as well.

Ouya had a run-in with the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that puts on the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). It seems that the ESA didn’t like that Ouya set up its exhibit in a parking lot across the street from E3 rather than inside the exhibit hall. So the ESA reportedly sent the cops over Monday to shut down the exhibit (Update: The ESA declined comment) and even hauled in a huge white semi-truck trailer to block the view of the Ouya exhibit from the convention center.

Ouya simply put its signs in front of the trailer.

But the scrappy Uhrman soldiered on and said the publicity about the flap helped the company more than being inisde the convention center would’ve. The incident highlighted the company’s alternative origins, as it raised more than $8 million for its Android game console on Kickstarter by appealing to the indie crowd. Ouya, which also raised $15 million from prominent venture capitalists, launches June 25. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Uhrman.

ouya esaGamesBeat: How as E3 gone for you guys?

Julie Uhrman: It’s been a good show. We’ve had developers demoing their games to gamers. We’ve had a steady flow of traffic. It’s just a lot of fun, great content. It’s great to see people engage with it and watch them react.

GamesBeat: Are you guys at war with the ESA here?

Uhrman: That might be a bit of an exaggeration. It’s unfortunate, the way it went down. Ouya is all about being open, and we want to have any gamer be able to come and experience Ouya, meet developers, and play great games. Being outside the convention center was the only way that we could be open to everybody.

GamesBeat: I always see people displaying along this row here, every year, so I don’t really know what the problem is.

Uhrman: We’re not the only ones here, no, so I’m not sure why we caused the most fuss. It’s unfortunate. We look forward to working with them next year. But it’s important that everybody who wants to experience the Ouya can do that. We need to be open to everybody.

It was a distraction on the first day, but really, it’s been great. It’s almost rallied people behind us even more. They love our open nature. They love that we’re accessible to gamers because of our price point. We’re open to developers because anyone can publish. It just brought more interest and more traffic. A lot more people, thanks to them, know about Ouya now.

GamesBeat: It’s all about trying to stand up above the noise here at E3.

ouya booth

Uhrman: Yeah. This wasn’t an easy year. A lot of next-gen consoles were shown off. There’s a lot of talk about processing power and graphics and polygons on a screen and the games that are leveraging those and how much longer it’s going to take before you can play those games. What keeps coming back to me from our gamers is that they just want to play fun games again. Ouya offers a lot of fun games.

We have a lot of exclusive content that keeps coming through the door. ChronoBlade is exclusive to Ouya. We have a demo today, and the game is coming in December. Tripwire Interactive announced Killing Floor, the sequel, coming exclusively to Ouya. We’ve been showing Kim Swift’s Soul Fjord. You Don’t Know Jack is here demonstrating the gamepad that they created for Ouya so you can play it not only with the Ouya controller but also with any iOS device. It’s great to see developers, both new and established, starting to embrace the platform.

GamesBeat: So you guys didn’t direct them to do that? They just did it on their own?

Uhrman: Absolutely. Ouya is built for Bluetooth, so the whole idea was that you could pair any peripheral or accessory. They’re the first ones to do it and launch something on Ouya.

GamesBeat: Are you all set for launch, then?

Uhrman: All set. June 25. We’re launching in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. with Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Target, and Game. Units have been shipped and delivered. Retail boxes have been created. We’re excited.

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