OUYA shuts down yet another Kickstarter debacle
OUYA’s Free the Games fund, which provides matching funds for games that raise over $50,000 on Kickstarter and agree to a six-month timed exclusivity with OUYA, has been controversial from the beginning. Projects were accused of gaming the system, developers removed their games from OUYA’s service in protest, and OUYA’s explanation of the situation basically consisted of putting its fingers in its ears to pretend not to hear the criticism.
I interviewed the man behind one of the controversial projects that was utilizing the Free the Games fund, another campaign was pulled from Kickstarter, and today OUYA’s program claims yet another… victim?
I’m not even sure how to characterize the situation. Another developer admitted to gaming the system, and Ouya has pulled the game from the Free the Games fund. This is what happened.
Five large checks
Dungeons the Eye of Draconus already enjoyed a successful $5,000 Kickstarter, but went back to the crowd-funding trough for more money to finish the game. The new campaign hobbled along, with backers giving a few dollars here and there until suddenly, in the space of two days, the game reached its $50,000 goal. What happened?
“My father gave me 5 checks to give to my most trustworthy of friends. The 5th check was given to John to pledge for my father,” William A. McDonald of SuckerFree Games posted in an update. “My father cannot pledge himself because he expected to pledge on Kickstarter with a check and he also doesn't want his debit card on the internet… Yes, he's old.”
So there was no community support for the game, one man’s father basically paid $50,000 to fund the project, and split that payment between five friends. That was enough to get the matching funds from OUYA.
“Everyone wins with this scenario,” the developer stated. “We are going to make an excellent video game series for $65,000! OUYA match funds come in 3 disbursements, 1st $12,500 at the end of the KS, 2nd $25,000 when the game is released and finally $12,500 after six months of OUYA exclusivity.”
“Thanks to OUYA funds, we will be able to afford marketing, have a booth at PAX, and finally finish all of Dungeons feature complete,” the update continued.
It was all going so well. They found one donor who would fund the game, they would get the rest from Ouya, and everything was looking up. Sure everyone on the Internet was angry that the Free the Games fund was being gamed yet again, but who cares?
The fact that one donor paid for the majority of the project, and that this was done only to get OUYA's cash, didn't sit well with many people in the gaming community. It seems OUYA was paying attention as well.
“Well apparently OUYA has decided to change the rules on us. With less than two days to go they have removed our #Freethegames link from the OUYA homepage and delisted us from www.Freethegamesfund.com website,” today’s update explained. “The timing aligns with winning back of some devs that threatened to pull their games through conversations on twitter.”
The Kickstarter has since been cancelled by Sucker Free Games, since apparently the entirety of the project hinged on OUYA's support.
“Without OUYA match funds and only $4055 in donations from our crowd source backers, the cost of swag, taxes and fees would cause us to have a net loss of approximately $11,000,” the update explained. “Further, being essentially told OUYA doesn't want us, makes us not want OUYA. Sadly, we were early adopters, we got our OUYA on launch day and had been one of its strongest supporters. We have no plans to develop for OUYA further.”
No mention was made of the $50,000 given to the project from the creator’s father.
Good idea, good intentions, terrible execution
The original idea of fostering Kickstarter success and giving out money for exclusivity wasn't terrible, but it turned out that people are all too willing to simply game the system to get to what sounded like “free” money.
Even the Gridiron Kickstarter consisted of a few donors giving large amounts of money, not widespread or organic community support.
It will be hard to find a project that can raise $50,000 from backers while being upfront about the fact that the game will only be available on the OUYA for the first half-year, and the projects that are being cancelled or look suspicious are beginning to pile up.
The Free the Games fund has been a disaster from front to back, and OUYA's inability to properly address concerns about the project aren't helping their case with legitimate indie developers creating the games that could raise interest in the little cube.
Expect developers to grow wary of the OUYA as more negative stories come out about the use of these funds and the company stays silent on what's actually going on behind the scenes.
There are ways to pay for, support, and gain exclusives, but creating a system that's dependent on Kickstarter and is proving to be so easily gamed proved to be a mistake.