Ouya Announces Changes to Free the Games Fund

"We hear you loud and clear, that the program isn't working and regardless of my best intentions there's too many loopholes." -- Julie from OUYA

OUYA has recently come into some controversy surrounding its "Free the Games Fund" which is designed to help emergent game designers get the needed funding. The controversy stemmed from unclear guidelines and abuse of the system. In light of this, OUYA announced some changes to the fund. 

As OUYA's Julie Uhrman put it, "We're going to make Free the Games work better for you," by instituting these changes: 

1. Decreasing the Project Minimum

Previously, the minimum to participate in the Free the Games Fund was to raise at least $50K. However, developers complained that this extremely high goal was out of the reach of a lot of indie projects -- and as OUYA put it "great games can be made for $20K or sometimes less." 

The new project minimum is $10K. 

2. OUYA Exclusivity

The new exclusivity agreement is a bit more complicated. Previously, your Free the Games Fund game would need to be exclusive for 6+ months to get access to the funding. Now, they've changed the rule to be more inclusive for smaller projects. 

It's now 1 month for every $10K funded by OUYA for up to the six month period. So, for $20K, you'd have to be OUYA exclusive for 2 months. 

They're also allowing developers to develop PC versions of their game, because developers complained that the PC is where their audience is at. 

Thank you all -- it's better because you cared enough to tell us how. And you yelled from the mountain tops. Thank you. -- Julie Uhrman
3. Match Amount

OUYA will match 100% of your funding goal to a maximum of $250,000. As they put it: 

Meaning we match what you need. If you receive more than you asked for from your backers, GREAT, but this should be a measurement of community interest, not a push for more funding.

4. Minimum Number of Backers

One of the principal critiques of games that supposedly "gamed the system" during the opening phase of the Free the Games Fund is that just a few backers were contributing most of the money towards the project. This went against the intention of the Fund, which was for the game to be community sourced rather than sourced by a few major investors. 

The program wasn't perfect; we're fixing it. -- Julie Uhrman

The change is now that for every $10k raised, you have to have 100 Kickstarter backers. The hope is this will stop people from messing with the system and having a few friends with thick pocket books get them to the match limit. 

Overall, the changes that have been made have gone over fairly well. Sophie Houlden, the developer of Rose and Time, and a strong voice in the controversy recently stirred up, even seems pleased, stating: 

I wouldn't say that the fund is now perfect, but it is a *really* big step in the right direction, and I expect/hope a lot of indies will go for it as it looks like it can really help now. I want them to be able to afford to do that, and I want to play their games too. 

...my faith has certainly gone a long way to being restored. I'll be keeping an eye on thigns for awhile and hopefully I can find myself being comfortable bringing my game back to the console, and I might even consider giving the fund a go myself. 

What do you think of the "Free the Games" Controversy? Has OUYA dealt with it sufficiently? 

Published Oct. 4th 2013

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