Ouya Responds to the Free the Games Fund Controversy

"[The blog post] reads like a press release from a console company locked into a foolish policy, and using aspirational language to shift the blame, weirdly, on its critics" -- Mike Bithell
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Through their blog, OUYA has responded to the controversy surrounding the Free the Games Fund. Julie Uhrman, co-founder and the writer of the blog, has said that the intention of the OUYA and the fund “seems to have been lost.” 

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For those unfamiliar, the OUYA Free the Games Fund is a matching program set up by the independent console wherein developers working through Kickstarter can have their funds matched up to $250,000, if they remain OUYA exclusive for three months. The controversy occurred when two developers, the ones behind Elementary My Dear Holmes and Gridiron Thunder, were accused of having irregularities in their Kickstarter funds. Among other things, the average pledge per backer was $626. Also, several accounts were allegedly created just to fund the projects, including some featuring celebrity names. 

The response from OUYA has been seen as sort of underwhelming. In response to the funding discrepancies, they today released a press release of sorts that says; 

In launching this campaign, we’ve been called everything from naive and foolish to crazy and idealistic… Maybe we’re naive…. and YES we’re definitely idealistic. It’s gotten us this far. We believe (still) that great games from great developers can be discovered this way – by you.

No word on what is going to happen to games like Gridiron Thunder, which raised an astonishing $171,009 in just 30 days from the contribution of just 183 backers. The entire message is really just a statement from OUYA saying “don’t give up on us” and “openness is hard.” 

Developers are pretty upset about the post, another in a long line of poor responses from OUYA. As Sophie Houlden, whose game Rose and Time was on the OUYA marketplace, put it: 

It’s not that they put out a tasteless advert, it’s not that the Free the Games Fund is a poor way of investing in interesting developers, it’s not that they shun the very developers they claim to want, it’s not that they support people using the fund that are clearly scammers. It’s their inability to admit that they have fucked up.

There has been no word from OUYA about what they’re going to do about games like Gridiron Thunder that seem to be clearly gaming the system. And for OUYA to wait to respond until long after the incident has already blown up doesn’t look good either. 

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Amanda Wallace
Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.