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Ouya amends its Free the Games developer matching fund

Above: Julie Uhrman on Free the Games update

Image Credit: Ouya

Ouya chief executive Julie Uhrman announced today that she is making changes to the Ouya Free the Games Fund after receiving negative feedback on the loopholes in the program that developers used to game the system.

Ouya started the $1 million fund with the intention of financially rewarding developers who raised money successfully on Kickstarter and pledged to give some exclusivity to Ouya’s Android-based microconsole. Ouya would match the funds raised for any campaigns that raised more than $50,000 for an Ouya game.

But a couple of developers, such as Gridiron Thunder, appeared to game the system. Gridiron Thunder beat its goal of raising $75,000 for a football game, but the title had a very small number of backers, making critics suspect that Gridiron Thunders makers, MogoTXT, had funded the project themselves in order to lock down the matching funds. Other developers ran into the same problem, with one developer acknowledging that his father made a huge donation that helped Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus beat its Kickstarter goal.

Uhrman acknowledged she made a mistake in the design of the fund’s rules. She read reports and agreed that the program wasn’t working despite her best intentions.

“We’re going to make Free the Games work better for you,” she said, addressing developers.

To defuse the issue, Uhrman said in a video that Ouya was changing the rules to reduce the concerns. Instead of having a minimum of $50,000 as a campaign target, the level has been reduced to $10,000 to qualify for matching funds. The maximum matching amount will be $250,000.

The campaigns must also have a minimum number of at least 100 backers for every $10,000 raised on Kickstarter, so that a campaign can no longer be entirely bankrolled by a small number of well-resourced supporters and still qualify.

Ouya is also asking for a month of exclusivity for every $10,000 rewarded by Ouya in matching funds, for up to six months. If a game receives $20,000 from Ouya’s fund, it should then be an exclusive for two months. Developers may also freely develop a PC version of their game if they wish.

About 50 percent of the funding will be provided at functioning beta, 25 percent at launch on Ouya, and 25 percent at the end of the exclusivity period. Meanwhile, there will be no $100,000 bonus for the company that raises the most money. Lastly, if the community feels the project is gaming the system, Ouya will review it and determine whether to fund it or not.

Uhrman said that MogoTXT told Ouya that it will not accept the matching funds and that money will now be available for other developers to use.

“They said they raised enough money from Kickstarter and will do it on their own,” she said. “I think that is amazing. They didn’t have to do that. It’s incredibly awesome of them.”

Uhrman said the company would work one-on-one with developers in other ways to bring their games to Ouya.

“The program wasn’t perfect. We’re fixing it,” Uhrman said.

More information:

OUYA was created in 2012 by Julie Uhrman, a video game industry veteran who saw an opportunity to open up the last closed game platform — the TV. Julie and an initial team of game developers and advisors brought the concept to life, ... read more »

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