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Ouya alters its Free the Games fund as Gridiron Thunder drops out
September 18, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

September 18, 2013 | By Christian Nutt
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More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing, Video



The Ouya Free the Games fund was billed as a way for indie developers to get a leg up when developing for the Android microconsole -- it's a $1 million fund with which the company will double funds indies raise via Kickstarter to develop games.

The intent was good, but in execution, it had significant weaknesses. Many developers questioned whether the program would not be useful to most indies the way it was originally structured -- and after controversy flared around the Kickstarter campaigns of the two successful games in the program, one of which had its funding cancelled by Kickstarter due to irregularities, developers began to become more openly critical of Ouya.

Today, the company's CEO, Julie Uhrman, has written a blog post (and recorded a video message, shown above) outlining changes the company is making to the program in light of the criticism.

These are the changes:

  • The $50,000 funding minimum on successful campaigns has been reduced to $10,000. "We know first-hand, that great games can be made for $20k or sometimes less," Uhrman writes.

  • While the company will still match 100 percent of funding up to a limit of $250,000, it matches based on the project's goal, not the total of the funds received by its Kickstarter campaign -- "Meaning we match what you need," Uhrman writes.

  • For every $10,000 raised on Kickstarter, a campaign must have 100 backers. This is designed to nip investors putting in large contributions in hopes of turning a profit backing projects in concert with their developers. This is something that Gridiron Thunder, the only successful game in the program so far, has been accused of.

  • For every $10,000 Ouya gives a developer, it demands one month of console exclusivity -- for up to six months at maximum. The company originally demanded six months of exclusivity period, and later six months of console exclusivity if receiving any funding at all.

  • Ouya has killed the $100,000 bonus it originally promised to pay to the highest-funded project. "Again, you suggested this, and we agree it just didn’t feel right... We're going to use this money to fund games the old fashioned way -- working with you one-on-one," Uhrman writes.

  • The fund originally promised to pay out when the game launched on the Ouya platform. Now, Ouya will pay 50 percent of funding at beta, 25 percent at launch, and 25 percent at the end of the game's exclusivity period.

Simultaneously with this announcement, controversial Free the Games fund entrant Gridiron Thunder has announced its withdrawal from the fund after "speaking with our friends at Ouya" in a brief update to its Kickstarter page.

"We now have sufficient resources to complete Gridiron Thunder without requesting matching funds from Ouya," the update reads. In her video message, Uhrman did say she's "looking forward to working together" with MogoTXT, the Gridiron Thunder studio, on future projects.

For more details about the policy change, you can read Uhrman's blog post on the official Ouya site.


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Comments


Ian Fisch
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Well I'm satisfied.

Unfortunately Ouya's mission doesn't seem so relevant now that Steam and all the upcoming consoles will let almost anyone publish on their platforms.

scott anderson
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Afaik, Ouya is still much more open than Steam, where you have to still have to go be approved on Greenlight, and all next and current gen consoles (except XBLIG), where you have to be an approved developer and acquire a potentially expensive devkit.

Future developments like Steam curated store fronts, or MS fully opening up their certification process, have been hinted at in interviews, but we have no idea when or if they will happen.

Ian Fisch
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Right now it's very easy to get a dev kit for Wii U, PS4, and PS Vita. On top of that, Steam has been greenlighting games like crazy for PC.

Considering all of those platforms have a larger userbase than Ouya, why should I develop for Ouya?

E Zachary Knight
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Ian,

For someone with a track record in game development yes. For an unknown, no. The Ouya is an opportunity for an unknown to make a console game and show that they can do it right.

Harry Fields
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Anyone can publish to PC. Should everyone be able to have visibility in an app store front-end? When anyone *can* create content, there will be many creating it who probably shouldn't be and you'll have a flood of titles like the vast majority of crap on XBLIG. The challenge is in separating the wheat from the chaff, which greenlight does pretty darn well. Is it perfect? No. But if you're working on something that is worthwhile that players want to see, you'll get green-lit. If you're working on a 2d platformer that looks like it came from the 2600 and has abysmally generic play, maybe you shouldn't be getting visibility and instead be spending time looking at the project from a "lessons learned"/post-portem perspective. But that's just my thoughts on it. For the industry to be healthy, it's gotta' be about quality more than quantity. Gamers already have more choices than they have time for. New games should either be an exercise in brilliant fun or something offering significant differentiation from existing products (or both) -- if the goal is market expansion and the health of the industry and advancement of the artform.

Martin Pettersson
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The problem is when there is only one way to get into a specific platform. If you don't get noticed or you don't pass some arbitrary standard, then you're out. This is true for Steam and almost every console. But is this the best system for discoverability? No. Look at the web, anyone can create a site or an app, there is nothing stopping anyone. So there is a lot of crap on the internet, but anyone can also run a "store front" like Steam so there are more options for where to go with your game or app. You can try to reach people through search, through magazines, review sites, bloggers, twitter, whatever. The whole system sorts itself out without needing a dictator deciding what goes on the platform and what doesn't.

That's why I think browser based gaming will win it out in the long run, or at least be very big. It's just natural fit for discoverability, platform independence and ease of sharing. A game can go viral pretty quickly when you can tweet a link.

alex white
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Steam is still mostly frustratingly closed to indies. Their recent "stress test" of greenlight was is only a crazy amount when compared to previous anemic levels. One of the goals of the indie community is the get rid of the gatekeepers. IMO, steam's gatekeeper is still as bad as any in the industry. It's a neck and neck race between Valve and Microsoft to be least indie friendly.

alex white
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Gabe Newell in his own words. "Future batches may not be as large..."
Read more at http://gamingbolt.com/gabe-newell-steam-greelight-isnt-perfect-wi
ll-continue-to-evolve#pW8KerTIKDRWQB2O.99

Thomas Happ
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So, presuming your game can be ported easily to Ouya, it could be a way to fund PC game development now, and then port to the other consoles in 6 months. That seems pretty good, I think.

Thomas Happ
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Looking at the new rules on their site, it seems you won't get any of their funding until after your game is feature complete, so it's not really a way to fund development (unless maybe you have the kind of game that can be feature complete early on?):

Payment. OUYA will pay Developer matching funds as follows:
- 50% after delivery and approval of functional beta of the Developed Game by OUYA. Functional beta is generally defined by OUYA as a feature complete prototype of the game.
- 25% when Developer's Developed Game has been approved by OUYA and becomes commercially available on the OUYA storefront.
- 25% when the Exclusivity Period (as set forth below) ends.

Ashley Blacquiere
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So then the money goes towards feature polish, and maybe some added content. That's probably what Kickstarter stretch goals for games should be anyway - too much chance of a delayed release to promise additional features on stretch goals. Makes sense for Ouya to try to mimic that mentality.

Micah Betts
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It still works out for Ouya because it ends up with more games, even if they aren't exclusive for long

Thomas Happ
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Yeah, it's still good, just different than if you were able to bet on it up front. In a way the notion of spending half your budget on polish is pretty cool.

Ron Dippold
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All good changes we've seen suggested here (and elsewhere). Obviously they were listening even while turtling and saying everything was fine. Dungeons may have been the final straw. Now to see if they can get any momentum back.

John Woznack
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I'm skeptical that even with these changes the Ouya will attract enough high-quality game developers. Even if they're not trying to compete against the big irons, they still need a sizable install base before many game developers will risk the time and energy to develop for the platform. At this point I just don't see enough enthusiasm among the developers, let alone gamers.

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Harry Fields
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Out of curiosity, how is MSFT not closing the doors of open development a sad thing? PC is an open platform. Anyone can develop and distribute on PC. That's a good thing. It's what Ouya claims to be about. If someone wants to create a curated Indie distribution app optimized for TV, you can do that with PC. you don't have to incentivize PC development either as the numbers are already there.

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