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Ouya Finally Responds to Free the Games Criticism, Upsets Everyone

Founder Julie Uhrman's blog post has caused developers to speak loudly about their dissatisfaction.

Ouya is “surprised” at the response to its Free the Games promotion, founder Julie Uhrman wrote in a blog post yesterday.

“This response surprised us--we thought this was going to be great--how could it not be?” said Uhrman. “We launched the Free the Games Fund to find great games from the very platform that gave us life.”

Pulling from a million dollar pool, the Free the Games promotion promised financial backing to Kickstarter games if they were Ouya exclusive for six months (afterwards, they could go wherever). If the Kickstarter projects raised at least $50,000, Ouya would match that, and that financial matching would continue as high as $250,000. An additional $100,000 was promised to the project that raised the most money during this program.

So far, two of the projects have been embroiled in speculation about their funding efforts, with Elementary, My Dear Holmes being straight-up shut down by Kickstarter late last week. Both have been dealing with accusations of friends and family pumping in funds to hit Ouya’s target.

“We wanted to get on top of this and did not want anything to do with any of what was happening as it was an extremely negative campaign for us” wrote Elementary creator Sam Chandola. “Strong personal accusations were going up against us, and it was a huge drain on our time, energy and resources. We had been hoping that the suspicious accounts would have been suspended so that we could keep on going strong and without controversy, but instead it was the project that got so. We are, naturally, deeply saddened by this. But if this is what it takes to put an end to the negativity, so be it.”

Gridiron Thunder, a project that has since closed with $171,009 in funding prior to what Ouya kicks in, faced similar criticisms as Elementary. According to Kicktraq, the average backer pledge was $934, well outside the norm. In Gridiron Thunder’s case, the developer, MogoTXT, didn’t deny friends, family, and supporters from its Silicon Valley roots had pledged big. Many of these pledges came from brand-new accounts that hadn’t supported anything on Kickstarter before. Furthermore, MogoTXT was promising to release the game in September (this month!), raising questions about what a project clearly in the final stretch needs with a program that, in spirit, was designed to help scrappy upstarts. But it hit the goal, so Ouya will have to back it.

When I originally asked developers about Free the Games, many were skeptical of Ouya’s approach.

“I mean hey,” said Dan Marshall, creator of Ben There, Dan That! and the recent Gun Monkeys, “if you've got a million bucks to blow, take it to some indie devs you admire, and whose style of games you desperately want on your system and say ‘Here! Look! Here's $100k, make something spectacular for us that'll make our system a must-have.’ THAT would be a tactic I'd respect them for. Six months exclusivity on a hundred games that'll be out on Steam eventually doesn't feel like a particularly wise way to spend that money and get systems selling, I'm afraid.”

The blog post contains only vague references to the conversation around the Free the Games program.

“In launching this campaign, we’ve been called everything from naive and foolish to crazy and idealistic,” she said. “This is not the first time we’ve been called any of that. 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. If we can put aside the doubt and embrace the spirit of this fund as it is meant, and of OUYA as it is meant, we might just be surprised by what a little positivity can produce.”

Developer Sophie Houlden is pulling down her game, Rose and Time, due to Ouya's blog post and other recent missteps.

Asking people to stop being jerks is, perhaps, not the best way to inspire developer confidence. This becomes clear in the comments section, in which several well-known developers weigh in with their own problems with Ouya, and Uhrman’s decision to seemingly ignore the underlying issues with the Free the Games deal.

“This post makes me sad, for a lot of reasons to be honest, but mainly for the wording,” said Mike Bithell, developer of Thomas Was Alone and the upcoming Volume. “This isn't an acceptance of criticism, or an explanation of how clearly dodgy as hell schemes are being supported by you publicly (in PR at least, I really hope you weasel out before giving the Gridiron Thunder guys a penny). This reads like a press release from a console company locked into a foolish policy and using aspirational language to shift the blame, weirdly, onto its critics.”

Bithell was not alone.

“I said the Gridiron thing was the final straw but in reality this blog post was,” said Richard Perrin, developer of Kairo and the upcoming Journal. “We've all been waiting for how you guys were going to deal with this and your response is to post a blog entry that ducks and doges around the one central issue. We've all been watching very concerned, and you've basically made it clear you're either not listening or are not willing to engage with us. That being the case I can't work with you guys and I won't work with you guys. Thankfully we seem to be in a new era with game development where companies like Sony are taking the time to engage with smaller developers and are willing to admit mistakes and try to make things better. That your small plucky start up is coming across more impersonal and corporate than Sony should worry you deeply.”

"I know what honesty looks like, I know what dealing with problems looks like, and I sure as shit know what putting developers first should look like, and this isn’t it.”

Ouch.

In the case of Sophie Houlden, developer of Rose and Time, she’s actually pulling the game down from Ouya’s store.

“A real indie has more faces than just ‘look at how well things are going for me,’ we have to deal with all kinds of problems and we respond when people come to us with them,” said Houlden. “Responses like the one I read last night (weeks after the problem became apparent) feel entirely empty and dishonest to me. I know what honesty looks like, I know what dealing with problems looks like, and I sure as shit know what putting developers first should look like, and this isn’t it.”

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Edited by thatdutchguy

The ouya is such a shitshow.

Just stop it and move on.

Posted by NoCookiesForYou

Good read.

Posted by Flappy

@thatdutchguy: I still chuckle when I remember the people that were like, "The Xbox and PS4 are screwed! The Ouya is the future!"

Edited by thatdutchguy

@flappy said:

@thatdutchguy: I still chuckle when I remember the people that were like, "The Xbox and PS4 are screwed! The Ouya is the future!"

Yeah, what were they thinking? lol. The ouya has no future.

Edited by CircleNine

I think I've gotten more entertainment reading about the Ouya's (and its managements) failings more than most people who've actually bought Ouyas.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

Wow. The Ouya just looks like a complete disaster.

Posted by fwpx

Ouyouch.

Posted by Wacomole

"Bithell was not alone"

Genius!

Edited by mnzy
Edited by mrfluke

ouch.

oh ouya.

Edited by rm082e

@flappy said:

@thatdutchguy: I still chuckle when I remember the people that were like, "The Xbox and PS4 are screwed! The Ouya is the future!"

Oh God those pie-in-the-sky delusions were great. Haha.

Edited by cutyoface

The Ouya was a terrible idea from day one.

Posted by Vuud

By all means put your eggs in the indie basket.

Edited by PXAbstraction

I still think these Android (or whatever) mini consoles that are focused around indie games and homebrew are a good idea that could find a niche to thrive in. They'll never be mainstream but I don't think that's what they should aim for. However, the people running Ouya really don't seem to understand how to work with indie developers or what makes the indie community different from the "mainstream." They're acting extremely corporate, putting the gross PR varnish over all the many problems this system has had, despite funding this thing through Kickstarter which you would think, would have taught them how to interact with the types of communities that consume this stuff. I really think they need to re-think how they message and present themselves if they want to get taken seriously. 2013 really seems to be quickly becoming the Year of Flubbed PR.

Edited by sixpin

I kind of want an Ouya to put on my shelf as a reminder of how not to do business anything.

Posted by Foil1212

"Bithell was not alone"

Nice one Scoops. Nice.

Posted by zyba27

wellp i got my root kit software ready if i can't have ouya games il just grab a moga and turn the ouya into a google play store enabled device because why the fuck not at this point MAX PAYNE MOBILE HERE I COME

Posted by PedanticJase

Sure shady folks are running off with the cash but its Ouya's money, I don't know why anyone cares.

Edited by Brackynews

In my time reading Penny Arcade's Trenches comic, one theme in the anonymous stories was businessmen exploiting investors by putting up a front of games "in development" in makeshift offices. Seems like those same shylocks have found Kickstarter. It can't all be Infinium Labs. (And no I'm not referring to Ouya; games where the average contribution is upwards of a grand in order to secure massive amounts of outside funding, is my point.)

Posted by MrQuizmo

God, Ouya people... What is going on at that company? Like, for legit, what is going on with them? Every time I see their name, it's always associated with something negative and/or stupid. Have they even responded to the engineering issues with the console, like the weird latency issues with the controller?

Actually, this kinda reminds me of Game Dev Sim where your company could eventually make its own console, but if you didn't have the skilled workers, it'd be a hot mess and could essentially tank your company. At least when I tanked my game company, I could delete my save and start over.

Edited by flippyandnod

The response from Ouya seems to indicate they are treating this funding more as a PR move and less as about the developers.

But I admit I am a bit surprised at the response from the developers here. I don't quite understand how they are so ready to turn down money. For many indie developers, the most critical resource is money. Even if they think Ouya isn't spending their money wisely, I'm surprised they don't just take it and make their vision.

Even if Ouya is doomed, once the game is made you're only six months from doing whatever you want with it.

Posted by shamanultra

I laugh at people who talk about Indie devs like the second coming of Jesus. They are just as capable of being shitty people who do shady things.

Posted by BasketSnake

They tried.

Posted by jimmyfenix

I don't want this too sound to harsh but fuck the ouya.

Posted by BooDoug187

@flappy said:

@thatdutchguy: I still chuckle when I remember the people that were like, "The Xbox and PS4 are screwed! The Ouya is the future!"

Yeah, what were they thinking? lol. The ouya has no future.

No it has a future... as an emulator box.

Posted by MachoFantastico

Richard Perrin's comments... ouch indeed.

Ouya looking real stupid from this press release, there's no doubt about that.

Posted by eccentrix

This article doesn't fully explain the situation for me, but it does make me want to get an Ouya before they disappear. Like buying a Virtual Boy.

Posted by EthanML

Does Sophie Houlden ever finish anything? She seems to spend all her time working on random side projects then tossing them aside in favor of writing more scathing commentaries on the indie 'scene'.

Edited by TheMasterDS

Ouya is the best example of a Kickstarter that went wrong. People were too quick to trust a gang of charlatans and this is what we end up with. A gang of hacks who are way over their heads and have no idea what to do as the heads of an indie console. Good thing the proper platform holders are friendly right now.

Edited by hi_im_rob

It sucks the Ouya is such a disaster because the idea of an Android console is interesting to me.

Edited by Crunchman

That suggestion by Dan Marshall sounds fantastic. There has to be something that makes me specifically purchase an Ouya, which is so uninteresting as it stands. Really, I don't understand how it could be funded without any substantial exclusives for it.

Edited by Jensonb

Good lord, for an outfit purporting to be indie and down to earth, these Ouya folks are comically out of touch. Their handling of Ouya has been tone deaf almost since the start!

Posted by CptBedlam

I didn't expect much from this Ouya thing but the sheer trainwreck that it has become is even beyond my wildest imaginations. It's baffling, but kinda entertaining to watch.

Posted by WeAreNotQualified

I just bought Rose & Time from Sophie Houlden's site, because doing the right thing should be rewarded.

This is a big decision on her part that could possibly do bad things to her sales (let's be real here: the bottom line matters even more for indie devs); she even outright says that her sales were best on the Ouya.

And despite all that, she took a stand and withdrew herself from the marketplace. That's drawing a line. That's commitment to doing the right thing. I can't help but admire and support that.

Edited by HellknightLeon

I... I... want more. I don't like the Ouya... but man is it awesome so see something like this burn to the ground... Like Microsoft going back on stuff is cool to watch and crazy... but this... this speaks to a sick side of me that wants to see more. XD

Posted by Darji

So now we have a great race. Which console dies first. Wii U or Ouya. Kind of interesting to be honest^^

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Watching this farce continue is never not a great part of my day.

Posted by Quarters

Having indie developers not support your console ready made for indie/small games is probably not the best sign. Geez, Ouya.

Online
Posted by supergg2k

It makes me wonder where Kellee Santiago stands on this as she is the Head of Developer Relations.

Posted by WMoyer83

The Ouya is my second favorite failed console next to the Phantom

Posted by jgf

The response from Ouya seems to indicate they are treating this funding more as a PR move and less as about the developers.

But I admit I am a bit surprised at the response from the developers here. I don't quite understand how they are so ready to turn down money. For many indie developers, the most critical resource is money. Even if they think Ouya isn't spending their money wisely, I'm surprised they don't just take it and make their vision.

Even if Ouya is doomed, once the game is made you're only six months from doing whatever you want with it.

I think the problem is that the funding only kicks in when you already managed to get 25000$ at a kickstarter without any help. So if your game and your PR is good enough to raise 25000$ for a (timed) Ouya exclusive game, its very likely that you would have gotten far more money if you did a kickstarter for a steam/multiplatform version. The hard part at kickstarter is hitting that initial critical mass, not piling onto it once the hype train is rolling.

Posted by Brodehouse

In the last week my OUYA has actually started to earn its pricetag. I got XBMC running and it is excellent, so now I got a good device to watch videos on that can run more than avis. And then I downloaded some game from the store and it's awesome. I don't remember the name, but it's basically Snake with some RPG elements and a 16 bit style. It's actually _really_ fun for 10-15 minutes here or there. And for some reason it's free and doesn't have any microtransactions. Maybe I can only launch it so many times before it wants money, I dunno.

Posted by billymagnum

i remember my internal dilemma and feeling serious pressure to fund the Ouya as the seconds ticked down and its kickstarter came to a close...

thank fucking GOD i didnt.

Posted by TehPickle

Even though the Ouya is a complete mess, I still think there's a place in the market for a niche indie console, and I'll be happy to buy into one once they stop being such a shambles, if ever...

I actually funded the Ouya during the Kickstarter, but my payment failed for some unknown reason. A lucky escape, I daresay.

To my mind, the 'Free The Games Fund' was so very close to being a fantastic idea, but the finer details ruined it for everyone, including themselves.

Posted by Foxillusion

"Bithell was not alone."

Jesus Patrick, I almost did a spit-take at that line

Edited by OriginalYellow

@flappy: I have to imagine that roughly two of those people saying that actually meant it.

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