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Ouya Revamps Flawed Free the Games Program

Important changes made to funding goals, backer requirements, and giving Ouya the option to back out.

In the face of mounting criticism, Ouya has announced of series of meaningful changes to its Free the Games program, an initiative designed to give developers money and push more games onto the Ouya platform.

The changes were revealed by Ouya founder Julie Uhrman on Ouya’s blog today.

One, projects on Kickstarter will only have to raise $10,000 for Ouya’s backing, not $50,000.

“We wanted to make sure your games get made, so we lowered the goal,” said Uhrman. “And, we know first-hand, that great games can be made for $20k or sometimes less.”

Two, Ouya will match a project’s funding goal up to $250,000.

“Meaning we match what you need,” she said. “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.”

Three, there’s a backer requirement. Ouya wants to remove the ability for projects to reach their project goal on the backs of a small set of backers. (In one case, it was several backers using a check given out by the father of someone on the project.) For every $10,000 raised, projects need 100 backers to qualify for the program.

“The intent is for the community to want your game, not a small number of well-resourced supporters,” she said.

Four, games are no longer required to be exclusive to only Ouya for six months, as games can release on PC, too. Plus, the exclusivity requirement on Ouya is based on how much you raise--one month per $10,000.

“We want your game on the TV, but we also want your audience to grow,” said Uhrman. “So, if you want to build a PC version at the same time, go for it.”

There have also been changes to how the money is issued--50% when the game reaches beta, 25% at launch, 25% at the end of the exclusivity period--and Ouya now has the ability to subjectively determine whether a project is playing by the rules or not.

“You need to play by the spirit of the fund as much as the rules,” she said. “We can’t account for every loophole. So, if we, or our community, feel you are gaming the system, we will review your project (and consult with our developer friends for their advice) and determine whether to fund it or not.”

Uhrman also revealed the controversial Gridiron Thunder project have backed out of the Free the Games program, having raised $171,009 on Kickstarter. The company released this statement on its project page:

"After considering the generous support we received from our donors and speaking with our friends at OUYA, we have decided to withdraw our entry into OUYA’s Free The Games Fund. We now have sufficient resources to complete Gridiron Thunder without requesting matching funds from OUYA.

We feel that too much of the focus lately has been on our Kickstarter campaign instead of on our game. Our hope is that people will now focus more on the game we are about to launch and that we are very excited about.

We are pleased that our decision will mean that there will be more money for other developers who otherwise may not be able to develop games. We hope to see some really great games come out of the Free The Games Fund."

Unless the money runs out in advance, the Free the Games program is meant to run through August 2014.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
54 Comments
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Posted by zombiemantra

Ouya still sux lololol

Posted by Nekroskop

I feel really bad for people who bought this thinking it would be a good console.

Edited by CookieMonster

More like Poo-ya #amirite?

Edited by Ewy

Genuine question: Does anyone here use an Ouya? Specifically their store front for playing games.

Posted by HellknightLeon

This seems like a good move... but I still want to see the Ouya burn. I don't hate the Ouya... but I love seeing stuff like this crash. That and I'm calling BS on the Football game 'pulled out on its own'... also that game looks like shit.

Edited by Noogy

These are all good changes for the most part. It's unfortunate that the original system was so easily (and obviously) exploitable, but I appreciate that they are finally addressing these issues.

Posted by DorkyMohr

Removing the exclusivity requirement is a decent enough olive branch to indie devs but most of it sounds like it's being done to protect Ouya's investments. I don't know how that's responding to the criticism or addressing the real problems surrounding the Ouya and their funding initiative.

Posted by Stimpack

I still have a major issue with their console forcefully outputting 1080p even on 720p televisions.

Posted by joshwent

“We want your game on the TV, but we also want your audience to grow,” said Uhrman. “So, if you want to build a PC version at the same time, go for it.”

This should be the headline, as I think it's really the key to bringing all the interesting already in development games to the OUYA. Exclusivity is a good idea for MS and Sony where devs know that they'll be able to still reach millions of consumers, but an individual/small team with probably no money to start with should have little confidence in limiting their income to a marginalized console.

If they truly open up their program for a simultaneous PC release, it changes from a huge risky move, to an almost no brainer of, "Hey, why not release on as many platforms as possible!". Not to mention this type of, "We fucked up, and we're making ti better." candor is always the right thing to do. Well done Julie!

Although, I still can't help but think all of this work should have been done by OUYA and devs before the console came out. Even if these changes eventually spur better games and more market saturation, this Wii U type drought can kill any gamer's interest in future projects they'll have to wait a long time for no matter how promising, and a farting frog is no Mario.

Posted by skyline7284

So if your game hits the 250k cap, it has to be Ouya exclusive for 2 whole years?

Posted by Jensonb

Something about "rearranging the deck chairs" springs to mind whenever Ouya tries to do better

Edited by Ronald

So if your game hits the 250k cap, it has to be Ouya exclusive for 2 whole years?

And you're still not getting any money from Ouya until you have a beta, which means all of the major development costs are coming from your Kickstarter and you and Ouya is paying for testing and PC ports.

Edited by LibrorumProhibitorum

I feel really bad for people who bought this thinking it would be a good console.

What about the 63k people who backed it to make it exist?

Posted by Vance_Helsing

Thats (no longer) million bucks

Edited by ILikePopCans

@ronald said:

@skyline7284 said:

So if your game hits the 250k cap, it has to be Ouya exclusive for 2 whole years?

And you're still not getting any money from Ouya until you have a beta, which means all of the major development costs are coming from your Kickstarter and you and Ouya is paying for testing and PC ports.

It is crazy for them to hold out on the money until the game reaches beta state, which is usually near the VERY end if game development (I think, I'm no developer.)

Posted by Abendlaender

Man.....I have no investment or interest in the ouya but still, I secretly hoped that this thing will be great. Something to mix up the market a little bit. Instead it's like this constant stream of disappointment and I can't even enjoy watching it burn...

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

Honestly, the Ouya is the absolute last thing in my mind as far as games go right now.

Will I ever care?

Posted by Eviternal

@noogy: As an independent developer, what do you think about the proposed funding timeline (50% at beta, 25% at launch and 25% at end of exclusivity)?

I feel this model is wide of the mark when it comes to the cash-flow requirements of development. Surely something like 25% at alpha (to attract/pay contractors), 50% at beta and 25% just prior to launch (for marketing) would be more effective. If Ouya have already agreed to fund a project, I don't see what they gain by withholding funds until the end of exclusivity. Can you shed some light on this?

Also, what do you think Ouya could do to redeem themselves (speaking broadly, not just in relation to Free the Games) in the eyes of consumers, developers and the media?

Posted by darukaru

"We were running an obvious scam, and it was about to backfire on us. Whoops! (p.s. please keep covering us gamasutra)"

Posted by WUNDABAR
Posted by joshwent

Just checked out that video again, and I'm pretty sure they moved into the old Whiskey Media offices.

Hard times...

Posted by SmokePants

@eviternal: Projects have to get their funding from kickstarter. Their goal should be what they NEED. Ouya's money is paying for exclusivity and publicity; they aren't entering into a publishing agreement or subsidizing development so that a developer can cut its actual goal in half. If a developer is counting on Ouya's money up front, then their goal was too low.

Posted by DonPixel

I know I shouldn't be this superficial: but that "Office" looks like my campus Kitchen, that doesn't add to my Ouyah credibility

Edited by Legion_

Can I play GTA V on the Ouya?

Online
Edited by Skooky

Don't forget the part where you have to post a selfie for every dollar that you raise on your Kickstarter. You must post two for every dollar over your goal and three for every dollar over $250k. These photos can only be posted on the third Sunday of the month from 3pm to 5pm and only at the top of the hour.

Edited by meteora3255

I still can't figure out who the Ouya is supposed to be for. The people who play mobile games and free-to-play stuff play that on their phones. They aren't the type of person who is going to shell out $99 for a box just so they can play Canabalt on their TV and they don't care about games like Broken Age or Final Fantasy 3. At the same time the core gamer doesn't care about the ability to play mobile games on their TV and either has a PC or console that already has or will be getting games like Broken Age.

The Free the Games Fund was essentially Ouya admitting they don't have any system selling exclusive games on their platform. Why spend $99 on an Ouya and then buy the games when most of these games are out for other platforms. The lack of a marquee game can be a deathwish for a console. Ouya (as far as I know) has no first party development so they are relying on everyone else to make games for their platform. This isn't like the Nintendo situation where as a gamer I know eventually my Wii U will have a true next-gen Zelda, a next-gen Metroid, a good (although tired) Mario platformer and so on.

On top of that there is no incentive for the major developers/publishers to support the system. If you look at the list of "core" games on the system many of them already have a mobile version. If I am EA I could spend the money to build Madden 15 from the ground up for Ouya, spend the money to attempt to port the next-gen version over or I could just add controller support to the Android version.

Maybe this will all change and the Ouya wins the console war. With its price point it isn't impossible for it to gain some steam if a few really major "killer app" type games get released. I just haven't seen anything that would make me think that is likely.

Posted by adamfedoruk

@donpixel: That office looks like a startup office. Not defending Ouya here, cause I don't care, but that's a silly thing to say.

Edited by xGryfter

I still don't understand the purpose of this console outside of a cheap emulator box. The idea of playing mobile games on my TV is about as appealing as fish flavored taffy. I'm sure there's some one out there who may enjoy it but I have yet to meet them. Even the people who backed it initially seem extremely underwhelmed and filled with buyers remorse.

Also, I can't tell if it's bad lighting or You Tube compression artifacts but does Julie look like she has a black eye and tried to cover it with make up?

Posted by moush
Posted by unpopularkarama
Edited by DonPixel

@donpixel: That office looks like a startup office. Not defending Ouya here, cause I don't care, but that's a silly thing to say.

I've been in startups offices before, not all of them smell like failure... Who knows maybe I'm reading to much into that water container behind Urhman, because sure that looks professional.

Posted by Hailinel

Can you say too little, too late? How do they expect to get out of this after every single PR goof leading to this moment?

Posted by Sanjuro82

I'm thinking of picking up a Ouya, mainly for emulation. It's pretty awesome for that. Not sure about the rest of the games though.

Posted by radioactivez0r

That Gridiron Thunder game looks like total garbage and I have a hard time believing anyone working on it is proud of it.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

This company will eventually go under. But at least the CEO lady gave it a hell of a good try. I assume she won't have a problem finding another job.

Edited by GalacticGravy

Really glad to see them make these changes. I like my ouya, and I hope this causes some of the pulled games to be reinstated.

Edit: Too some of the critics here I'll just say if you don't see the need for an OUYA in your console collection, then don't buy one. The attitude is really uncool. It's perfect for my uses. I don't have to justify it to anybody. I don't like ranch salad dressing so I don't buy it.

Posted by MoonwalkSA

They really fucked up all the PR before this point, but at least they're finally doing something.

Still, most of the damage is probably done, since a lot of that bad PR exposed the fact that the people in charge of OUYA have no idea what they're doing (or at least made it more obvious than it was from the start).

Posted by TorMasturba

They really fucked up all the PR before this point, but at least they're finally doing something.

Still, most of the damage is probably done, since a lot of that bad PR exposed the fact that the people in charge of OUYA have no idea what they're doing (or at least made it more obvious than it was from the start).

Neither did Steam when they first started and look where they currently are. The very top of the digital games food chain.

Entrepreneurs should be allowed to make stupid mistakes, that's the point of being an entrepeneur, you have no business degree, just a desire to start a business and some ideas for making it produce a lot of money for you. This inexperience comes at a cost, you have to learn all the knowledge from scratch, which means stupid mistakes like this will happen from time to time while you try and navigate the ship to minimise them and also actually create your intended product or service.

Posted by GunsAreDrawn

Ouya is the console version of game room

Edited by Krabonq

Wow, this isn't fucking over-complicated at all...

Edited by Cowman

@gunsaredrawn said:

Ouya is the console version of game room

Sick burn dude.

Edited by peritus

Is this thing only out in the US? Never seen one over here in Europe-town.

Posted by RVonE

FREE. THE GAMES.

Posted by SpaceJamLunchbox

@ewy: I own an Ouya and used it to play Ittle Dew, which it handled just fine. The only other thing I've done with it is the same thing you'd do with an android phone; download a bunch of demos and laugh at how bad most of them are.

All I'm thinking now is where that stock photo of the Ouya came from. Mine does NOT look like that. The sickness I've got that caused me to buy an Ouya in the first place might cause me to buy another one were they to redesign it and it looked cooler. (Oh god, someone help me.)

Edited by Nardak

Ouya 180 version 2.0

We are really sorry edition.

Online
Posted by LackingSaint

Aw, good for them.

Edited by fisk0

@peritus said:

Is this thing only out in the US? Never seen one over here in Europe-town.

I know there are at least a couple of people in Sweden with one, not sure if they were imported though. I think they are available directly in some stores in Norway too, and I'd assume the same would be true for larger markets like Germany, the UK, France and stuff too, but I'm not sure.

And, hey, good move by OUYA, though I think it may be a bit too late, considering how many people they turned off with their previous response.

Posted by TatsurouXIII

this sure seems like something I will never care about.

Edited by Mayor_McCheese

I have a strong feeling that they will give money to a handful of games and then weasel out of this program when all of this has died down.

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