Ouya Wants to Give Away $1 Million to Developers, But to Whom?

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Posted by patrickklepek (3933 posts) -

The makers of Ouya want to give back to developers and secure some platform exclusives in the process, but it’s unclear if the company’s Free the Games program will end up helping anyone. Developers that Giant Bomb talked to were universally pessimistic about its chances.

“Ouya is expecting developers to pull off several, subsequent miracles before they themselves even take a single risk on a game they want to serve as a flagship title for their own platform,” said Dust: An Elysian Tail writer Alex Kain.

Ouya’s creators have one million dollars to spread around, but there are a series of catches. Developers have to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a game on or after August 9, 2013. The promo ends on August 10, 2014. The campaigns must raise at least $50,000, and release the game exclusively on Ouya for the first six months. If a game qualifies, Ouya will match everything raised on Kickstarter up to $250,000 per project. You don’t get a lump sum right away, though. 25% is paid out when the Kickstarter project ends, 50% is paid out when the game launches, and the final 25% arrives when the exclusivity period ends.

“We wanted the amount to be meaningful and make a difference,” said the company in a statement, explaining the $50,000 requirement. “Based on our conversations with developers this amount felt right. We do not tell developers how to spend the money--they can spend it on development or marketing, or something else. They know what's best. In terms of the timeframe--six months is a sign of a real partnership. It gives us enough time to work with and promote the developer to the Ouya community.”

It’s a bit ironic that a program called Free the Games ends up requiring every game to be locked into exclusivity for several months.

Exclusivity windows are not new to video games, though. Microsoft and Sony routinely lock games to their platforms for a set amount of time, usually exclusive to the console, and allow the developer to release on the PC a certain number of months later.

“I mean, maybe I’m not one to talk, having signed an exclusivity with Microsoft...” said Dust: An Elysian Tail designer Dean Dodrill, “but of course we are talking about a massive publisher with a proven outlet for indies (XBLA) vs. an unproven and somewhat questionable Ouya market. And generally when you sign exclusivity, or work with a publisher, you have the potential to receive funding anyway.”

While developers I spoke to applauded Ouya’s well-intentioned desire to back some potentially cool games, it didn’t take long for them to detect a number of huge flaws in the company’s plan.

“A $50k Kickstarter goal filters out anyone small or unknown,” said former Harmonix and Twisted Pixel (and now independent) designer Dan Teasdale. “From that point, you're then raising money for an exclusive on a console, which filters out any backers not on that console. The Ouya's small install base makes that even worse. To even pass the minimum threshold, you'd need to get a double digit percentage of all Ouya owners to back your Kickstarter, which is grossly unrealistic.”

Response to the Ouya has not been very positive. The console still has enormous potential, but the controller was universally panned, glitches remain an issue, and a good portion of the store is filled with junk games. Even beloved exclusives like Towerfall (coming to PC this year) only show off its true potential with several players in the room at once. So it makes total sense the people behind Ouya would want to entice more people onto the platform with new material, games that won’t be available anywhere else until later on.

It’s the way the money is being distributed, specifically the call for exclusivity, that rubs some developers the wrong way.

“One of the easiest ways for Kickstarters to make more money is to promise support for additional systems,” said Robert Boyd, designer at Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness developer Zeboyd Games. “It's possible to make large amounts of money off of a single system--for example, Pier Solar raised around $100,000 just off of their Dreamcast rewards--but the system in question has to have some level of popularity to begin with. People make fun of the Wii U & Vita for selling poorly, but these ‘failures’ are still selling millions of systems with the potential to sell far more after the inevitable price drop and more software arises.”

When asked about such concerns, Ouya’s creators didn’t have much of a response.

“We have over 262 games today and over 21,000 developers registered to build games for Ouya," said the company in a statement. "They see gamers buying Ouya every day, downloading, and playing games. For a developer, finding traction within the Ouya community not only benefits them financially but we believe increases their chances to succeed on other platforms. We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog, ittle Dew, to name a few. If they want to support us, we'll support them.”

“Ouya is expecting developers to pull off several, subsequent miracles before they themselves even take a single risk on a game they want to serve as a flagship title for their own platform."

In the Free the Games announcement, it was suggested committing to Ouya could be a financial boon to developers, as the company said “some of our early developers are already seeing very nice numbers.” Unfortunately, when asked, the company declined to release any sales data.

The promotion is backing developers into a corner, and doesn’t make much sense for Ouya or the developers, argued Size Five Games designer Dan Marshall.

“I mean hey,” said 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.”

It’s just a few weeks until Free the Games kicks off. If you’re a developer that’s planning to participate, let me know, will you?

Staff Online
#1 Posted by I_Stay_Puft (3154 posts) -

Maybe if this games thing doesn't work out Ouya might possibly think of being a video streaming box. I'm more excited for the capabilities it has with media streaming over games.

#2 Edited by RaySpencer (30 posts) -

Such a stupid promotion. Free the games!....by making them exclusive to Ouya for 6 months, uuhhhh what?

#3 Posted by DeadeyeMcCoy (252 posts) -

More Ouya weirdness for the history books.

#4 Posted by Overbite (201 posts) -

The OYUA keeps on giving.

#5 Posted by martyarf (250 posts) -

Maybe if this games thing doesn't work out Ouya might possibly think of being a video streaming box. I'm more excited for the capabilities it has with media streaming over games.

Their revenue model depends entirely on taking a cut of sales from the store. At best, they are breaking even on the console. If they cut the controller (a piece of garbage by all accounts, that is also costing them a fortune), they can bring the price down, but then what exactly will they do with the 60k suckers backers who they sold this thing to as a game console?

Remember that they got $8m more in venture capital. They are dedicated to this thing, and it is going to go down in flames (perhaps literally).

#6 Edited by louiedog (2335 posts) -

Freedom isn't free.

#7 Edited by Innovacious (237 posts) -

"21,000 developers" means nothing. As far as I can tell they just count everyone with a developer account. I am one of those people. Creating a developer account does not even require e-mail verification, it takes like 20 seconds.

#8 Posted by Nerolus (245 posts) -

Ouno

#9 Posted by Gordo789 (358 posts) -

LOL 50,000 kickstarter fundraising requirement for an OUYA game. Good luck with that.

#10 Posted by emgeejay (4 posts) -

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

#11 Edited by joshthebear (2700 posts) -

Man, OUYA seems worse and worse by the day.

#12 Posted by Natep0124 (10 posts) -

Excellent piece Patrick

#13 Posted by searliat (3 posts) -

@emgeejay: Marvel at the fast and furious gameplay!

#14 Posted by Goldanas (546 posts) -

Indeed, Dan Marshall sums it up best. They should have used the money to directly make deals, rather than doing this troubling marketing move. Palm did a similar move back when they were trying to encourage app development for the Pre, but all that involved was putting a game up, and the top 10 games would get a cut of the million bucks. That was something I was happy to take part of.

The more troubling information I take from this article is that there was a badass Physical copy of a new Dreamcast game that I completely missed out on. GODDAMMIT.

#15 Posted by BuddyleeR (64 posts) -

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

What did I just spend 15 minutes watching?

#16 Edited by TheHT (11090 posts) -

Ouya? More like Uhhh-wha?

UP TOP!

#17 Posted by datarez (545 posts) -

From everything I've heard and read they should have spent some of that money on the controller. But Dan Marshall's comment is best and Ouya's approach here makes an oddball game out of Kickstarter which I feel needs actual credibility not hype around it's backed games and game products.

#18 Posted by espgaluda (40 posts) -

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

...aaand THAT'S how you use the barrels.

#19 Posted by jarowdowsky (208 posts) -

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

What did I just spend 15 minutes watching?

A badly-made remake of Jet Set Radio by fans of the Burnout Crash mode? But fuck man, you've got some hardcore commitment there, I didn't get past 2 minutes.

#20 Posted by Undeadpool (4920 posts) -

I've said it before, I'll say it again: this thing was one of the most AMAZINGLY well-executed Kickstarters of ALL time. I'm not going to call it a "scam," because it clearly wasn't. They've shipped EXACTLY what they promised, they just used words and phrases that were SPECIFICALLY designed to manipulate and appeal to internet elitists who think they're above being manipulated. It was brilliant and I applaud them for it.

#21 Edited by TinyGrasshopper (224 posts) -

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

What did I just spend 15 minutes watching?

I can't remember if the gb crew played this on a Friday, but they need to, if they didn't. This looks... like something.

#22 Posted by espgaluda (40 posts) -

@buddyleer said:

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

What did I just spend 15 minutes watching?

A badly-made remake of Jet Set Radio by fans of the Burnout Crash mode? But fuck man, you've got some hardcore commitment there, I didn't get past 2 minutes.

Those footstep sound effects are so amazing...

#23 Edited by Animasta (14667 posts) -

@buddyleer said:

@emgeejay said:

"We already have some fan favorites--Towerfall, Amazing Frog"

Just a reminder that The Amazing Frog? (note the baffling question mark) looks like THIS.

What did I just spend 15 minutes watching?

I can't remember if the gb crew played this on a Friday, but they need to, if they didn't. This looks... like something.

I'm reminded more of Saints Row's Insurance Fraud: the game. Only not nearly as good.

#24 Edited by Crembaw (352 posts) -

I am a young, upstart urban developer with many, many inroads into the hearts and minds of the Youthes today and their Hip-Hopp. I would love to enter into a creative deal with Ouya, the most innovative plastic box manifold constructors of our Time. My game, It Ain't E-Z (Bein' Chee-Z), would absolutely benefit from the restricted and financially suspect userbase that only Ouya can provide in this homogenized Multiplatform day and age.

Here are my requirements for porting IAEZ(BCZ) to Ouya:

1. Ouya must respond to this exact post within twenty-four hours of its listing on GiantBomb Dot Com, A video game website that has video games on it. However I will not read any responses which exceed 2400 words, or are submitted after 6 AM New Guinea Time on 20 July 2013.

2. Ouya must physically have a hardware engineer deliver this message in a hand-sealed envelope whose value amounts to $70,000USD. I am partial to solid Myrrh.

3. Upon release, EZCZ will only be available to a single homeless Virginian who will serve as quality control. Ouya may then release subsequent copies in lotteries of 5 units to whomever may desire them.

I am confident that Ouya can meet my demands and that EZCZ will reach Ouya owners by EVO 2016.

#25 Posted by falserelic (5394 posts) -

If the devs actually accepts the ouya's deal, then their some crazy mothafuckas.

#26 Posted by PollySMPS (221 posts) -

"21,000 developers."

I don't even develop games and have an Ouya developer account.

#27 Posted by RedRocketWestie (381 posts) -

@goldanas said:

Indeed, Dan Marshall sums it up best. They should have used the money to directly make deals, rather than doing this troubling marketing move. Palm did a similar move back when they were trying to encourage app development for the Pre, but all that involved was putting a game up, and the top 10 games would get a cut of the million bucks. That was something I was happy to take part of.

The more troubling information I take from this article is that there was a badass Physical copy of a new Dreamcast game that I completely missed out on. GODDAMMIT.

The most baffling thing to me is they aren't even straight up doubling the Kickstarter amount. You're basically getting a 25% boost to your development funds, and then a trickle of "bonus money" after your game is already out amounting to 75% of your development funds. That money can fund:

  1. Post-release patching
  2. DLC
  3. Porting to other platforms
  4. The developer's next project

If it's number 1, the game is buggy. If it's 2, it needs to be good enough to have customers willing to pay for more, which is a tall order. And 3 and 4 don't necessarily advance the Ouya's interests.

I can almost see where Ouya is coming from. They're not wrong not to want to take the role of publisher and actually sift through pitches and decide who to fund; a couple of bad calls would be even worse PR than this. So they're looking to Kickstarter to make it into a popularity contest and see what the customers actually want -- it's not a bad way to curate content. But if that's the way you're going to do it, just give them all the money up front. If they're already exclusive and have jumped through the Kickstarter hoop, why not let them make your exclusive game as good as they possibly can before it launches?

#28 Posted by BluPotato (409 posts) -

Ouya: A Comedy of Errors

This thing and everything around it is just the gift that keeps on giving.

#29 Posted by Nitrocore (369 posts) -

Yes, free the games by trapping them in a soon to be abandoned mine shaft.

#30 Posted by Itwongo (1159 posts) -

@pollysmps: thanks for the explanation. That number was baffling me.

Online
#31 Posted by Unilad (559 posts) -

Ouya just dont give a damn.

#32 Edited by Kidavenger (3527 posts) -

What if I put a project up; put $250,000 of my own money up in donations

Kickstarter takes their 5% or $12,500 and I get the rest of my money back, then Ouya would have to give me 25% or $62,500

I just made $50,000 and all I had to do was make an interesting game proposal.

Online
#33 Posted by Ramone (2960 posts) -

Does that headline make sense?

#34 Posted by LaszloKovacs (1141 posts) -

I just...

Who is even in charge over there?

#35 Edited by Reisz (1478 posts) -

Damn, Dan Marshall hit this nail on the head. I hope this doesn't turn out to be a huge waste of money.

#36 Posted by fisk0 (3983 posts) -

on the “A $50k Kickstarter goal filters out anyone small or unknown” thing, for first time commercial developers I kinda think that goal kinda makes sense, if they need to cover Unity/Game Maker or other engine licenses (I think the Unity commercial license is $10-15k), and maybe middleware, royalty free music (around $100-150 per song on places like audionetwork), art assets, sound effects and stuff like that. Also keep in mind that Kickstarter, Amazon and taxes will take a cut of the funds too.
Once you already have the licenses, and maybe have an in-house musician or graphics artist, that'll be cheaper, but plenty of indie games use outsourced/royalty free art assets.

#37 Posted by mostman (248 posts) -

@kidavenger: I haven't read into it this much because, well, Ouya. Anyway - if you do the math, there isn't enough money to support everyone no matter what. I'm assuming there is an internal screening process where they will hand select the games, as any publisher would. Which, makes this whole thing even more bullshit.

#38 Posted by Superfriend (1540 posts) -

Yes, free the games by trapping them in a soon to be abandoned mine shaft.

#39 Posted by JamesACoote (2 posts) -

I released a game on the OUYA recently. From talking to other indie devs, the problem isn't exclusivity, it's exclusivity combined with kickstarter.

If you assume only people with OUYAs are going to back your kickstarter, you're highly unlikely to make it to $50k, even if you have the most amaze balls game in the universe.

Now, in 6 months time, that might change if OUYA sell a lot of consoles. Even the 13k number from NPD for June would see the number of OUYAs out there close to double, albeit from a low base (we estimate around 100k OUYAs were in existence before June launch (65k kickstarter + a guestimate of 40k pre-orders))

There are some other possibilities as well. It may be OUYA already have some people they've been talking to behind the scenes in mind. I suspect though that they've just not quite fully thought this one through. Their flat refusal to give anyone any sort of sales data was already putting developers off, and without that data, no one is going to try kickstarter for an OUYA exclusive, unless it is a sort of "see what happens, and if it falls flat on its face, no harm done"

#40 Posted by fisk0 (3983 posts) -

I released a game on the OUYA recently. From talking to other indie devs, the problem isn't exclusivity, it's exclusivity

combined

with kickstarter.

If you assume only people with OUYAs are going to back your kickstarter, you're highly unlikely to make it to $50k, even if you have the most amaze balls game in the universe.

Now, in 6 months time, that might change if OUYA sell a lot of consoles. Even the 13k number from NPD for June would see the number of OUYAs out there close to double, albeit from a low base (we estimate around 100k OUYAs were in existence before June launch (65k kickstarter + a guestimate of 40k pre-orders))

There are some other possibilities as well. It may be OUYA already have some people they've been talking to behind the scenes in mind. I suspect though that they've just not quite fully thought this one through. Their flat refusal to give anyone any sort of sales data was already putting developers off, and without that data, no one is going to try kickstarter for an OUYA exclusive, unless it is a sort of "see what happens, and if it falls flat on its face, no harm done"

I wonder if they have any specific wording for how the 6 month exclusivity has to work. It kinda makes sense that you wouldn't be able to sell the game on other platforms during that period, but how about some early access stuff for backers on the other platforms? Closed beta or whatever, which may still satisfy the project backers who want the game for PC, while still not putting the game up for sale on Steam, Desura or stuff like that until the first 6 months are over?

#41 Posted by Slag (4222 posts) -

I'm not sure Ouya should be giving away any money, I kind of doubt they have a whole lot.

#42 Posted by YukoAsho (2014 posts) -

@martyarf said:

@i_stay_puft said:

Maybe if this games thing doesn't work out Ouya might possibly think of being a video streaming box. I'm more excited for the capabilities it has with media streaming over games.

Their revenue model depends entirely on taking a cut of sales from the store. At best, they are breaking even on the console. If they cut the controller (a piece of garbage by all accounts, that is also costing them a fortune), they can bring the price down, but then what exactly will they do with the 60k suckers backers who they sold this thing to as a game console?

Remember that they got $8m more in venture capital. They are dedicated to this thing, and it is going to go down in flames (perhaps literally).

So, bets on these tools being able to make their yearly console updates?

I'm betting against.

#43 Edited by JamesACoote (2 posts) -

@fisk0:

@fisk0 said:

@jamesacoote said:

I released a game on the OUYA recently. From talking to other indie devs, the problem isn't exclusivity, it's exclusivity

combined

with kickstarter.

If you assume only people with OUYAs are going to back your kickstarter, you're highly unlikely to make it to $50k, even if you have the most amaze balls game in the universe.

Now, in 6 months time, that might change if OUYA sell a lot of consoles. Even the 13k number from NPD for June would see the number of OUYAs out there close to double, albeit from a low base (we estimate around 100k OUYAs were in existence before June launch (65k kickstarter + a guestimate of 40k pre-orders))

There are some other possibilities as well. It may be OUYA already have some people they've been talking to behind the scenes in mind. I suspect though that they've just not quite fully thought this one through. Their flat refusal to give anyone any sort of sales data was already putting developers off, and without that data, no one is going to try kickstarter for an OUYA exclusive, unless it is a sort of "see what happens, and if it falls flat on its face, no harm done"

I wonder if they have any specific wording for how the 6 month exclusivity has to work. It kinda makes sense that you wouldn't be able to sell the game on other platforms during that period, but how about some early access stuff for backers on the other platforms? Closed beta or whatever, which may still satisfy the project backers who want the game for PC, while still not putting the game up for sale on Steam, Desura or stuff like that until the first 6 months are over?

Already been asked :

Originally Posted by OUYA

The exclusivity includes any Alpha/Betas pre-release version of the game. So you would not be able to offer non-OUYA early access to backers. We think the exposure you will get from participating in the campaign and then, of course, on our platform outweighs the mere 6-months non-OUYA gamers may have to wait for your game, but you have to make that call.

(source: http://ouyaforum.com/showthread.php?4615-OUYA-Free-The-Games-Fund-Seed-Funding-For-Game-Developers/page3)

#44 Posted by MrMazz (945 posts) -

It feels like Ouya is always talking of an open hackable gaming utopia but will always run into problems when their acutal buisness model is much the same as normal console makers/publishers (to a certain degree). Except they have no where near the cred that Microsoft,Nintendo,Sony,Steam have. Xbox One might have been a terribly messaged message but I'd sign an 6 month excluisive with them before touching the Ouya. Xbox is the devil ya know. Ouya is the creepy girl that is kinda stalking you.

#45 Posted by GalacticGravy (545 posts) -

Amazing Frog? is the best game I've played in a long time and I'm not joking. Me and a few friends sat around like we were college kids or something playing this for hours. TBH I'm just using mine as a emulator, XBMC, and Amazing Frog box. Towerfall is $15 so I haven't picked it up, seeing as there's virtually no single player and I can't always have 3 other people around.

#46 Edited by MikkaQ (10277 posts) -

Maybe if this games thing doesn't work out Ouya might possibly think of being a video streaming box. I'm more excited for the capabilities it has with media streaming over games.

Yeah but if that's what interests you, there's already a million of those kinds of boxes on shelves, like Boxee, Roku and Apple TV. I don't know where Ouya is going to find success. My guess is that it won't.

#47 Posted by Seeric (147 posts) -

My guess is this is not so much a legitimate attempt at snagging an amazing exclusive or two so much as it is a way to get a bunch more people making games for the Ouya in the first place in the hopes of a few decent games coming out of the whole thing.

Really, the way the money is paid out to match a Kickstarter project doesn't even make sense if they are aiming to get a truly amazing project as 75% of it won't even be able to be put towards development (assuming the game launches before August 10, 2014), so their own attitude suggests that they don't want projects which actually could use the money for necessary expenses so much as they want to attract people looking to make money fast simply to expand their install-base and basically get some free marketing out of it from all of these people begging everyone they can to help them hit the more-or-less impossible $50,000 mark.

#48 Posted by geekbot (110 posts) -

Man, OUYA seems worse and worse by the day.

No kidding.

I was an early backer and I still haven't received mine and it seems like they'll be sending my second controller in a second shipment. So much for getting it before launch. :T

#49 Posted by zeekthegeek (384 posts) -

I very strongly question their claim that early developers are making lots of money. I have not seen any evidence of a game making even a month's salary for one developer.

#50 Posted by CaptRocketblaze (173 posts) -

This is just another example of how out of touch the OUYA business team is. I feel sorry for the supporters of the console & hope that things turn around in their favor soon.

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