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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.

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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+