Sep 11, 2013
Back in June, Ouya announced the ‘Free the Games Fund’, which was created to fund developers to create games for the system. The concept was Ouya would equal any Kickstarter amount if $50,000 was met, as long as it stayed excluse to Ouya for the first sixth months.
However, this scheme seems to have backfired. The initial games to reach the requested target seem mighty suspicious, as they were funded with high pledges, and by a very small group of people for such a high amount of money. The games in question are Gridiron Thunder, an American football game, and Elementary, My Dear Holmes! For the first, the $170,000 pledge is a lot, coming from a mere 183 backers. That’s some really enthusiastic fans, for what appears to be a sports game from the early 90s. With the latter game, Kickstarter suspended the account, and the developers are investigating the matter, to much confusion, as accounts had celebrity pictures and are largely unidentifiable.
For many profiles, they had no previous history on Kickstarter, and there were also many duplicate accounts amongst those that made bids. There was even a profile that matched a missing person report, pledging for the game. Either there is something afoot, or the missing person in question has blown their cover.
This has raised concerns the projects are being funded internally, in order to gain more money for themselves from Ouya. Despite this, Ouya have continued to support the campaign. Julie Uhrman, the head at Ouya, stated in a blog post, “maybe we’re naive … and YES we’re definitely idealistic. It’s gotten us this far.” It seems they are ignoring the fact they may be getting swindled somehow, which seems plainly ridiculous.
This has gotten game developers riled up, as seen in the comments on the blog post. It has also led to one developer pulling their game, Rose and Time, because of the poor response from the team behind Ouya. The developer, Sophie Houlden, stated in a comment that they should “treat developers better, listen to us, be more honest”. The company are in danger of looking like fools, and slightly amateurish, as they cannot come to terms with their own mistakes. It seems that to please other developers, a bit more understanding is necessary. The team need to learn how to keep those that are supporting the console with their games happier, otherwise developers will avoid releasing their games on the console.
The PR and controversy circling this shambles is blowing up exponentially, and is really beginning to hurt the image of the innocent underdog that is the Ouya. Despite all of this furor, Uhrman said that they have had over 40 developers contact them about the scheme, so it can’t be all bad for the system. Besides, there is no such thing as bad publicity; is there? The developers for Elementary, My Dear Holmes! have distanced themselves from the scandal, as Sam Bandola puts it, they do “not want anything to do with any shady matter”. Which begs the question, what on earth is going on? The truth is, nobody is entirely sure. And it seems a shame that these gaming companies are being wounded by such a matter.
Hopefully this debacle has not damaged the future of the Ouya console, or indie developers, as the Android platform has potential to impact the gaming industry. Competition is important in business, and Ouya is a strong contender in the micro-console market, and is a driving force for Android gaming. But if things remain as they are, they could lose a lot of credibility. If they continue to shift blame, avoid criticism, whilst backing dodgy strategies, the future does not look bright for Ouya. For a console that is so reliant and dedicated to it’s developers, with a huge indie base, communication and understanding is vital.