OUYA Free Games Fund Scandal
September 12, 2013

OUYA’s ‘Free Game Fund’ Clouded By Scandal

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Open source gaming console and kickstarter legend OUYA is facing some harsh criticism over what appears to be the bungled handling of a questionable campaign. OUYAs “Free the Games” fund promised to match funds raised by game developers on crowd funding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

According to the deal, if a group of developers raised at least $50,000, they’d be eligible to have OUYA match their donations up to $250,000 in exchange for six months of OUYA exclusivity. Two games in particular were recently able to meet this goal, but the ways in which they raised this money have been called into question and, therefore, so has OUYA’s campaign.

CEO Julie Uhrman addressed these concerns on Monday in a blog post, but this has only seemed to fuel the fire of controversy surrounding these games and the Free the Games Fund.

Two games - Gridiron Thunder by MogoTXT and Elementary, My Dear Holmes! by Victory Square Games - are being accused by some of raising their Kickstarter cash in shady ways. The former, Gridiron Thunder, was able to raise over $170,000 by the time their campaign ended. Yet some became suspicious when they noticed the developers raised this much money from only 183 backers.

It was later revealed that at least three anonymous backers gave $10,000 each in the waning hours of the campaign. Some have hinted these backers could have been investors or the developers themselves hoping to turn $10,000 into $20,000 with the help of OUYA’s Free the Games fund.

Both MogoTXT CEO Andrew Won and Kickstarter have denied any wrong doing or violations of Kickstarter terms. The crowd funding site even said they performed a full investigation and found nothing objectionable about the way they raised their money.

The same could not be said for Victory Square Games’ Elementary, My Dear Holmes. This campaign was pulled from Kickstarter after they were found to be in violation of the site’s policies. It it's not yet entirely clear exactly which policies were violated, but a representative for the development group acknowledged a “very high number” of new Kickstarter accounts which contributed to the campaign had been created by the same IP address as the offices of Victory Square Games.

In a blog post entitled “Let’s talk about the Free The Games Fund,” OUYA CEO Uhrman briefly discussed the controversies without mentioning any names.

“Recently, the intention behind our Free the Games Fund - to provide additional funding to crowd-funded games bound for OUYA, and enable developers to make more of them - seems to have been lost,” wrote Uhrman.

From here Uhrman goes on to address the responses to these issues rather than address the issues themselves.

“In launching this campaign, we’ve been called everything from naive and foolish to crazy and idealistic. 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.”

Uhrman later mentioned on her Twitter account that OUYA has no intention of changing the Free the Games fund, saying, “We are sticking with it.”