Los Angeles Business Journal

Ouya Changes 'Free the Games Fund' Rules

By Tom Dotan Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ouya is going to be changing the rules for its "Free the Games Fund," after all.

Just last week founder Julie Uhrman insisted she was standing by the beleaguered program to provide matching funds for games financed through Kickstarter, which it launched to motivate publishers to create titles for the Ouya console. But Wednesday, Uhrman posted a rules update on the company's blog that attempted to repair a program dogged by fraudulent and opportunistic fundraising.

Under the initial concept, games crowdfunded through Kickstarter that raised between $50,000 and $100,000 would receive matching dollars from Ouya. Now, Uhrman said the campaigns can be as low as $10,000 and must have a minimum of 100 backers for every $10,000 raised.

Ouya's demands of exclusivity have also been loosened a bit. Under the old rules, any game getting matching funds was required to be Ouya-only for six months. That's now changed to a month of exclusivity for every $10,000 (so a game raising $20,000 is exclusive for two months, $30,000 for three months, etc).

These rules came after a hoard of bloggers called out "Free the Games" campaigns that appeared to be gaming the system. "Gridiron Thunder," a football game, raised $171,009 from a mere 183 backers. "Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus" brought in $54,000 from 180 backers, including a big chunk from one of the game maker’s family members. Then there's "Elementary, My Dear Holmes" which was banished Kickstarter altogether for some kind of unspecified nefarious activity.

As it stands now, Ouya is reluctantly standing by its promise to fund "Gridiron Thunder." But "Dungeons" was dropped altogether from Free the Games, much to the maker's chagrin.

In an effort to prevent further funny business, Ouya will be parceling out its money over the course of a game's development cycle. Half the money will be given at the completion of a successful campaign with the next two quarters coming along the way. That should in theory stop game makers from getting big donations from wealthy associates to reach goal, receiving Ouya's matching funds then returning some of the big backers' money.

That's the theory. But as "Free the Games" has abundantly shown, we just can't have nice things, can we?

Making the sting just a bit worse, the name of the only non-scandal ridden game that stands a chance of meeting its goal? "Neverending Nightmares."