Doubts cast on funding for Ouya's Free the Games recipients
Ouya has announced its first two successfully funded Free the Games awardees, Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes. However, questions have been raised concerning the legitimacy of the games' crowdfunding efforts.
Ouya's $1 million Free the Games initiative is designed to match funds from successfully crowdfunded games in exchange for short-term exclusivity on the Ouya platform. It's an interesting proposal that may suit some games better than others, but that hasn't prevented several developers from embracing the initiative and coming onboard.
Two Free the Games projects have so far reached their funding target: Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes (hereafter EMDH). Each met their goal with plenty of time left on the clock: Gridiron stands at $78,000 with 11 days remaining, while EMDH has surpassed $50,000 with 16 days left to its campaign.
Now, Kickstarter campaigns have rapidly met their funding targets in the past, due to surges of enthusiasm, smart advertising and strong press coverage. EMDH in particular you may have noticed getting press attention in such publications as Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
However, several backers and Ouya owners have begun to cry foul, calling out the two games -- and particularly Gridiron Thunder -- for the speed at which they were funded, the amount raised versus their number of backers, the number of new and duplicate accounts present among the list of backers, and other alleged discrepancies.
(Anyone is allowed to fund a Kickstarter for any amount of money, but using special funders to bump up the crowdfunding, in order to receive matching funds from Ouya, is likely not an intended result for the microconsole manufacturer.)
EMDH project lead Sam Chandola has been open on the forums regarding the speculation, announcing he was seeking verification from Kickstarter and Amazon Payments -- which handles most Kickstarter donor transactions -- over any dubious pledges. At time of writing, Chandola tells Gamasutra he has not yet received word back from either Kickstarter or Amazon.
The story isn't the same for Gridiron Thunder developer MogoTXT. Several backers have the same surname as company CEO Andrew Won -- including two identical accounts as noted by NeoGAF -- and the average pledge per backer was as high as $626 at one point. Won responded to Gamasutra's query with a long statement which addressed few of our specific questions, while referring to plenty we had not yet inquired about.
Here are some longform excerpts from Won's statement to Gamasutra:
We are not trying to do something improper with Ouya's Free the Games promotion, and we are in full compliance with both KickStarter's and Ouya's rules.
[...] We have had some generous donors but so have other KickStarter campaigns. In our case, we have very deep roots in Silicon Valley and great ties to fellow tech entrepreneurs in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. We also have friends in the professional sports world who want to see us succeed. I don't think there is anything wrong with having generous supporters, and we make no apology for this. It does not violate any KickStarter or Ouya rule.
Gamasutra did not suggest MogoTXT had violated Ouya or Kickstarter's rules. We asked for MogoTXT to respond to speculation regarding the average donation per backer and the speed at which the funding target was met.
Some people, who are not lawyers and who have no knowledge of the facts, also said that we lack the intellectual property rights to build our game. They have no idea what they are talking about.
Some of the same people who initially accused us of being scam later said, when we showed that we are working on the game, that our game is not very good. So far as we can tell, these criticisms were made by people who have not developed a game of any note. As seasoned developers know, very few games look good until they are actually complete and we took pains to try to explain this.
What is really unfortunate is that some people, while being so cynical about our motives, repeatedly choose to disregard KickStarter's standard for behavior which is set forth in its community guidelines
[...] If people do not want to support a project, they really should just move on. If they think that they can do better, they can start their own project for the Ouya which is what Ouya would want.
We have a great relationship with Ouya, and we want very much for Ouya to succeed.
Gamasutra has also reached out to representatives for Ouya and Kickstarter.