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Ouya alters its Free the Games fund as Gridiron Thunder drops out

Thanks to criticism, the independent Android console company's CEO announces major changes to its Free the Games fund -- as the only successful game drops out amidst controversy.
The Ouya Free the Games fund was billed as a way for indie developers to get a leg up when developing for the Android microconsole -- it's a $1 million fund with which the company will double funds indies raise via Kickstarter to develop games. The intent was good, but in execution, it had significant weaknesses. Many developers questioned whether the program would not be useful to most indies the way it was originally structured -- and after controversy flared around the Kickstarter campaigns of the two successful games in the program, one of which had its funding cancelled by Kickstarter due to irregularities, developers began to become more openly critical of Ouya. Today, the company's CEO, Julie Uhrman, has written a blog post (and recorded a video message, shown above) outlining changes the company is making to the program in light of the criticism. These are the changes:
  • The $50,000 funding minimum on successful campaigns has been reduced to $10,000. "We know first-hand, that great games can be made for $20k or sometimes less," Uhrman writes.
  • While the company will still match 100 percent of funding up to a limit of $250,000, it matches based on the project's goal, not the total of the funds received by its Kickstarter campaign -- "Meaning we match what you need," Uhrman writes.
  • For every $10,000 raised on Kickstarter, a campaign must have 100 backers. This is designed to nip investors putting in large contributions in hopes of turning a profit backing projects in concert with their developers. This is something that Gridiron Thunder, the only successful game in the program so far, has been accused of.
  • For every $10,000 Ouya gives a developer, it demands one month of console exclusivity -- for up to six months at maximum. The company originally demanded six months of exclusivity period, and later six months of console exclusivity if receiving any funding at all.
  • Ouya has killed the $100,000 bonus it originally promised to pay to the highest-funded project. "Again, you suggested this, and we agree it just didn’t feel right... We're going to use this money to fund games the old fashioned way -- working with you one-on-one," Uhrman writes.
  • The fund originally promised to pay out when the game launched on the Ouya platform. Now, Ouya will pay 50 percent of funding at beta, 25 percent at launch, and 25 percent at the end of the game's exclusivity period.
Simultaneously with this announcement, controversial Free the Games fund entrant Gridiron Thunder has announced its withdrawal from the fund after "speaking with our friends at Ouya" in a brief update to its Kickstarter page. "We now have sufficient resources to complete Gridiron Thunder without requesting matching funds from Ouya," the update reads. In her video message, Uhrman did say she's "looking forward to working together" with MogoTXT, the Gridiron Thunder studio, on future projects. For more details about the policy change, you can read Uhrman's blog post on the official Ouya site.

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