Eric Johnson

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Ouya Rewrites Its Troubled Kickstarter Contest’s Rules After Another Game Flames Out (Update)

Ouya has heavily revised its rules for the Free the Games Fund, a contest aimed at encouraging high-quality exclusive titles for the Android gaming console maker by matching funds raised through Kickstarter.

The new rules are explained in a blog post on Ouya’s site, but here’s the super-short version:

  • The minimum amount needed to be eligible for Ouya’s matching funds has been lowered from $50,000 and $10,000.
  • Projects must now have a minimum number of backers to prevent small teams from gaming the system, at least 100 backers for every $10,000 raised.
  • Games no longer have to be exclusive to Ouya for six months, but instead must be exclusive for one month per $10,000 matched by the company. Developers are also invited to release PC versions — but not competing console versions — of their games at the same time as the Ouya release.
  • 50 percent of the matching funds will be doled out once developers deliver a functioning beta of their games, followed by 25 percent more once the game goes live on Ouya and the final 25 percent once the exclusivity period has ended.
  • A $100,000 bonus to be awarded to the top Kickstarter fundraiser has been removed.

Ouya also now has the explicit ability to boot games out if they are believed to have violated the spirit of the contest.

“So, if we, or our community, feel you are gaming the system, we will review your project (and consult with our developer friends for their advice) and determine whether to fund it or not,” CEO Julie Uhrman wrote in the blog post.

An Ouya spokesperson confirmed to AllThingsD that Gridiron Thunder, the only game successfully funded and matching-eligible under the old rules of the contest, will no longer have its Kickstarter funds matched.

The rules rewrite comes in the wake of a string of mishaps for the fund, as contest watchers scrutinized three participating games, Gridiron Thunder among them. That game’s creators, MogoTXT, were accused of inflating their game by roping friends into making large donations — an act that, as MogoTXT correctly pointed out at the time, was not against the rules of either Kickstarter or Ouya.

“There’s no limitations on Kickstarter about whether you’ve got rich friends or poor friends,” MogoTXT CEO Andy Won said at the time.

Update: In an email about today’s news, Won said Gridiron Thunder will still come out on Ouya “very soon.”

“Ouya has not only offered money to developers but put up with a lot of criticism lately,” Won wrote. “And yet they are not backing off their efforts to support game developers. I give them a lot of credit. I hope others will too.”

Although Gridiron Thunder successfully met its goal, Kickstarter suspended the project of a second Free the Games Fund-participating game, also accused of gaming the system. Elementary, My Dear Holmes, made by indie studio Victory Square Games, counted among its backers some suspicious first-timers, although CEO Sam Chandola has repeatedly denied that he or his coworkers had anything to do with that.

Finally, this morning a third shoe dropped in the form of Dungeons the Eye of Draconus, a participating project that openly admitted to accepting a sizeable donation from the developer’s father in order to push it into eligibility under the old rules. Ouya removed the project from the FTG Fund’s website, prompting the developer, William McDonald, to cancel the whole thing and swear off Ouya as a home for his future game.

“It appears we were thrown under the FTG bus,” McDonald wrote in a message to backers. “Ouya gets their fall guy and Grid Iron [sic] keeps their money… We have no plans to develop for Ouya further.”

Now that Gridiron removed has withdrawn from the matching contest and the other projects have been called off, the only currently-contending-to-be-eligible game is Neverending Nightmares, which has raised $42,085 out of a $99,000 goal. However, it must make up the remaining $57,000 in just 11 days unless Kickstarter allows the developer to revise its goal downward, which seems unlikely.

Here’s a video of Uhrman from the blog post, explaining the rules change:

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