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Kickstarter responds to the strange case of Ouya's Free the Games program

The developers behind crowdfunded Ouya game Elementary, My Dear Holmes are just as concerned about finding out who backed their project as the user accusing the team of scamming their way to success, so they reached out to Kickstarter for help.

Elementary, My Dear Holmes is, alongside sports game Gridiron Thunder, one of the first two success stories to come out of the $1 million program designed to attract exclusive games to Ouya by matching their Kickstarter funding goal; however, both games experienced an unusually high number of backers who had no previous experience funding games on the website and whose accounts were only recently set up this month.

As a result, the gaming community began to express their doubts in the legitimacy of these Kickstarter campaigns, Victory Square Games head Sam Chandola tells Polygon he contacted the crowdfunding website to verify whether the backer accounts were real and to find out whether there was "a correlation between the payment method registered to a number of profiles from our backers list."

"I will not shy away from acknowledging though, that we do have quite a few first-time backers though," Chandola told us. "This is a concern that I myself brought up with Amazon and Kickstarter. At the same time, we at Victory Square Games are grateful and thankful to all our backers.

"We do not know everything about who they are, what they do, or their personal tastes - but we do thank them for their support. It is not our place to judge how people want to represent or express themselves, but I am hoping to get clarification from Kickstarter sooner than later. After I raised the above mentioned concern, Amazon replied back to us saying we should confirm with Kickstarter."

In response, Chandola states Kickstarter sent him the following exchange starting Aug. 27, which he provided to Polygon:

Sam Chandola:

Dear Kickstarter,

I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign for a point-and-click adventure game, Elementary, My Dear Holmes.

A good number of our backer profiles have no previous Kickstarter history. These profiles joined in July/August 2013, and have profile pictures of famous celebrities instead of real people. I previously reached out to Amazon Payments for clarification and they suggested I get in touch with you.

This could be a really random coincidence (our ad-campaign reached out to over 20,000 Sherlock-Holmes fans, some of whom could have become first-time KS users), or not. If it would be possible, we would like to know if there is a correlation between the payment method registered to a number of profiles from our backers list.

Kind regards,


Hi Sam,

Thanks for writing in, and congratulations on the success of your project!

If you'd like to know more about backers who have found your project, you can always take a look at their profile to get a better feel for them. It's very possible that these first-time backers have found your project through your outreach, or just by browsing Kickstarter - I wouldn't be surprised if Sherlock Holmes fans had a way of sleuthing these things out! And of course, if needed, you're also welcome to message any backers who you'd like to know better, if you really have hesitations about their pledge.

That said, I'd just suggest continuing to promote your project, so that if for some reason these pledges don't go through or there are otherwise issues (as can occasionally happen with first-time backers) then you're still above your goal. When it comes to getting new backers, we see time and time again that getting the word out through your own existing networks is the most effective. Many people browsing Kickstarter do look around for new projects to back, but the majority of the people who find and back your project will be friends, friends of friends, or fans of the work you do.

I recommend considering what type of people might be interested in your project, and thinking about how to reach them. Consider reaching out through blogs, other websites, or even events. For more tips on how to promote your project, check out our Kickstarter School linked below.

Best of luck,

Kickstarter did not respond to requests for comment about or verification of the letter.

According to Chandola, a large section of backers are indeed friends, family and also roughly "20,000 people" who were reached by the team's ad campaign. "Most of them Sherlock Holmes fans, but not traditional gamers, so we are hoping some of them got converted into new backers as well. And while we're talking stats, our pitch video has been played over 5,500 times according to Kickstarter dashboard, thus leading to many backers.

"It doesn't help that we are being mentioned alongside Gridiron Thunder and their massive donations in most articles, but we are determined to cooperate and make a game that will make our backers proud."

As first noted on NeoGAF, Gridiron Thunder reached $78,466 as of press time, with only 142 backers, resulting in an average $553 per backer. While the game received under $100 every day during its first week starting Aug. 9, on Aug. 13 and 14 this spiked with backer offerings the ended in $10,187 and $10,216, respectively. On Aug. 19, the game received a total of $25,020 from backers, then later on Aug. 24 it received a total of $25,196 before experiencing another slump.

In the wake of the game's success, users have pointed to the unusually high donations per user as evidence of manipulation of the campaign by the studio, many positing that staff may have backed the game themselves in order to reach Ouya's Free the Games requirements.

According MogoTXT CEO Andy Wong, these accusations are baseless.

"Some of the first accusations made against us was that we were scam artists who would take the money and run and not build the game that we promised," Won told Polygon. "They made this accusation despite the fact that the developers on my team previously worked at companies like EA, Kixeye, Glu and so forth. Did they really think that all 10 of us would run off to Bermuda or the Bahamas with $78,000. It's almost comical.

"The current accusations are in the same vein. While we can't stop people from making baseless accusations, we will prove them all wrong again."

Won's company has its roots in Silicon Valley, where Won himself previously worked as a Silicon Valley lawyer for firms across Palo Alto. According to the studio head, as MogoTXT is made up of developers from Electronic Arts and Kixeye, it's likely that friends of these companies helped to fund the Kickstarter campaign.

Ouya has yet to offer any comment to Polygon regarding these accusations. As previously stated by the company, games that are elligible must reach their Kickstarter funding goal and raise a minimum of $50,000. Once successful, Ouya will match 100 percent of total funds raised up to $250,000.

Game developers must in addition make their game exclusive to the Ouya console for at least six months. The title that raises the most through Kickstarter by the summer 2014 will earn an additional $100,000 from Ouya. Games that qualify for Ouya's Free the Games program will receive 25 percent in matched funds when their Kickstarter campaign ends, 50 percent when the game launches on Ouya and the final 25 percent when the six-month exclusive-to-Ouya period ends.

"We have done nothing wrong," said Won. "And we are about to roll out an awesome title for the Ouya. We are just a hardworking game development firm."

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