The Kickstarter campaign to revive Reading Rainbow brought in over $5.4 million from more than 105,000 backers last summer. But Reading Rainbow and Ouya have broken a promise to 155 of those individuals: Those backers won't be receiving the limited-edition blue Ouya consoles they paid for, Polygon has learned.
Late in the 36-day funding drive, Reading Rainbow teamed up with the people behind what were, at that point, the four highest-grossing Kickstarter campaigns of all time. (By then, Reading Rainbow had reached No. 5 on that list; it now sits at No. 7.) Ouya was one of those organizations, and the company pledged to create a limited run of 500 Ouya consoles in "Butterfly-in-the-Sky Blue," autographed by LeVar Burton himself, exclusively for backers who chipped in at the $250 level.
"To keep this reward special, this will be a ONE-TIME LIMITED EDITION, so if you don't order one through this Kickstarter campaign, this version — and this color — will never be available again," said Reading Rainbow in a Kickstarter update on June 27, 2014. The Kickstarter page currently says that only half the stated amount, 250 units instead of 500, were ever up for grabs.
Either way, it turns out that the color will never be available at all. According to a Polygon reader, the Reading Rainbow team sent out an email Feb. 5 to the 155 Kickstarter backers who selected the "Ouya + RR Game Console Package," in which the organization indicated that it will be unavailable to fulfill the orders.
"Unfortunately, Ouya will not be able to provide the sky blue console as described during the campaign," the email reads. "Here's what we've worked together to come up with: Ouya will be able to provide Reading Rainbow backers with the current grey Ouya console PLUS LeVar will personally sign each console PLUS Ouya will provide a FREE $10 game card for your personal use." The companies later added an extra Ouya controller to the package.
We reached out to Ouya and Reading Rainbow to ask why this is the case. A Reading Rainbow representative said, "Ouya and Reading Rainbow are working together on a solution that we hope our backers will love."
An Ouya spokesperson offered more details, saying, "The only way to produce a small batch of blue reward units in time was to do it before the end of the summer. Unfortunately, given the need to ensure that all the Kickstarter reward surveys were accounted for, the final tally of orders wasn't completed before the deadline. In lieu of the blue units, Reading Rainbow and Ouya are working together on a solution that they hope the backers will be satisfied with."
We followed up with Ouya and Reading Rainbow to ask why, when the deadline in question passed more than four and a half months ago, Reading Rainbow only let backers know last week. We'll update this article with any information we receive.
It's perhaps unsurprising that Ouya would decide against building a special edition of its console, since the company could be looking to shift focus away from hardware production. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba reportedly invested $10 million in Ouya last month. According to the report, Alibaba is interested in integrating Ouya's software and game lineup into Alibaba's own set-top boxes, as opposed to bringing Ouya consoles to China.
Reading Rainbow's email has left many backers of the Ouya reward tier unsatisfied, according to our tipster, who added, "I know I wouldn't have pledged anything had I known there wasn't going to be a sky blue version of the Ouya as the backer reward." The individual told Polygon that they have asked for a refund and are waiting to hear back.
Disclosure: The author is a backer of the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter.
Update: Representatives for Ouya and Reading Rainbow clarified that the organizations revised the original replacement package to include an additional Ouya controller, alongside the autographed Ouya console and its controller.
"Reading Rainbow supports Ouya 100% and we are all trying our very best to work together to satisfy our backers with the best solution possible. Ouya and Reading Rainbow have no ill feelings toward one another," reads the updated email that Reading Rainbow sent to backers. The Reading Rainbow rep noted, "We have seen positive responses with the additional communication with our backers."
Update 2: "Not shipping the blue units boiled down to a scheduling issue and we all feel awful about it. Ouya shares our desire to make our community happy," Reading Rainbow representatives followed up to add. "We truly want to help our backers more than anything. Our mission remains the same...bringing Reading Rainbow to every child everywhere and we want our backers to share in that journey."