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Indie devs scrambling as Ouya reportedly backs out of promised $1 million fund

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Razer acquired Ouya in an all-cash deal, it was announced this week. The Android-based micro-console was supposed to be a haven for smaller games and independent developers, but some developers who bought into that story may be harshly punished for their enthusiasm.

It all began with a $1 million fund for indie games.

Free the games

Ouya began a promotion called the Free the Games fund on July 18, 2013, that promised Kickstarted developers a chunk of money if they agreed to launch on Ouya and met a number of requirements for timing and size.

"I am proud to announce OUYA’s Free the Games Fund, a first-of-its-kind program to support Kickstarter games built for OUYA, with $1 million in matching funds," the announcement stated. "More than 21,000 registered OUYA game developers, plus tens of thousands of other game creators, could have access to matching funds – from $50,000 up to $250,000 – for OUYA-bound games launched on Kickstarter."

It was a rough launch. The program was quickly gamed, and the rules adjusted.

"We hear you loud and clear that the program isn't working," then Ouya CEO Julie Uhrman said at the time. "Regardless of my best intentions, there's just too many loopholes."

The updated version of the program seemed to have been a success, but developers are now saying that Ouya is refusing to pay out the money owed, due to a clause in the contract that includes bankruptcy and restructuring.

We've reached out to Ouya, but have yet to receive a response.

Here's the pertinent section of the contract, provided to Polygon by a developer:

8.3. Termination Upon Bankruptcy or Insolvency. Either party may, at its option, terminate this Agreement immediately upon written notice to the other party, in the event (i) that the other party becomes insolvent or unable to pay its debts when due; (ii) the other party files a petition in bankruptcy, reorganization or similar proceeding, or, if filed against, such petition is not removed within sixty (60) days after such filing; (iii) the other party discontinues it business

The structure of the deal means that, even two years after the announcement, some teams have significant amounts of money that has yet to be paid The deal was structured so that 50% of the cash was to be given when the game released a playable beta, 25% when the game launched, and the last 25% when the exclusivity period was up.

We've been contacted by multiple developers who have been told not to expect the rest of their promised money now that Razer has bought the company.

"Claiming OUYA no longer exists as a company to get out of funding commitments, while continuing to use the name in the announcements today as if they still are a company that exists, just stinks," one developer told Polygon. "I think Razer will have trouble ahead if this is the level of respect they continue to show indie devs."

The developer was in the process of contacting musicians they were working with who they can now no longer pay. Many developers are out thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. For some that was a huge part of the completion or marketing budget for their game.

We've reached out to Julia Uhrman, Ouya's CEO, as well as other impacted developers for comment. We're speaking with Razer and hoping to gain more clarity about how they'll deal with these developer relationships.

Another developer told Polygon they were out $5,000.

"They paid the first installment when we submitted our beta. I've been working on bring the game to release expecting to attain the remaining two installments but that won't happen now," they said. "It's hard to ask for final artwork needed when I can't pay my artist now, much less advertise upon release."

Ouya sent a contract that was signed and returned on June 5th, but were then told "things have changed" and they'd be contacted in a few weeks.

"A month later, July 8th I get a Skype call saying since the company does not exist, they have no obligation to hold their end of the deal and of course I'm no longer required to exclusively release (thanks Ouya). I ask about publishing on Razer, but haven't gotten anything definitive out of them on who to contact at Razer or if Razer is really interested," the developer stated.


Polygon Archives: Reviewing the Ouya (2013)