Only about a quarter of the developers promised matching support for their indie games as part of the $1 million Free the Game fund, received all of the money owed, sources tell Polygon.
Another quarter of the 27 developers received some of the money. The rest, it appears, were left with none of the promised funds.
The issue arises as Razer takes ownership of Ouya's software, online store and name, but not its hardware nor, it seems, obligation to complete payment on the Free the Games fund which was announced in the summer of 2013.
Waiting for payment
Under the initial rules, Ouya said it would match 100 percent of the total funds raised up to $250,000 for participating developers Kickstarting an Ouya launch exclusive game. The company said it set aside $1 million for the fund.
Initially, participation required that the Kickstarter raise at least $50,000, but that was later lowered to $10,000 after some loopholes caused the company to rework the rules.
The outcome was that 27 developers were accepted into the program and promised, in total, $1 million in matching funds. The money was to be doled out as milestones were hit.
About a half-dozen of those developers hit all of the milestones and received all of the money. But Ouya began running into trouble last year.
A source familiar with the specifics of the contracts tells Polygon that in February new contracts were sent out to developers. The contracts were created to help clarify Ouya's assets for a potential round of investment. Those directly involved assumed the company would stay afloat through more investment. But instead, in March, Ouya and Razer started conversations about a possible asset purchase acquisition: meaning Razer was interested in buying some elements of Ouya, but not the company.
When the deal went through in June, a number of developers were still in the process of reaching the second or third fund-triggering milestone. About half of the developers hadn't yet reached the first milestone.
It's unclear exactly how much money is owed to those developers by Ouya.
But what is clear is that the cost of settling up owed money to developers who have met deadlines and are owed the funds, would be much less that $1 million dollars.
The question is whether Razer is willing to pay.
"The Free the Games initiative was put forth by the original OUYA and that program was NOT part of the acquisition by Razer (the main asset acquired by Razer was the Android store while many of the other original OUYA assets such as the hardware and other programs were not part of the acquisition)," a company spokesperson told Polygon. All emphasis and punctuation copied directly from the e-mail.
About a half-dozen of those developers hit all of the milestones and received all of the money
"That said, the 'new OUYA' —which is what Razer is calling its nascent Android publishing arm —will be working with developers to continue publishing and distributing their games. The new OUYA will be reaching out to developers shortly and we encourage any of the developers who are interested in publishing with the new OUYA to contact them."
We've had the opportunity of speaking with more developers impacted by this situation. "They owe us $32,000, our Kickstarter's original funding goal," we were told by one team.
"We started porting our beta candidate not too long before the rumors of Ouya looking for a buyer surfaced," they continued. I wish they'd told us sooner about what would happen so we didn't have to waste weeks with the port (we made it a point to be in constant communication about what's going on), but to their credit I feel that their head of dev relations has been honest with us — based on info that surfaced from other devs — about not knowing what was to happen to FTG themselves, before Razer decided to ditch the contracts."
And now developers are struggling due to the lack of payment.
"The lack of this money really shoots us in the leg on our final lap," another developer told Polygon. "This is money that was supposed to be there to help with marketing and QA costs, and without it, our release would be nowhere near as strong as we know it deserves to be."
They're still working on the game, however, and look forward to release. But this is a huge bump in the road.
"We are interested in what Razer has to say regarding all of this. After delivering the news to us, they let us know that they really liked the game and wanted to help it see release, but they didn't use any specific wording on what they could do to help, insisted on talking over the phone with my boss, and as of yet, have not promised anything," they stated.
Theory Georgiou, with Creative Game Theory, which developed Fire with Fire, said the studio is still owed $5,000.
"The developers that are really hurt by the cancellation of the fund are the developers that are taking their time to create a real product for Ouya," Georgiou told Polygon. "We believed in OUYA and that it would be around for a long time to come. We wanted to support it with the best game possible. We aren't looking for quick cash, we saw this fund as an opportunity to make a much better experience than we could have otherwise and we're the ones who get thrown under the bus."
Even studios that received full payment from the fund aren't exactly happy with how things have progressed.
"I adored the OUYA concept," said Mark Jawdoszak, director of Gas Light Games, which developed Master of the Seven Teas and received full funding from Ouya. "Everything from the low-cost components (and thus low-cost at the consumer end) and the familiar development environment (Android), through to the open marketplace and use of the TV. We were among the earliest of backers on their Kickstarter, getting a developer tier for an early access console and some promotion when we publish our games.To their credit, when we did release and update our title (Master of the Seven Teas), OUYA pushed us on the front of the welcome screen and included us in their emails.
"As for our [Free the Game] payments, we did receive them all. Although the final payment did take far longer than any of the others, as that was due around the time of the rumoured troubles.Many teams, ourselves included, made assumptions on our development targets and schedules, based on the extra resources the FTG fund would bring — so I can imagine that there could be a lot of reduced features, or at worst, some studios closing their doors because of this."
"I fear it was all too easy to bash OUYA and perhaps there's still a part of me that wishes it would deliver on everything I hoped it would be — and maybe Razer can finish what OUYA started?"
Polygon Archives: Reviewing the Ouya (2013)