Razer will make good on more than $600,000 in funds potentially owed indie developers as part of Ouya's Free the Games initiative, the company's CEO tells Polygon.
Only about a quarter of the developers promised matching support for their indie games as part of the $1 million Free the Games Fund received all of the money owed. Another quarter of the 27 developers received some of the money. The rest, it appears, were left with none of the promised funds.
Earlier this week, Razer announced that it had acquired ownership of Ouya's software, online store and name, but not its hardware.
Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, who is currently traveling to the ChinaJoy game show, told Polygon in a call this afternoon that he first heard about the issues revolving around the Free the Games Fund and the owed money about midnight in Taiwan. He spent the next three hours, he said, sorting out the details with his team and the people still at Ouya.
Tan said that while he was aware of various marketing initiatives, including the Free the Games Fund, he didn't realize there was an outstanding debt.
"We only acquired the team, the platform and the assets of Ouya," he said. "We didn't look at the debts because that's not how the deal was structured for us."
Under the initial rules of the fund, 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.
After discussing the Free the Games Fund with his staff and Ouya, Tan found that $620,000 of the original million dollars has still not been paid out. Most if not all of that money wasn't paid because developers haven't yet hit the milestone triggering payment.
"I've spent the past three hours trying to get a sense of where Free the Games stands," Tan said.
He said he came up with the idea for this new plan about 3 a.m. his time, or 3 p.m. ET.
The original fund was designed to deliver exclusive games, or at least games held as an exclusive for a set period of time, to the Ouya. But Tan said his plans for Ouya and Razer's own Forge TV don't include exclusivity.
"We're doing an entirely different approach," he said. "We want to make it completely open."
While not legally obligated to do anything about Ouya's fund, Tan said it wouldn't make sense not to help out given both Razer's and his own strong support of indie development.
"What we want to do is make sure we support indie developers," he said. "Razer will be backing the new Ouya publishing arm. So we are going to try and make good on this fund and give these developers an option."
That option is to sign a new contract that reflects the specifics of the deal with Ouya, with two major exceptions.
The games released under the fund will no longer have to be exclusive to the platform. And the money given to developers will be used, once the game is published, to give away copies of the game to people on Razer's Cortex storefront.
So, Tan explained, if a developer was given $10,000 under the fund and they're selling their game for $10, they'd have to give away 1,000 copies on Cortex. This won't prevent a developer from selling their game immediately on other platforms, he added.
All other elements of the agreement, such as hitting milestones to receive payment, will remain intact. Under that original deal, developers were given the money in exchange for a month's exclusivity for every $10,000 they were given, for up to a total of six months of exclusivity.
This new optional deal will only be offered to the remaining developers still participating in the fund, Tan said.
"The financial terms remain largely the same," Tan said. "This was a marketing campaign for Ouya to bring games to the Ouya platform exclusively. We don't want exclusives for any platform. What we will ask for is that whatever sums we invest in a game, we would like that same amount to be given away on Cortex."
Tan added that he still has to have his team lock in the specifics and work out the nitty-gritty of the deal.
"My lawyers don't even know," he said. "They're probably going to have a heart attack."
How it will work
Tan said his hope is to get emails out to all of the developers as quickly as possible, to let them know about the new offer.
While Razer brought over 15 people from Ouya, they're all still just getting placed, he said.
The participating developers can also email Razer.
Those that do sign on will have their games published as soon as they're ready on whichever platform happens to be up and running when they get done. If Cortex is functioning, the games would be released on that platform. If not, then on Ouya.
Tan and Razer have already committed to "keeping the lights on" at Ouya for a year.
"For ourselves at Razer, we've always done stuff for our fans," Tan said. "This is purely being done out of goodwill. I think this is going to be great for the developers. I think they're going to be able to get the games done and gamers will get access to games for free. Then those games will spread through word of mouth."
Tan was quick to point out that this ad hoc program is something that's been slapped together to address the Free the Games Fund, but that Razer has much bigger plans for how they hope to support developers on Android TV platforms in the future.
For now, he said, it's about trying to find a way to fix a problem for two dozen developers.
"We're falling back to our basic principles, that Razer is for gamers, by gamers," he said. "When we heard of the plight of some of the indie devs we wanted to make sure we were in a position to help them."