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Ouya’s Response To Free The Games Controversy Fails To Satisfy

The Ouya $1 Million Free The Games FundEver since the controversies over Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes hit, people have been clamoring for a response from someone at Ouya. The one response that we did get wasn’t satisfying. We sent emails to the Ouya team for further comment with no response. People have tweeted them with no response. People wanted to know how Ouya would face these controversies.

Well, in a sense, Ouya has responded further. It is certainly not the response that people expected, nor is it generally the response people needed. What Ouya responded with was a complete hand wave away from the controversies. It isn’t a bad response when taken in a bubble, but it fails to address the fears and concerns people have about the present and future of the Free The Games Fund. 

Ouya’s Julie Uhrman started off with a statement of utter confusion about how the intent of the fund could have been lost on critics.

Recently, the intention behind our Free the Games Fund — to provide additional funding to crowd-funded games bound for OUYA, and enable developers to make more of them — seems to have been lost.

This response surprised us — we thought this was going to be great — how could it not be? We launched the Free the Games Fund to find great games from the very platform that gave us life. We wanted to make magic happen and help developers bring their games to OUYA. We wanted to include gamers in the process of discovering great games. We aren’t like everyone else. We don’t decide what games you *should* play. We want to *open* game development.

I don’t think that anyone has forgotten or lost the intent of the program. Everyone commenting on it seems to understand exactly what they wanted, more quality games coming to the Ouya. That isn’t the issue with them. The issue was in the execution of the fund.

One problem that many people had is that the fund seems to be set up to be just out of reach of the primary developers that are currently supporting the Ouya. Even Towerfall‘s creator would have some trouble reaching that $50k minimum.

The other problem is that this system is ripe for exploitation as can be seen by the only two games to qualify as of yet. One of which was suspended and the other seems to be funded mostly through large donations by friends and family. While those games may not have broken any rules of the Ouya fund, they seem to be problems that many on the outside looking in see yet Ouya doesn’t.

Next we have a statement on being “open”.

The truth is, openness is hard. Being open means everything is fair game, and it means sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you hope. And when it doesn’t work out, everyone knows.

We’re OK with all that, though, because being open is worth it. It’s a value we stick to because it comes with so many benefits for us, and for you — the gamers and developers. For us, openness includes the benefit of your insight. We misstep, and we correct.

Yes, openness is hard and worth it. I don’t think that anyone is debating that. However, many people are concerned that the level of openness shown with this campaign is not at their expectations. There have been a number of concerns raised about the execution of the funding program and the two controversial games. Ouya has yet to actually respond to any of the concerns. This has led many to believe that Ouya is not truly “open”.

In launching this campaign, we’ve been called everything from naive and foolish to crazy and idealistic. This is not the first time we’ve been called any of that. Maybe we’re naive … and YES we’re definitely idealistic. It’s gotten us this far. We believe (still) that great games from great developers can be discovered this way — by you. If we can put aside the doubt and embrace the spirit of this fund as it is meant, and of OUYA as it is meant, we might just be surprised by what a little positivity can produce.

I honestly would love to be surprised by the Free The Games Fund. I truly would. The only surprise so far is in the level of hate and controversy it has raised. I have yet to be truly surprised by an actual game participating in the program. That is the problem. The only two games to qualify are steeped in controversy with only one actually successfully completing a Kickstarter. The only game left on the project page with any real promise is not booming with strong support.

I truly believe that Ouya can provide a good incentive program for game creation for the Ouya. It is still possible to bounce back from this. Whether that means cancelling the Free The Games Fund or not is up to Ouya, but something needs to change.

I have honestly given consideration to participating in the program. I was not in a position to do so at the start and had planned to wait till early next year. However, if Ouya allows this controversy to continue to steep without addressing the underlying problems, I fear that by the time I would be ready to participate it won’t exist. Whether that is because it was cancelled or because all the funds were vacuumed up by people gaming the system doesn’t matter. What matters is that potentially great ideas won’t get made or at least won’t be exclusive to the Ouya.

I honestly hope that Ouya takes the time to consider the comments placed on that blog post. Especially from existing Ouya developers. The console is still great and gets a lot of playtime out of me. But sometimes I wonder what the people running the show are actually thinking.

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