This morning, I awoke to some seemingly good news coming from my Flipboard news app. Polygon reported that Ouya’s “Free The Games” fund had been successful twice on Kickstarter. I was amazed, astounded even, as never in my wildest dreams would I imagine any game prospect would actually be able to raise $50,000 in funds for an Ouya exclusive game. The news article I read can be found here: http://www.polygon.com/2013/8/27/4664654/first-ouya-free-the-games-campaigns-surpass-funding-goals
To summarise, it states that 2 kickstarter campaigns (Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes) have successfully got their needed money, and so Ouya will give them 100% extra funding over the course of their development. This is all well and good until you actually take a look at each Kickstarter page:
The above, for example, only has 126 backers that have seemingly managed to be the most charitable backers in the entire world. Upon inspection it’s very suspicious: 110 of the 126 backers only want rewards totalling $5063. We all know that backers can indeed pledge more than the reward they’ve chosen but this is extremely rare. To add to this, some of the biggest backers want to remain anonymous, which adds further fuel to the fire and just cries out that this is a scam. To break it down even more, other very clever online sleuths have done some investigating and have come to some very interesting conclusions:
In the above post, people have found multiple backers that have the same name or are in no way affiliated with the games industry, or worst still, don’t exist entirely:
It’s sickening to think that developers could be trying to pull the wool over our eyes to make a sub-par product and a quick buck in the process. All these two games have to do is release a game, any game, whether it is good or bad to the Ouya Marketplace and they’ll get double what they initially invested. When people reached out to Ouya, to find out what they would do about these highly suspicious projects, Ouya just simply responded:
They blew it off. Ouya’s official response has led to many speculations that it was Ouya that has been making these fake accounts and giving the developers money. Rumours have been flying around that Ouya was always going to pledge to these developers, but to get more publicity decided to do a “Free The Games” campaign. When it came to light that there was no way these developers could get their initial $50,000 required to qualify for the fund, Ouya themselves started backing them. It makes sense when you think about it. Why would Ouya want their campaign to fail? It would show lack of demand (a reality Ouya have had to deal with almost all of its commercial life) if no projects were able to reach their kickstarter goals, and would show a failing platform. By Ouya funding the projects with scam accounts, it makes it look like the whole community really loves Ouya, and it’s a platform everyone needs to be on. It shows demand, which is exactly what Ouya is struggling with.
There are many people saying it’s the developers themselves that seem to be conning Ouya out of money. I don’t agree with this concept when it comes to Elementary, My Dear Holmes. Sam Chandola, the creator, has been very helpful in responding to people’s concerns on his Kickstarter comments section, even going so far as to email Amazon payments to get to the bottom of this fiasco. MogoXT (Gridiron Thunder) on the other hand have been the complete opposite, even going so far as to answer questions that were never asked when Gamasutra questioned their seemingly dodgy funding system:
Gamasutra themselves are surprised that MogoXT answered questions that were never asked, and points out that they should definitely be further researched. To me this shows guilt, and it appears they are trying to cover themselves in areas, which have yet to be queried.
This entire scam is bad for many reasons. Firstly, it makes users trust Ouya even less. They’ve already had a terrible marketing campaign, one which puts a foul taste in fan’s mouths, and Ouya is walking on thin ice in regards to what they’re going to do in their future to make the Ouya everything they promised. Secondly, it’s terrible for Kickstarter itself, and can open up many projects in the future to scams. It sets a terrible precedent for all indie campaigns, and may even discourage people from investing.
I’m not saying people didn’t back the projects, I’m sure their were a fair few that did legitimately want the games that were advertised. I just think it is extremely improbable these campaigns could have raised over $50,000 without these scam accounts giving large backing. Making a successful campaign in itself for any game that requires $50,000 is hard, we’ve seen more games fail than succeed in the history of Kickstarter. A game exclusive to one platform, that next to no-one owns, managing to succeed, seems just damn well impossible. Ouya needed these campaigns to succeed to make it look like the Ouya is still a viable platform, something communities’ want and love, and something developers would be interested in capitalising on.
Ouya are doing these campaigns for publicity, and like all their other marketing campaigns recently, they’ve been called out.