Ouya makes over its Free the Games Fund with new rules

Well, Ouya didn’t kill its troubled and much-maligned Free the Games fund, but it certainly gave it a huge makeover. The gaming company took to its blog to lay out the new rules, which are effective immediately. The contest’s new provisions have some benefits for burgeoning developers eager to get on the indie console, but, more importantly, put Ouya back in a powerful place to boot potential fraudsters.

The Free the Games Fund was originally designed to drive new talent to Ouya’s games marketplace — the company offered developers a matching program for every dollar they raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter in exchange for 6 months of console exclusivity. However, the immediate winners of the fund drew skepticism from gamers, due to mysterious donations and high per-donor averages (often in the thousands) that led many to believe the campaigns were rigged.

Here is a quick summary of the new rules, which are meant to curb any shady dealings:

  • The $50,000 minimum goal to be eligible for funding has been lowered to $10,000 — provided that there is a minimum of 100 backers per increments of $10,000.
  • Rather that match the money raised over the goal, Ouya will match all total funds up to $250,000
  • Half of the money will be disbursed once the beta of the game is released, instead of a full, up-front payment. The rest of the money will reach developers after the final game goes live and after an exclusivity period comes to an end. That period is determined on the success of the campaign — Ouya demands one month per $10,000 raised.
  • Most importantly, Ouya now reserves the right to pull funding or disqualify any game that doesn’t align with the spirit of the contest.

As of this point, none of the games that met the original eligibility rules qualify under the new ones. Both games that have received a successful backing on Kickstarter, Gridiron Thunder and Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus, failed to qualify due to a concentrated amount of backers. In response, Dungeons creator William McDonald has pulled his game from Kickstarter and accused Ouya of adding rules late in the game.

“A person whose father was willing to make a large sacrifice so his son’s team could qualify for the fund and actually develop their game properly is disallowed,” McDonald wrote on the campaign’s update page. ” If we had remained silent we very likely would have received the funds, our transparency and honesty apparently was our undoing.”

It’s unclear whether Ouya’s late change will ultimately hurt the Free the Games fund, but it does stop the snowball of rumors and accusations from the gaming community that the fund had dishonest intent.