Devs saddened by "empty and dishonest" Ouya response to Free the Games Fund controversy

Game pulled from Ouya marketplace as criticism grows.

Developers have criticised Ouya after it failed to appropriately address concern around its controversial game development promotion.

Under its $1 million Free the Games Fund, Ouya promised to match contributions to successful Kickstarter games built for the micro-console. The conditions: the game must raise at least $50,000, and in return for Ouya's contribution, a six-month exclusivity is agreed.

The first two titles Ouya confirmed would receive a contribution were American Football game Grid Iron Thunder, which asked for $75,000 and ended up with $171,009, and Elementary, My Dear Holmes!, which asked for $50,000.

Both games were scrutinised for alleged suspicious backing. Elementary, My Dear Holmes! saw its Kickstarter suspended after claims it was a "scam". The developers behind the two projects have denied any wrongdoing.

Last night Ouya chief Julie Uhrman published a blog post discussing the Free the Games Fund.

"This response surprised us - we thought this was going to be great - how could it not be?" she wrote. "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.

"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.

"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."

"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."

Ouya boss Julie Uhrman

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But the post, which failed to directly address Grid Iron Thunder or Elementary, My Dear Holmes!, sparked a number of critical comments from notable indie developers.

"This post makes me sad, for a lot of reasons to be honest, but mainly for the wording," wrote Thomas Was Alone and Volume creator Mike Bithell.

"This isn't an acceptance of criticism, or an explanation of how clearly dodgy as hell schemes are being supported by you publicly (in PR at least, I really hope you weasel out before giving the Gridiron Thunder guys a penny).

"This reads like a press release from a console company locked into a foolish policy and using aspirational language to shift the blame, weirdly, onto its critics."

Now, one indie developer has taken the difficult decision to remove her game from Ouya.

Sophie Houlden announced this afternoon that she had pulled her time-travel stealth game Rose and Time from the Ouya marketplace after reading Uhrman's blog post.

"They have made it clear they care more about saving face (in who's eyes I have no idea) than working to address the concerns of the developers and gamers they need the most."

Rose and Time creator Sophie Houlden

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Rose and Time, created by Sophie Houlden.

"The reason is not because of any flaw of the console (I love it), or the game (the Ouya version may even be the best), or sales (I average one sale per day, way more than elsewhere)," she wrote on her blog. "The reason is because I am no longer comfortable supporting the Ouya company.

"It's their inability to admit that they have f***ed up. S*** is blowing up on all sides, every single piece of PR that is put out damages Ouya's reputation more, and the plastic-marketing-smile never seems to come off. They never get serious to deal with stuff. They never change course when things are going down the toilet. They try to have this image of an indie, but it's only an image. you can't get a word out of the @playouya account that isn't joyous celebration of something they are doing or enabling.

"A real indie has more faces than just 'look at how well things are going for me', we have to deal with all kinds of problems and we respond when people come to us with them. Responses like the one I read last night (weeks after the problem became apparent) feel entirely empty and dishonest to me. I know what honesty looks like, I know what dealing with problems looks like, and I sure as s*** know what putting developers first should look like, and this isn't it.

"They have made it clear they care more about saving face (in who's eyes I have no idea) than working to address the concerns of the developers and gamers they need the most."

At the time of publication Ouya was still hailing Grid Iron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes! as successfully qualifying for the Free the Games Fund in a blog post dated 27th August 2013.

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