After announcing back in July that they’d be helping to fund some Ouya-exclusive games, the Ouya team has found themselves in the middle of a strange debacle over the last couple of days. Originally intended to help indie developers fund their games, Ouya’s “Free the Games” promotion is a one million dollar fund that they will use to match the Kickstarter funding of any indie game that agrees to be a timed Ouya exclusive. It sounds like a pretty good deal for developers, but it appears that the Ouya team’s generosity may be being abused.
The first two games to successfully fund themselves as part of the Free the Games promotion have now finished their Kickstarter campaigns, and Ouya has agreed to match both of their fundraising totals. Gridiron Thunder, a football game, stands to receive an extra $78000 from Ouya, while point-and-click adventure game Elementary, My Dear Holmes is set to receive just over $50000. Both games, however, have faced serious scrutiny in a NeoGAF thread for what appears to be some dubious Kickstarter backers.
Both games have a remarkably low number of actual backers, with Gridiron Thunder receiving their $78000 from just 125 backers. This average donation amount is much higher than is normal for a Kickstarter project, and it also looks like some of those backers may be fake.
As posted by the sleuths on NeoGAF, there are several backers of Gridiron Thunder who all have the same surname, and in one case have the exact same name. In even more damning evidence, it appears that Elementary, My Dear Holmes has a backer whose profile picture is stolen from a missing persons report.
The combination of the unusually low number of backers, and the fact that many of the backers appear to be fake accounts, is enough to raise red flags for many people. The Ouya team has ignored this controversy, however, and have tweeted that they intend to honour their promotion and fund these two games.
In an attempt to get to the bottom of this, Gamasutra (via LewieP) contacted the developers of Gridiron Thunder, and inquired as to their unusually generous backers. In his statement to Gamasutra, Andrew Won (the CEO of Gridiron Thunder developer MogoTXT), had this to say:
[…] We have had some generous donors but so have other KickStarter campaigns. In our case, we have very deep roots in Silicon Valley and great ties to fellow tech entrepreneurs in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. We also have friends in the professional sports world who want to see us succeed. I don't think there is anything wrong with having generous supporters, and we make no apology for this. It does not violate any KickStarter or Ouya rule.
So far, no one has managed to contact the Vancouver-based developers of Elementary, My Dear Holmes, and no explanation has been offered by either developer for what are almost certainly fake Kickstarter backers. Unfortunately, the Ouya team is turning a blind eye to the controversy, and both developers are looking like they’re going to double their money under highly shady circumstances.