Kickstarter Suspension Blows Up Crowdsourced Gaming's Next Big Idea

Kickstarter Suspension Blows Up Crowdsourced Gaming's Next Big Idea

Ouya's "Free the Games Fund" promises to double a crowdfunded game's money — if it releases exclusively for the Android console. The potential for abuse should be apparent to anyone with a brain. Two games are accused of backing themselves with fake funding to claim the prize, and one has been suspended by Kickstarter.

The suspended game is Elementary, My Dear Holmes, which two weeks ago was accused of artificially inflating its funding, a charge the game's developer denies to Kotaku. On August 27, someone pointed out that the game's backer list was shot through with new accounts bearing the names of celebrities, missing persons, fugitives, and university students and faculty — "[avatar] images unlikely to be used by someone else as a profile pic," as the commenter mentioned.

Why would a game back itself with fake capital? Because Ouya has promised to match, dollar-for-dollar, the backing of any game that, between now and next August, meets a minimum $US50,000 goal on Kickstarter and then releases exclusively on their console for its first six months of release. The hypothetical scheme isn't that farfetched: Log in, give yourself $US50K from your own credit card(s), pay that back immediately, and then make the game with whatever Ouya gives you.

Holmes isn't the first project to face this kind of scrutiny; Gridiron Thunder, another Ouya-exclusive project that, on its Kickstarter page, featured actual NFL branding — and EA Sports paid zillions to solely control the rights to make NFL games on consoles — also has been accused of astroturfing its funding or overstating its features, charges it also denied to Kotaku.

Gridiron Thunder and Elementary, My Dear Holmes were cited in an email sent to Kotaku (and, presumably, other news organisations) by an Ouya flack on Aug. 26, touting the success of the Free the Games Fund, with Ouya offering to put writers in touch with both projects' creators. If any other projects have surpassed the $US50,000 funding prerequisite to be eligible for Free the Games matching money, I'm not aware of them.

Sam Chandola, the CEO of Victory Square, the studio behind Elementary, My Dear Holmes, said "Kickstarter did not provide a reason for the suspension of the campaign, instead stating that they do not comment on suspensions.

"Victory Square Games definitely denies setting up a Kickstarter account or accounts to fund its own projects, or asking any other person or organisation to do so on its behalf," Chandola told Kotaku. He mentioned that after Elementary, My Dear Holmes, hit its funding target "we announced a console giveaway and that was in violation of Kickstarter's terms of service," implying that might have been the disqualifying reason. The giveaway has since been rescinded, Chandola said.

Chandola acknowledged the apparent irregularities in the accounts backing his game and said when that was brought to his attention, "I myself informed Kickstarter and Amazon Payments about the discrepancy in accounts when they were first brought up.

"The issues that were raised were quite alarming, and we wanted nothing to do with it, so I wrote to Ouya, Kickstarter and Amazon informing them of the situation," he said. "My hope had been that Kickstarter would investigate the matter and cancel any pledges from accounts that were deemed suspicious."

Indeed, some of the accounts that were mentioned in first comment pointing out funding irregularities appear to have been canceled, or their names removed from the backer list.

"While what has happened is definitely deeply saddening for us," Chandola told Kotaku, "the attention it has brought has got us noticed with some venture capitalists who emailed me after the project suspension offering to support and finance the project." Evidently Elementary, My Dear Holmes will proceed with this private funding. Chandola didn't say if the game will remain Ouya-exclusive.

Kotaku reached out to Ouya, in light of this second case, to ask about its confidence in the Free the Games Fund and how it administers the money. An Ouya representative said that "per the rules and regulations for the Free the Games Fund, Ouya does not pay out any of the matching funds until after the developer's campaign ends." With the campaign for Elementary, My Dear Holmes suspended, it hasn't received any money from Ouya and won't, unless Kickstarter restores it.

With regards to Gridiron Thunder, Ouya noted that Kickstarter "is ongoing. At this time, they remain compliant with the rules and regulations of eligibility for the Free the Games Fund.

I asked Ouya if it audits or investigates the backing of game projects seeking its matching funds. The reply:

"Kickstarter has much more access to information regarding the funding of campaigns on their site than we do. We're confident in their methods for verifying the integrity of all Kickstarter projects. An essential element of the Free the Games Fund is that only projects that are successfully funded through Kickstarter are eligible. Until Kickstarter raised a red flag on this project, it complied with our terms and conditions."

Once again, it's the usual shitshow of unintended consequences arising from Ouya's näive, idealistic posturing: Let's make a console that's completely open-sourced! OK, what if people use it primarily for piracy and emulation, and no one buys anything from the Ouya store? Well, let's underwrite a bunch of We-the-People exclusives no one else is courageous enough to make! Fine, how do you safeguard against a developer who "funds" a game with phantom donations, to get Ouya to supply the actual development budget with the matching money?

At this point, why anyone would still "back" — as if that money is actually an investment, instead of a straight-up donation — this amateur-hour console or any of its games is a mystery to me.


Comments

    And yet it is still a better use of money than pre ordering the latest AAA lame fest like Aliens or Duke Nukem.

    Ouya is still a thing?

    Wow that was unwarrantably hostile towards Ouya, taking in account they are the victims of alleged fraud. Big companies "encouraging" journalists to make sure that the Ouya never becomes a thing?

      I'd hazard a guess that the tone is more because it's an Owen Good article than corporate pressure. Don't expect much from his work and you won't be disappointed.

      The Ouya was never going to take off. They had great ideas, but were expecting the android industry to change to meet their product. Distribution and manufacturing made for an uphill battle and now they are stuck in a catch 22, they need games to make sales but developers won't develop until there are sales.
      The fraud may not have been the Ouya's, but when the few exclusive devs your product is riding on are pulling dodgy crap it doesn't look good for you

    I'm no Business and Marketing Analyst but this whole scheme seemed like a very bad idea from the start. If I'm an indie developer, why would I want to be exclusive to a "console" that has low market penetration and a low conversion rate (from previous articles) in the most important part of a game's life cycle? Without the marketing budget of a AAA development company, you need to get your game out there and in people's faces, not squirrelled away on a machine that has a niche audience. You're going to have to hope that sales are incredibly good on the Ouya if you want to keep going until the end of those 6 months, at which point you have to have another big marketing push to reach the rest of your target audience.

    I don't get it.
    Lets say I invest $50,000 of my own money. I'm $50,000 in debt and Ouya gives me $50,000. That pays my debt and leaves me with a ZERO balance. Not only that but it gives me a requirement to build a game and release it on the Ouya store in 6 months with no additional money. This seems like a pretty inneffectual "scam".
    What would be better is to come out and say you're going to make a spiritual sequel to a long beloved franchise and skip the Ouya thing altogether.
    Am I missing something??

      errm, yeah - if you invest 50k of your own you're not 50k in debt - you'd have, for e.g., 50k debt on a credit card, but 50k credit in the account funding the game - then ouya give you 50k, you pay off the debt, and you're left with 0 debt and 50k credit in the account funding the game

      They were backing themselves, meaning the money they pledged went out of their pocket and right back in it again.

      I believe Kickstarter, after taking its share, would give the "invested money" to you. Meaning you lose a small portion, but then you make up with the Ouya money.

      I think the problem here is the word "invested". You're getting your own money, it's not like it goes to someone else.

    "Once again, it’s the usual shitshow of unintended consequences arising from Ouya’s näive, idealistic posturing: Let’s make a console that’s completely open-sourced! OK, what if people use it primarily for piracy and emulation, and no one buys anything from the Ouya store? Well, let’s underwrite a bunch of We-the-People exclusives no one else is courageous enough to make! Fine, how do you safeguard against a developer who “funds” a game with phantom donations, to get Ouya to supply the actual development budget with the matching money?

    At this point, why anyone would still “back” — as if that money is actually an investment, instead of a straight-up donation — this amateur-hour console or any of its games is a mystery to me."

    Why are you JUST an asshole? I'd expect better from one of us. Obviously.

    It's a $100 console. It's already got 250 games on the store that vary from completely rubbish to somewhat decent. Most games are a few meg.

    Each game has a free demo. (a good percentage of the games are completely free) Even if you spend 5 minutes playing each game, you'll still get more fun out of an Ouya than the one or two AAA PS3 or Xbox titles you could buy with $100.

    And you can easily emulate anything up to N64 and PS1, and use PS3 and Xbox controllers as extra controllers for multiplayer. Plus XBMC works great on it. Plus you can sideload a heap of android games.

    If you like games, and you have $100, then the OUYA is a fun thing to buy. Hating on it is kind of stupid.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now