Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Ouya Implements the Wil Wheaton Rule

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 19, 2013

Ouya’s “Free the Games” fund was pretty much waiting to get abused. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. After lots of complaining, some very public displays of frustration, and a few (very few) defenders, Ouya has changed its policy. Effectively, they’ve invoked with Wil Wheaton “Don’t be a d**k” rule, stating that if they or the community of developers judge that a project is attempting to game the system, it will now be disqualified.

How do you game a system? Effectively, it’s a promise to double your money, and it’s guaranteed until the fund runs out. So, basically, if you take out a loan from friends and family members, and can come out with something by way of a game for Ouya in a short period of time, you can pay everyone back and make a decent profit. The Free the Games Fund was intended to encourage games with a high level of community support and interest to go Ouya-exclusive. When a game hits over $50k with less than 200 backers, something’s not right.

Besides the new disqualification rule, Ouya has also extended the qualifications so that games that make less than $50k via Kickstarter. Those games will be held to a smaller window of exclusivity – because $20k isn’t a whole lot of motivation to be exclusive to a platform that still doesn’t have a wide distribution base (yet). They also got rid of the “winner take all” $100k bonus, and are paying out the fund with more traditional milestone-like payments, rather than at game launch.

I’ve been holding off weighing in on the argument, and I’m glad I did. The cacophony of voices was quite enough while this was going on, and many of them seemed rather gleeful to see the Ouya’s “epic fail” with their fund.

As for me – I hate being a naysayer when somebody wants to try an out-of-the-box idea. I’ll play devil’s advocate, sure, as its important to identify possible risks with any venture. But in the end – succeed or fail – the community at large learns from the experiment. Playing it safe is what caused the games industry to get into the deep rut that only the indies could get it out of in the first place.

I feel doubly bad because in this case, one of the main issues is that Ouya put too much faith in the integrity of game developers.  Yeah, they shoulda figured. And while there are always scoundrels out there who think nothing of gaming the system to get an advantage over others, I also have very strong anecdotal evidence that many of the members of the indie game dev community possess exceptional integrity and charity. Really, it’s an awesome, awesome community to be a part of, most of the time. I feel bad that Ouya got their shorts pulled up over their head by the less scrupulous exceptions.

Nevertheless, even as optimistic and thrilled with the community as I am, I was not at all surprised. I was a programmer for a “Network Marketing” company for a couple of years. I learned just how obsessively people will game a system, no matter how carefully thought out your rules, when money is on the line. To be fair – at least the dubious practices that tried to exploit the system seemed to be earnest, honest-to-goodness game projects and not pure scams. But I imagine that there was far too much work necessary to take advantage of this for a non-repeatable scam.

I also thought that $50k was a bit high, but I kinda left that alone, too, assuming that the Ouya folks knew what they were doing. Maybe that’s a big assumption – it seems they are kinda feeling their way around in the dark a lot, too. They have been the first to do a lot of things. They are going to make a few missteps. They are certainly facing an uphill battle.

Part of what I do what I do, and write what I write, is because I love cheering for the pioneers and the underdogs. I like Ouya and what they are trying to accomplish. I’m an indie. I’m all about people taking the long shots. I still think this “Free the Games Fund” is a little on the weird side, and not at all confident that it will give it the success Ouya needs, but I certainly wish them well.

Filed Under: Biz, News - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Picador said,

    I hesitate to be pedantic, but: “out-of-the-box” means something close to the opposite of what I think you mean.


    The two phrases have a funny convergence: one refers to a product that’s so standardized and simple that it works without any further ingenuity on your part as soon as you unpack it from the cardboard box in which it was shipped; the other refers to someone who, in their uninhibited and unconventional perambulation, strays outside of a box drawn in lines on the floor (e.g. the boundaries of a tennis or basketball court).

    Perhaps a better phrase would be “an idea that resulted from thinking outside of the box”, or “an idea that ventured outside the box”.

  • Xenovore said,

    I hesitate to be pedantic. . .

    Apparently not. =P