OUYA to Pay Out Serious Bucks to 2 Sham Kickstarters

Posted by Zach Roth Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Put in place to support industrious small development teams and secure console-exclusives, OUYA's Free the Games fund is a great opportunity just waiting to be seized. All a game developer has to do is create a Kickstarter branded with #FreeTheGames, secure at least $50,000 in funding, and OUYA will double the earnings in exchange for six months of exclusivity. Most attempts have fizzled out before the 20% mark, but recently two Kickstarters, Gridiron Thunder and Elementary My Dear Holmes, hit their funding goals-- and hit them fast. Once independent investigators started following the money, however, things just weren't adding up.

ouya free the games scam sham kickstarter amazon gridiron thunder elementary my dear holmes mogotxt julie uhrman
A concept screen from Gridiron Thunder
So we waited, both for mainstream gaming journalism outlets to expose the shady Kickstarters and for OUYA themselves to decide whether they would double the funding of these spurious developers. In a barebones announcement, Joystiq didn't acknowledge the funny figures. And OUYA's response was clear:

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"Supportive community."
One Joystiq user decided to take the investigative journalism into his own hands.

joystiq louiedog ouya free the games scam kickstarter gridiron thunder mogotxt julie uhrman
Some people really want to pay over $4,000
for a free to play game that isn't Madden.

And what does user louiedog mean, exactly? As of the time this article was written, Gridiron Thunder's Kickstarter has raised $78,000 from 127 backers. However, if we add up the number of backers purchasing tier rewards, even the nine backers at the $300 level, the single backer at $500, we see that 110 backers raised just $5,068. This of course leaves 17 mystery backers having contributed about $72,000-- a cool $4,235 per head. For a free to play football game on a console that still hasn't gotten out all of its own tier rewards to its backers.

MogoTXT, the team behind Gridiron Thunder have included a lengthy combined resume that includes ports of the Sam & Max adventure games and an... 'adult' feature. It's absolutely likely that they already had enough money and simply backed their own Kickstarter to claim what is essentially free money from OUYA. But the people behind the self-proclaimed "console-killer" seem less than concerned-- loathe to investigate this despite the clear evidence.

iron chef cat cora ouya free the games scam kickstarter elementary my dear holmes julie uhrmanWhat's worse, the second sham Kickstarter that hopes to help free the games executes its subterfuge even more poorly. With 710 backers, Elementary My Dear Holmes' Kickstarter reached its $50,000 goal. While this initially seems more legitimate than Gridiron Thunder, a quick perusal of their list of backers reveals dozens upon dozens of clearly fraudulent backers. It appears Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, the Mona Lisa, and the city of Adelaide all backed this prestigious Ouya title.

wizard of oz dorothy ouya free the games scam kickstarter elementary my dear holmes julie uhrmanAlso among the backers are a number of celebrities such as Iron Chef Cat Cora, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and, most heinously, a woman who has been reported as missing since 2011.

I wish I was making the last part up.

ouya free the games scam sham kickstarter amazon gridiron thunder elementary my dear holmes mogotxt julie uhrman
Removed image of Alivia's missing person article
Potentially, Elementary My Dear Holmes are doing exactly what Gridiron Thunder did: backing their own Kickstarter to secure Free the Games money, only with smaller parcels of money and a remarkably pronounced lack of effort and scruples. Surely, Ouya will at least investigate this Kickstarter, with its hundreds of obviously fake accounts?

twitter oblivious ouya free the games scam sham kickstarter amazon gridiron thunder elementary my dear holmes mogotxt julie uhrman
It's not clear who is most at fault here: the game developers who perpetrated the scams and are claiming money more legitimate efforts desperately need, or Ouya, who are in essence allowing themselves to get scammed by two incredibly transparent schemes. But, this is the same company who are forced to backpedal on a regular basis, be it an ill-advised commercial or any of their various Twitter gaffes. The same company who secured over 8 times their own Kickstarter funding goal, who still required $15 million more, who still haven't gotten all of their backer rewards out, and who are now giving away over $100,000 to a couple of scams. Either way, gamers lose.


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