Razer buys, then kills off, the Ouya

July 28, 2015 | 11:04

Tags: #acquisition #android #crowd-funding #financial #free-the-game #indie-dev #indie-game #microconsole #razer-forge

Companies: #kickstarter #ouya #razer

Razer has acquired troubled Kickstarter-funded gaming start-up Ouya, but has left developers without cash that was promised to them for releasing titles on the platform.

The peripherals giant has confirmed that it has acquired Ouya's customised Android software, digital distribution platform, and all its published games in a deal the financial details of which have not been released. These will be used to bolster Razer's own Android-powered microconsole, the Razer Forge, and the Ouya box itself discontinued; the controller supplied with the consoles will be ported to the Forge.

Ouya was a major success story when it hit the Kickstarter crowd-funding platform, raising $8.6 million based on rendered images and a promise. Even before the first microconsoles had reached backers, the company was pledging annual hardware updates akin to the smartphone market. Its success led to a range of copy-cat launches: the Mad Catz Project MOJO, the Asus Game Box, and arguably even Sony's PlayStation TV.

Sales of the device outside Kickstarter funding, however, were slow. The software experience was lambasted, the hardware criticised, and the volume of games - that weren't direct Android ports designed for smartphone use - never anywhere near the company's promises. The hardware became discounted, then discounted again, and eventually the company started offering financial incentives for developers to produce exclusive titles for the Ouya under a programme dubbed Free The Game.

Developers publishing under Free The Game, Ouya promised, would receive cash from a million-dollar fund: 50 per cent would be payable on release of a working beta, giving small companies the cash they would need to complete the finished game and receive a further 25 per cent, with a final 25 per cent payment available at the end of a six-month exclusivity period after which the developers would be free to launch the game on rival platforms.

Under Razer, though, that fund appears to have dried up. According to developers speaking to Motherboard late last night, a contract modification was enforced ahead of the deal which exempts Razer from paying the remaining cash owed to Free The Game developers as, technically, Ouya as a company is no more. The site claims that payments owed range from $5,000 to $30,000 per company - more than enough to put a smaller developer out of business, if they were relying on that cash.

Razer has not responded to the developers' claims.
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