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Indie developers out thousands of dollars in OUYA-Razer deal (updated)

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Once upon a time, it looked like OUYA would be able to support itself as an independent gaming company focused on the Android-based, microconsole experience. In 2013, it even offered up $1 million to OUYA developers as part of an initiative called Free the Games Fund, which promised to match crowdfunded cash for certain OUYA projects. Dozens of developers got involved and were banking on OUYA's contributions to complete and ship their games, often tens of thousands of dollars per project. Now that Razer is officially purchasing OUYA, all of this cash is in question and the developers involved are not happy. "Razer/OUYA's insistence that these deals are gone is causing us to have to majorly restructure our plans leading up to release," one developer, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Engadget.

This developer is owed more than $30,000 from OUYA's Free the Games Fund. Razer reached out to the studio in mid-July to say the deal was off.

"We haven't talked with anyone from OUYA about this," the developer says. "Razer definitely stepped up for that part of the conversation and also insisted that we talk with them mostly on the phone. This makes me think that they might not want any of this written down."

To make matters worse, any money that this studio already received from OUYA was used to make its game compatible with OUYA. "Now that the game is likely no longer being released on the OUYA, even that money and time feels like a loss," the developer says.

"I've gone over a lot of contracts in my time and the one they sent us was just bad."

Free the Games Fund already has a rocky history. The program unraveled soon after its launch -- its rules were easily manipulated and there were few safeguards against non-legitimate developers looking to make some fast cash. OUYA overhauled the program and participating developers carried on with the assumption that Free the Games Fund would help offset some of their costs.

The above developer signed an "updated contract" with OUYA earlier this year that included a clause regarding the company's potential bankruptcy or insolvency (provided below). The clause states that either party can void the agreement if one "files a petition in bankruptcy, reorganization or similar proceeding," among other circumstances.

"From what I can tell, Ouya has made no effort as of yet to take the actions described in this section of the contract," the developer says. "Rather, Razer has simply told us they didn't purchase the part of OUYA that deals with the Free The Games fund."

The relevant clause of OUYA's Free the Games Fund contract

Another Free the Games Fund developer, who also wishes to remain anonymous, still expects to be paid as part of the initiative. That's because this studio never signed the contract.

"I've gone over a lot of contracts in my time and the one they sent us was just bad," the developer says. "On top of that, it was unnecessary; contest rules are legally binding, and we saved a copy of them. We figured that we had sufficient protection with just the contract rules and delayed on signing the contract until they stopped asking us. As of speaking to them, it seems as though we are still going to get paid, and we currently have an invoice in with them that is due in around a month. Whether or not we actually get the money due from the invoice remains to be seen, but we've got legal recourse if they fail to pay, so we suspect they will."

This money is important to both of the developers that Engadget spoke with.

"The remaining money owed from the fund is essential to us in our last stages of marketing and QA, as well as a resource for continued content updates of the game after initial release," the first, contract-signed developer says.

We've reached out to Razer and OUYA for comment or clarification on Free the Games Fund going forward and will update if either responds.

Update: Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan tells Polygon that the company will honor all payments due to developers as part of the Free the Games Fund. That's more than $600,000 total, the site reports. Tan said he didn't realize that OUYA had outstanding debts to developers.

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