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The Perils of Kickstarter: How Erik Chevalier Failed to Make a Game with $122,874

Source: Kickstarter

Since Kickstarter’s inception in 2009, many amazing projects have come to fruition through crowd funding and have left users generally happy.  Occasionally, a project may take a bit longer to produce or may miss the funding mark altogether, but for the most part it is a fantastic way to support a great item with exclusive bonuses.  Board games seem to have a huge following on the site and some have even broken the one million dollar mark (most recently Cthulhu Wars by Sandy Peterson).  With rewards come risks — and with some of those risks come great disappointment.

doom

Photo: kickstarter.com

Take, for example, the most recent failure on Kickstarter: The Doom that Came to Atlantic City.  Publisher Erik Chevalier described “Doom” as a “macabre parody of the classic game Monopoly featuring Cthulhu” with an initial funding goal of $35,000.  Within the course of thirty days, it almost quadrupled its funding — ending at a solid $122,874.  People were excited.  The game featured 8 awesome Cthulhu-inspired game tokens, amazing artwork by Lee Moyer (Starstruck comic illustrator) and Paul Komoda coupled with a superb design by Keith Baker (Dungeons and Dragons).  The Doom that Came to Atlantic City was funded successfully in June of 2012 with a slated release of November 2012.  All seemed right with the world — that is until August.

Based on the backer updates, things were troubled from the get-go with the first sign of trouble in August 2012:

“It’s taken a bit longer to get everything off to the printer than we expected. The final bits are nearly all together, meaning we are still on schedule for a pre-Christmas release. I’ll notify everyone if we run into any delays… it may take a bit longer for the pewter figurines to be produced, so they will be shipped out at a later date than the rest of your rewards. The plastic figurines in the base game are progressing along fine, it is only the pewter sets that will be delayed.”

No communication for September, but in October (one month before original release date):

“We’ve been informed that should we continue to promote the game we will come under legal fire. So we’ve gone over all the pieces and redesigned nearly all visual elements, keeping the wonderfully detailed art of Lee Moyer and Paul Komoda intact, but changing colors, layout, street names, card designs and various other bits. The game mechanics remain the same, though a similar purge was done to the text of the rule book, stripping out any possibly incriminating parody quips. This process has set us back quite a bit on our production schedule, jeopardizing our ability to get the game to you wonderful people in time for the holidays. (also:We’ve begun work on licensing games from designers whom you know and appreciate. We’re not quite ready to announce what’s on the roster, but we’re certain you’ll enjoy it.)”

Wait.  You are having trouble even starting production on your inaugural game, but you are licensing games from other designers?!  The shadiness continues into November:

“After many long conversations with lawyers I’ve decided that we’re finally moving along with a small printing of the game and all the rewards… I’m just as tired of waiting on progress as everyone else here and want to see this game released in the near future.”  At this point, the initial deadline has come and gone and December’s update is far from promising: “Just a short note to inform you that due to the legal obstacles, redesign and working through some things with various printers, the game is now scheduled for a Q1 2013 release. Expect the game and other rewards to ship in early 2013. The standalone pewter miniatures will follow shortly after as we’ve finally found someone who can make them right.”

February 2013 brings more turmoil:

“I strive to let you know everything as soon as we can. Sometimes we have to talk them over and find a solution before announcing, but I still tell you as soon as possible. There’s been a schedule change. [Our printer] had to push us back in the queue… the realistic estimate is that most games take a year to be produced and we’re basically meeting that right on. Once the factory returns from their Chinese New Year break on the 20th of this month they will dive into full production of The Doom that Came to Atlantic City. This makes for a mid-June release. There is a possibility that it could come up to a month sooner. I’m working closely with several people at the printing company to avoid any other possible issues during production. Hopefully this is the final delay.”

April was a good month, “no news is good news” according to Erik, but May wasn’t so kind to backers:

“Tonight I spoke with our printers… Schedules have slipped a bit, again, but we’re back in contact and working on bringing the game to you well before the holidays. Not quite the June release I’d really hoped to provide, we’re now looking at Q3. All rewards should be shipped together, including games, t-shirts, stickers and art prints. Pewter minis may still take longer, and may thus be shipped separately.”

June went by without a hitch, still on track for that Q3 release, but then 4 days ago via a project update:

“The project is over, the game is canceled.”

Wait. What?!  You can read Erik’s entire diatribe here and his latest here.  He claims to be in the process of refunding backers, but when I did a few simple Google searches, I found a few alarming things (note: all of this happened after the Kickstarter money was collected): Erik moved to Portland into a $2400 a month rental home, he bought a new computer and software, he bought some gear for an independent film company he started and subsequently registered.  We can speculate all we want, but it seems pretty clear that funds were misappropriated.  Not to mention he has a previous track record of not delivering when he was with Joystick Labs.

Doom

Photo: crowdsourcing.org

I feel the most for the designers and artists that worked on this game.  They received no money out of the ordeal and now run the risk of having their name associated with something unethical.  Keith Baker even posted about it on his own personal blog.  No matter what happens from all of this, there is an important takeaway — Kickstarter is for funding — it is not an online store.  Risk is always involved and projects do not always work out.  Keep that in mind next time you come across something that seems as though you just cannot pass up.

Cover image source: Kickstarter

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13 Comments on “The Perils of Kickstarter: How Erik Chevalier Failed to Make a Game with $122,874”

  1. 07/28/2013 at 1:25 AM #

    I think that was something they should’ve taken into consideration right off the bat — there are a number of unlicensed Monopoly knockoffs, but they sometimes come from fly-by-night sources. A board game might not have the same protection with the parody / satire element as a different type of medium, since it’s more a physical product — and looking at the materials, by using the exact same board layout, colors, and names as Monopoly, that was a huge red flag right there. They had to have expected the copyright / trademark holders to have some sort of response being that close to the original material.

  2. 07/28/2013 at 1:50 AM #

    Reblogged this on Motwera.

  3. 07/28/2013 at 5:48 AM #

    This is but one reason Kickstarter has already jumped the shark. My incredibly cynical view is that these people aren’t businessmen and lack essential connections, otherwise their products would find a way to the public without relying on public’s front-end support. So whether they’ve the money or not, the noblest intentions or not, they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and the result is this.

    I know this is an overly-simplistic opinion, but I’m on an iPad and typing on this is a pain in the balls.

  4. 07/28/2013 at 6:30 AM #

    Great piece and definitely something for Possible backers to keep in mind!

  5. 07/28/2013 at 3:46 PM #

    @Michael: I totally agree with you! When I looked at the original concept art, I saw that they even kept the street names the same. I mean, COME ON! Ever play Arkham Horror? There are a plethora of awesome names they could have chosen. I think the only reason this got off the ground was the words “Cthulhu” and “minis”.
    @Foogos: You couldn’t be any more correct. If someone gave me $100,000, I would have NO idea how to have a game published. I feel as though people think that money is magical and will perpetuate this whole process that actually takes hard work, planning and knowledge.

  6. 07/28/2013 at 10:48 PM #

    Excellent reporting. I’ve contributed to a few Kickstarter campaigns that are still dragging their feet on sending out rewards months after the deadline, but none of them have gone “Whoops! Canceled!” on me like this. (So far.)

  7. 07/29/2013 at 2:48 PM #

    @Randall: I will still support games via Kickstarter– this will not change that, but I will definitely have a more critical eye for things. Also, I know what you mean about missing deadlines. Sometimes I receive a game in the mail that I completely forgot that I had backed. LOL.

  8. 07/31/2013 at 8:36 AM #

    I don’t think it has quite jumped the shark yet, namely because what will replace it? The closest thing I can think of is an influx of new publishers for independent designers to pitch their games to, but Kickstarter is still the best way to go about this for now. I hope it stays that way until I’ve worked the bugs out of my game :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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