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.
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.
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