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The Doom that came to Doom
July 25, 2013 6:15 AM   Subscribe

The Doom that Came to Atlantic City was billed as something of a Monopoly meets Cthulhu. It was a Kickstarter that got great reviews and raised over $120K. Then, suddenly, it was over.

The cancellation of the project came as an unpleasant surprise to the game's creators, and the company that was supposed to produce it is basically forced to ask "please don't sue us." The announcement is not going over well.

Other troubled Kickstarters.
posted by graymouser (100 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I almost made a post about this. It's such a messed up story.

The people I feel the worst for are the designers. It sounds like the guy running the KS campaign (Erik) pretty much took the money and ran. He used it to relocate his residence, start a company, and basically all sorts of things completely unrelated to actually fulfilling the Kickstarter -- and he did this (apparently) without the game design team's knowledge. Now, they're stuck with a bunch of people who associate them and the game they spent years designing with this awful con-man, when they are losing out just as much as everyone else.

There's a lot of calls for legal action against this guy, and I support them wholeheartedly. Kickstarter can be an amazing platform, and this sort of thing is thankfully pretty rare, but ultimately the community and the platform's potential as a whole are damaged when people commit this sort of fraud.
posted by tocts at 6:27 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, that's the risk part of the investment equation - not every investment is going to pan out, and not every result is going to meet expectations.

I wonder what the ratio of delivered product vs. gone bust kickstarters is compared to regular ol' investment capital is? (Angels, VC, partnerships, etc.)

Seat-of-my-pants estimation indicates they have a better track record of getting product onto the market, but less success with creating viable long-term business operations (this includes outfits that are bought out by larger firms.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was really close to backing this, but didn't commit because of the cost.

Sad to see such a cool project break down, but just another sign that Kickstarter is still a very volatile environment. I've backed ~40 projects (around 50% have delivered, the rest still in-progress, haven't been burned yet) and every time I still force myself to acknowledge that I'm not actually buying a product, you're investing in people who can very possibly fail.

And there's a new transparency to the development process too, which I find really interesting, but can also be a little scary. Do I want to hear about each new delay and tangle as it appears? I'm not sure, but now I get the progress reports straight to my email.
posted by mean cheez at 6:30 AM on July 25, 2013


Kickstarter is an amazing platform for projects of passion. Where one person, or a tiny team, are working on something they've dreamed about doing.

The minute it becomes just another way to do business it becomes a new vector for the shadiest type of sleazy dudes looking to separate people from their money. My kickstarter activity has dropped *drastically* the last 18 months or so. I'll still happily back stuff I believe in, but convincing me to believe is just flat getting harder.
posted by DigDoug at 6:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


It seems more like gross incompetency than malicious fraud to me. Can you still sue for that sort of thing? It says that kickstarter TOS require him to refund each backer. If he actually does that, then there's nothing else they could sue for, correct?
posted by Think_Long at 6:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kickstarter always strikes me as being heavily mythologized - like, "all it takes to do a complex project is money and a dream!!!" and "we can ipso facto do things better than the Big Guys, with their infrastructure, institutional memory and connections". When actually, if you're a Big Guy you have a lot more resources for getting things back on track or absorbing a failure than do a couple of people with $50,000. Not that some great things haven't come out of kickstarter, but it seems like a great place for your basic Capitalist-Candide to get in over his head.
posted by Frowner at 6:34 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


now I get the progress reports straight to my email

I don't know details about kickstarter...are you able to opt out after you invest? Ie, do the emails inform any of your future decisions or are they just there to make you anxious?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:35 AM on July 25, 2013


It seems more like gross incompetency than malicious fraud to me. Can you still sue for that sort of thing? It says that kickstarter TOS require him to refund each backer. If he actually does that, then there's nothing else they could sue for, correct?

If he actually does that. Which he says he's going to, but will take his time about. TBH if he really wanted to take the money and run the way ti do that would be to just put off the release date indefinitely and never actually ship anything.
posted by Artw at 6:37 AM on July 25, 2013


It seems more like gross incompetency than malicious fraud to me. Can you still sue for that sort of thing? It says that kickstarter TOS require him to refund each backer. If he actually does that, then there's nothing else they could sue for, correct?

Yeah, ditto. Has he come forward with any accounting costs for this thing? Because it seems entirely possible to me to blow $120K on reasonable seeming things, and inadvertantly get snookered for a bunch of it out of inexperience and naïveté. I mean, maybe the guy blew the majority of the funding on personal expenses and brand building, but if he was trying to source custom plastic/pewter figures and shipping prototypes back and forth and hiring designers and lawyers, I can see where the money could get blown pretty easily.
posted by Diablevert at 6:37 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dear Sandy Petersen,

If something like what happened to The Doom that Came to Atlantic City happens to Cthulhu Wars, I will personally come to Texas and mess with it.

yrs in R'lyeh
r i b

ps - ITHAQUA 4 FROZEN LIFE
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:40 AM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


When actually, if you're a Big Guy you have a lot more resources for getting things back on track or absorbing a failure than do a couple of people with $50,000.

People seem to love the Kickstarter "success" stories where someone raises hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond their original goal but to me it seems like those would be the ones you should be most worried about. Running a company that ships 1,000 units is very different from one that ships 10,000 or 50,000 and I imagine lots of these folks have never done anything like that before and also never had that much money at their disposal (and as their responsibility).
posted by ghharr at 6:41 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


What gets me is that it's such an obvious riff off of the Monopoly board, and even parody wasn't going to cover that. If he didn't know that he had no business starting this. And no one else working on the project mentioned it? Urgh.
posted by tilde at 6:41 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it possible to limit a Kickstarter to goal funds only? If you want $50k, can you shut down once you have that cash?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Less than 3% of projects involve outright failure or fraud. 75% are late. The bigger the project or overfunding, the later you are.

My paper on this.

SSRN is temporarily down. Link should work when it is back up.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:44 AM on July 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


You can limit the number of awards at a tier, so theoretically if you wanted to print 500 of something you could just limit the tier that gives you a copy of it to 500.
posted by Artw at 6:45 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This morning, after reading the comments about reporting me to the Oregon Department of Justice, I contacted them and explained the situation in great detail. While they gave no promises their agent didn't feel that I'd committed any fraud. I am going to provide them with more information and work with them to see what I need to do to make this right in their eyes.

Chainsmoking detective: "The doom that came to what?"

Angry board game geek: "To Atlanta!"

Chainsmoking detective: "And you kicked it?"

Angry board game geek: "NO! It was on kickstarter!"

Chainsmoking detective: "And it's a board game. Like Monopoly?"

Angry board game geek: "Monopoly mixed with Cthulu, sort of a roll-and-play dred-horror type thing, with a healthy dose of Lovecraft Mythology and-"

Chainsmoking detective: "8 days until my retirement, Christ."
posted by Think_Long at 6:46 AM on July 25, 2013 [26 favorites]


This sucks for the people who donated money into something that never came to fruition, but that is the risk of investing.

I know I'd be pissed to donate money into something I felt was being misrepresented, especially if I was expecting a home brew version of a game and found out someone was trying to start a company (with all the additional requirements and legalities) off of this.

From a company standpoint, speaking as someone who has a job where part of my duties are to bring new product to market... even with my existing contacts in logistics and Asia and support staff here, $100,000 is an amount that is a certain "doomed to fail" on a product being led by an inexperienced and idealistic person that promises pewter, 4-color printing, let alone software and the other projects.

Seems to me that Erik started too big, with too many ideas, and because he wanted all the accolades (and profit) he refused to share ownership and input with anyone else, so there was no one to call into question his poor decisions. Once he realized it midway through, it was too late, he was backed into a corner and folded. I would doubt Erik is tooling around in a Porsche and eating at Chez Scamme.

I have non-company kids' product ideas from time to time, and the thing that stops me from acting on these is the required $250,000 minimum even using my existing contacts. These aren't even complicated things, they range from knick knacks to variations on existing items. Mold charges, MOQ (Minimum Order Quantities), Testing (Chemicals), Logistics, Warehouse Charges, plus overhead would eat up $100,000 in about 3 weeks.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:46 AM on July 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


Less than 3% of projects involve outright failure. 76% are late.

Umm... wow. That beats VC like an old tin drum.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I still get cheerful emails about when the first comic I ever Kickstarted will be delivered. Many other projects have come and gone since then. If anything the Cthulhu/RPG folk have been best at actually delivering, though I've only backed stuff that could be produced by relatively standard print jobs and wasn't a complex set of pieces or anything - I suspect that's something that puts your chances of failure way up.
posted by Artw at 6:49 AM on July 25, 2013


Kickstarter has been so amazing for the comics industry that I sometimes forget there are total flakey scam projects - although those usually don't get funded.

KS operates on trust, and to secure this trust, perpetuators of fraud such as this should be punished to within the full extent the law allows.
posted by The Whelk at 6:49 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Late or "late"?
posted by Artw at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2013


( seriously I cannot overstate how amazing KS has been for comics, it's single handedly revitalized whole genres, it's kind of unbelievable.)
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is there really a legal option here for backers? If Erik violates Kickstarter's terms of use then Kickstarter can ban him or something, but is there any legal precedent for the backers suing to get their money refunded?
posted by mediareport at 6:50 AM on July 25, 2013


Is it possible to limit a Kickstarter to goal funds only? If you want $50k, can you shut down once you have that cash?

I seem to remember a discussion of this back during one of the super-successful hardware projects. Apparently the legal setup is keyed to the date, you can't end a project early as a 'success' and collect money.
posted by DigDoug at 6:52 AM on July 25, 2013


Umm... wow. That beats VC like an old tin drum.

Well, the goal of VC is to make a pile of money and the goal of Kickstarter is to get things created. I would guess most of the successful Kickstarters are making little or no monetary profit (except for Kickstarter itself). Which is fine, since that's not the point.
posted by ghharr at 6:53 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


What gets me is that it's such an obvious riff off of the Monopoly board, and even parody wasn't going to cover that. If he didn't know that he had no business starting this. And no one else working on the project mentioned it? Urgh.

I think you might be surprised, actually.

You can't copyright game mechanics, and the patents related to Monopoly have long since expired. The only things covered by Parker Brothers' copyright of Monopoly are their specific wording of the rules, and the actual graphics used. They also have a trademark on the name "Monopoly" (there's a long and sordid history there), but this game didn't use that word or any variant of it in its name.

It's actually pretty unlikely that they would have had a leg to stand on if they brought suit. Best case, they could argue something about the shape of the board, but given that there are a number of unlicensed "[Word]-opoly" games that exist and haven't been sued, it seems unlikely.
posted by tocts at 6:54 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's mainly the logistics and fear of not being able to handle the logistics that prevents me KSing a comics project. That and you basically have to devote your life to promoting it.
posted by Artw at 6:55 AM on July 25, 2013


I've only backed one Kickstarter that failed to get funded, but was pretty happen when I got an email while at Comic Con that not only had the dude pressed on with the project, but he had a backpack full of completed figures and was wandering the exhibit hall floor.

That sort of thing makes me more likely to back his future projects and think better of Kickstarter in general. Thanks for posting this story, though, as it does lower my faith in the business model a bit which is just the sort of thing I need when it's Friday night and I have a bottle of wine and the Kickstarter page open in front of me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems to me that Erik started too big, with too many ideas

And the inexperience, too! I realize Kickstarter is supposed to be democratizing the production of stuff like this, but project creators really need to have at least a tiny clue about the costs and challenges involved in making product before they start asking for money.

This is probably antithetical to the Kickstarter culture in general, but I feel that potential backers need to consider not only the product being promoted but the bona fides of the creator as well. If I promise you a brand new widget that is going to revolutionize widget-dom worldwide, you'd be checking out my background to make sure I have some clue about how widgets get made and the costs involved. If this is really "investing" your money, you've got to do the due diligence.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:56 AM on July 25, 2013


You can't copyright game mechanics,

Really? Is that how we come to have both Scrabble and Words with Friends?
posted by Think_Long at 6:57 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I personally didn't get burned on this one, but nearly did on Dwimmermount until the author's unpaid partners basically forced him to turn something in and release it open source so that they could deliver on the rewards. It's got me to the point where I only back things where I know the people behind it have successfully delivered products, which is really a shame since I think it's supposed to be the opposite way.
posted by graymouser at 6:58 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[itsallaboutme]

I've kickstarted two physical things, one of those was a board game and one was an artsy craftsy thing, and five things that aren't physical aka video games.

The board game delivered a bit late, although the bonus expansion for the board game is still in the works, although recently renewed activity indicates it will ship sometime this decade.

The video games were mostly as described, if late, with two (Wastelands 2 and The Banner Saga) still in the works. They are usually attributing the cause of the delay to the whole "more and better features because we were overfunded" so I'm actually ok with that in general.

The artsy craftsy thing, and very small scale, item was delivered on time and as expected and promptly eaten by the dog.

[/itsallaboutme]

So yea, seems to square with the general notion that most are late and few fail outright. Thankfully I've been lucky so far because I fully expect refunds to be slow, very slow, in coming.. if not outright impossible.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:58 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> To: Erik Chevalier, CEO, Forked Path, Co.
> From: Azathoth, Nyarlathotep and Hastur, Elder Attorneys...
posted by hat_eater at 6:59 AM on July 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


My understanding is that you can't copyright game RULES or MECHANICS, but you can TRADEMARK your board setup. That's why, for example, Words with Friends and Scrabble have the same rules but wildly different play spaces.

This is the only project so far that I've backed where the guy is acting really borderline. He's started up his business and been selling his individual stuff on his site and at cons for months and months, but backers still haven't gotten a single damn thing.
posted by absalom at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2013


Really? Is that how we come to have both Scrabble and Words with Friends?

Pretty much, yes. It's also why Scrabble and Words With Friends boards are different. There is a trademark on the specific Scrabble board graphics and layout (complete with where the multipliers are), and that could actually be something you could sue over (is my layman's understanding). But, there can't be a copyright on "there's a grid where you put down lettered tiles to make up words".

I've kickstarted two physical things, one of those was a board game

Oh hey, I didn't realize Farmageddon was yours. I backed that! Very fun game, always a big hit at gatherings. Looking forward to future projects :)
posted by tocts at 7:02 AM on July 25, 2013


Seems to me that Erik started too big, with too many ideas

This seems like a pretty generous way to take a dude who lied several times in updates ("It's at the printers!" type stuff) and has cut and run on a kickstarter before. Everything I've read makes him out to be a scummy thief.
posted by graventy at 7:03 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize Farmageddon was yours.

Whoa, not mine, not mine! I just backed it. Forgive any ambiguity in my phrasing above.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:03 AM on July 25, 2013


Idea: Words with Fiends
posted by Artw at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whoa, not mine, not mine! I just backed it. Forgive any ambiguity in my phrasing above.

Ahh, whoops, sorry about that, my mis-read. You never know, things like this happen on mefi.
posted by tocts at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ars has a neat writeup about another KS success - Shadowrun. It's due out later this week.

squee!!!!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems more like gross incompetency than malicious fraud to me.

Well, this part does seem a little strange:

The collapse of the Kickstarter is bad enough, but the real anger seems to be reserved for Chevalier's statement that the goal wasn't actually to make the game at all, but to make a game company. "From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom that Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects," he wrote. "Everyone involved agreed on this."

The trouble with that claim is that the Kickstarter pitch video completely contradicts it. In it, [artist] Moyer talks about the 20-year evolution of the game, and nothing else...And while he specifically cites the participation of Baker and sculptor Paul Komoda, Chevalier's name isn't mentioned once.


If it's true, as Chevalier now says, that "from the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds," but the original Kickstarter didn't mention that (or Chevalier) then at least a couple of questions about possible fraud seem worth asking.
posted by mediareport at 7:06 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Idea: Words with Fiends

You want summoning rituals? This is how you get summoning rituals!
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 AM on July 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


If it's true, as Chevalier now says, that "from the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds," but the original Kickstarter didn't mention that (or Chevalier) then at least a couple of questions about possible fraud seem worth asking.

Not only are there questions of fraud, but that statement directly contradicts Kickstarter's own TOS. Kickstarter projects are required to be actual projects -- something with a defined goal that can be achieved. Starting a company falls well outside of the allowed purposes of a Kickstarter project. (It can be a side-effect, but it can't be the purpose.)

I know Kickstarter doesn't do refunds, but I do wonder if they would try to go after this guy for having run a project under false pretenses. If he had stated what you quoted in the original submission, his project would have been rejected during Kickstarter's review process.
posted by tocts at 7:14 AM on July 25, 2013


You want summoning rituals? This is how you get summoning rituals!

Never call up anything you cannot put down in 4 letters.
posted by Artw at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Idea: Words with Fiends

Surely, MeTa fits the bill....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:17 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Idea: Words with Fiends

Each player places down a letter tile trying to spell one of the Unspeakable Names of Dread belonging to one of the Eldritch Entities that hovers silently above the ouiji-like screen. Players do not know the names they are trying to spell, just how many letters are in each and the number of vowels in each. So if ZALGOTH is near, you detect a 7(2) Entity. Letters glow and crackle as they are dragged closer to letters they match up with (glow indicates 'part of a name' crackles arc between letters that should be next to each other).

Players may also attempt to place Warding Lines that can break up a name. Whoever completes a Warding Line into a full Warding Circle wins the ability to be the only one allowed to place letters in that space - although each Circle can hold no more Letters than the number of lines used to make it.

Players may also create Words of Power, all of which are 3 letters long and have one vowel. A Word of Power is used to rearrange letters placed in incomplete names (A), cycle unplayed letters (E), break Wards (I), divine letter order for names (O), and remove letters from the board (U) based on the vowel used.

The winner is the player who has accumulated the most Dread Names when either all have been named or a player succumbs to madness.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [34 favorites]


that statement directly contradicts Kickstarter's own TOS. Kickstarter projects are required to be actual projects

It may be that "from the beginning" means "once we realized we'd raised $87,000 more than the $35,000 we initially asked for."
posted by mediareport at 7:25 AM on July 25, 2013


I thought the winner was the player who is prevented by merciful death from witnessing the gruesome destruction of human civilization and indeed the human race itself.
posted by No-sword at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kickstarter Idea: A website where people can post links to other websites. It will be a sort of filter for the web, in a very meta way. Also: snark!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:32 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know Kickstarter doesn't do refunds, but I do wonder if they would try to go after this guy for having run a project under false pretenses.

What possible benefit would they derive from this? KS won't go after this guy any more than etsy goes after resellers.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:32 AM on July 25, 2013


I'm a backer of this Kickstarter and I long ago gave up any hope of seeing this actually happen. I figured it was due to incompetent planning, but I'm not surprised by the scammy behaviour of this Chevalier dude. That's why I only backed a level that I felt comfortable losing money on. Kickstarter is essentially like gambling.

It's a shame, because the game looked and sounded like fun. I heard a rumor going around in the wake of the cancellation that the actual game designers & artists (also burned by Chevalier) are trying to at least get a print & play version out for backers.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:39 AM on July 25, 2013


Some interesting game theory there. Legal action means there will be no refunds, but he gets punished. Then again, there might not be refunds anyway.
posted by michaelh at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2013


KingEdRa: that's actually mentioned in Keith Baker's link above ("an unpleasant surprise" link).
posted by graymouser at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2013


The Forking Path Co. is absolutely liable for paying $122,874 to the backers of this project. The rules are very clear: "Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill." There's no exception for "we spent the money already" or "my basic costs of living". 100% refund. Unfortunately the Kickstater ToS have no clear rules on how backers are going to collect the debt owed them, or what a reasonable repayment schedule is. And the whole thing is too new for us to see how it will play out in practice.

Taking Erik Chevalier's statement at face value; they fucked up. No fraud, just overambition and flawed execution. This happens frequently with new endeavors. It's unfortunate he's left holding the bag. Maybe he was smart and Forking Path is an LLC and all the liability is sequestered to that company; if so, he can walk away. His message makes it sound like he's going to personally find a new job, save some money, and slowly pay people back. That seem unrealistic, but honorable to at least try.

In every Kickstarter discussion someone brings up the word "investment". It's the wrong word to use. Kickstarter is a pre-purchase system, not an investment system. "Investment" implies the investors have some potential up-side for taking the risk of giving someone their money. Bond interest, stock appreciation, 100x returns from the lucky VC investment. Kickstarter projects have no upside, all the backer gets is the promise of a product delivery. That's why the refund policy is appropriate.
posted by Nelson at 7:47 AM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is there really a legal option here for backers? If Erik violates Kickstarter's terms of use then Kickstarter can ban him or something, but is there any legal precedent for the backers suing to get their money refunded?

I think it would depend on KS's terms of service whether they could put something together that would get them past the courthouse door, but practically, what would be the point? Dude spent the money. We've abolished debtor's prison. Occasionally people have their wages garnished to pay off debts, but in the extremely unlikely event that some judge ruled that would be an appropriate remedy here, dude doesn't even have a job right now.
posted by Diablevert at 7:48 AM on July 25, 2013


The Forking Path Co. is absolutely liable for paying $122,874 to the backers of this project. The rules are very clear

Yeah, they're "liable" to the Kickstarter rules if they ever want to use Kickstarter again. But are they likely to be found liable in court? Seems doubtful, but I'd love to hear from a lawyer in the field.
posted by mediareport at 7:51 AM on July 25, 2013


I'd love to hear a lawyer's opinion too. Kickstarter itself is too new, but there's a lot of precedent in US law protecting consumers from shady pre-order deals.

Anyway, Erik Chevalier himself admits The Forking Path's liability: "As a project creator here I owe, per my contractual obligations with Kickstarter's ToS, the listed rewards or a full refund, nothing more or less." ... " I've publicly promised to repay EVERY backer because that is my obligation per the Kickstarter Terms of Service."

To me the most important legal question now is whether The Forking Path is itself a proper corporation and whether it's the owner of the Kickstarter funds and subsequent liability. A lot of Kickstarter projects are created by individuals; that's a terrible idea if more than a few thousand bucks are at risk.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2013


He didn't "just" try to start a company. There's a whole paragraph of unrelated stuff he spent the money on in the "please don't sue" link.


The company I started was meant to provide a framework for supporting The Doom that Came to Atlantic City with how-to-play videos, supplementary add-ons, and general customer support. The software licensed was needed to process art for press and do layout of elements such as the rulebook. The laptop used to edit the original pitch video could barely handle the high resolution files from the game's creator, so I upgraded to a desktop computer that could deal with it. The move back to Portland from California was multi-pronged, but mainly in order to work in a less expensive and more supportive community that I felt would benefit the company, and by extension its customers, in time.


He started a company, bought himself stuff and moved with the money.
posted by anti social order at 7:56 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, that's the risk part of the investment equation

Doesn't Kickstarter go to great pains to say that you are not making an investment and they are not a platform for investments, etc.? You are supporting someone and getting a reward. It's not an investment!
posted by kenko at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing is that the game was done before the Kickstarter. Someone at Wired got a prototype and played it over a year ago.

Erik wasn't designing the game or creating any art, that was all done by others (who I gather haven't been paid) before the Kickstarter. $100,000 later he has literally nothing to show for it.

He hasn't even been able to point to any expenses related to the game that cost more than a few hundred bucks which is suggestive.
posted by justkevin at 8:17 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm currently working on a large, complex project (and many MeFites helped me beta test an iteration of it, well over a year ago) and have decided to hold off on crowdfunding until its base is super solid, and possibly look to crowdfunding when it has an audience and a following and I know, for sure, that I have the infrastructure to deliver on what I'm raising money to do.

I feel perpetually like I'm missing the wave -- that Kickstarter has crested, and since I've been faced with delay after delay on this project, I'm going to miss the crowdfunding bubble entirely and be left with a public that's even more cynical and skeptical than they were a few years ago when the time comes to actually try to implement a well-planned, well-structured attempt to turn a good thing into a great thing.

It's frustrating -- the feeling that taking more time, and dumping my personal money into this project is shutting me out of an opportunity to possibly get a lot more cash up front and drive a much bigger, better thing. But I don't want to fuck it up because it's something I care about; possibly, if it ever takes off, my Life's Work. I don't want to blow it by overcommitting, but I feel like I'm blowing it by not grabbing for the brass ring now.
posted by Shepherd at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't want to blow it by overcommitting, but I feel like I'm blowing it by not grabbing for the brass ring now.

I know exactly how you feel. I'm in very nearly the same boat; I have a boardgame concept I've been developing for some time, playtesting, refining, etc. I could have put it up for crowdfunding a year ago, but I frankly didn't feel like I was ready. I don't want to put myself in a position where I would end up with something below my own expectations of quality, or beyond my ability to deliver -- and it's not even that complex a game!

Ultimately, though, I think that good projects will continue to be funded. It may not be as crazy as it has been in the past, but that's OK -- I don't need to fund 10x my goal. I almost wouldn't want to. I just need there to still be a solid community of people who are willing to fund projects that put forth realistic plans and achievable rewards.

That's what I keep telling myself, at least.
posted by tocts at 8:27 AM on July 25, 2013


This is why I only donate to kickstarters where I know the creator's work and even if I don't get anything I can still feel good about having supported someone who has given me joy in the past.

But yeah Cthulhu Wars better happen or ima go cat of Ulthar on everyone.
posted by winna at 8:54 AM on July 25, 2013


just put off the release date indefinitely and never actually ship anything.

Vision impaired ferret amusement methodology?

there's nothing else they could sue for, correct?

You can sue for any reason you want. See Perda law. You run the risk of fines and if lawyers take the case, they run the risk of bar grievances over their actions.

But yes - after you have been made whole, the case is over from a civil POV.

If you have over $20 taken and its across State borders - you can take him to FedCourt ($400 I believe). Case law needs to be established somehow so that future fraudsters think twice somehow. Perhaps this incident will become the case used. One can take the crap shoot of sending a tort letter (postage) letting the future defendant understand they can pay or be sued. Then spend the filing fee ($400 or is it $200?) and pay a US Marshall to serve him ($150?) and remind him in the tort letter that he'll be on the hook for court fees once you do file and you do win.

If you go pro-se and he buys a lawyer for Federal Court - he's looking at $20,000-$40,000. Your possible downside is his legal fees.

For fun,type in your fraudsters name into PACER and see what shows up. Its possible he's done this before. (PACER account can be $0 pay if you never generate more than $15 a quarter in paperwork)
posted by rough ashlar at 9:00 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This has been all over my facebook, as a number of my RPG/boardgaming friends had kicked in for it. Folks are not happy.

I've only put in for RPG stuff where I know the people and/or have a track record, with one exception: I think I put in $15 or $25 for FATE dice. Those are way behind, and may not be made, but it was money I was willing to burn.

I also put in for kickstarters (and Pledgemusic) of albums of bands I know. Most of them run late, but they do generally show up.
posted by immlass at 9:03 AM on July 25, 2013


Boardgames still seem to be going gangbusters on Kickstarter. I've only backed a couple, but there's people in my weekly game group who've backed dozens and show no sign of stopping. So I don't think you need worry about missing the wave if the game looks good and the Kickstarter campaign is put together smartly.

(What works for me: well-made introductory video, gameplay video, good components, reasonable international postage.)

No doubt it helps that boardgame Kickstarters seem to go well most of the time. I suspect the community is so small, and designing boardgames such a labour of love, that it tends to attract people who genuinely want to get their product out there. The only one I've heard of where the creator up and disappeared with the money was Odin's Raven.
posted by Georgina at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you have over $20 taken and its across State borders - you can take him to FedCourt ($400 I believe). Case law needs to be established somehow so that future fraudsters think twice somehow. Perhaps this incident will become the case used. One can take the crap shoot of sending a tort letter (postage) letting the future defendant understand they can pay or be sued. Then spend the filing fee ($400 or is it $200?) and pay a US Marshall to serve him ($150?) and remind him in the tort letter that he'll be on the hook for court fees once you do file and you do win.

If only there was a way to crowdsource funding for such an endeavor...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:09 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to miss the crowdfunding bubble entirely

Don't worry - there will be another bubble inflating.

Oh look.

(JOBS) Jumpstart Our Business Startups.

and be left with a public that's even more cynical and skeptical than they were a few years ago

Don't worry, the public fleecing and hiding behind the corrupt, ineffective court system will just move that along combined with too big to fail and things like no speeding tickets for lawmakers will keep working hard to have the citizens believe less and less in the rule of law and justice being blind.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2013


What irritates me about Kickstarter is the apparently now standard practice of using KS to generate enough interest to get through the prototype phase, then basically pause the project, go line up commercial contracts and/or commence direct preorder sales on a company website, only then stand up production, and then start fulfilling the commercial contracts or direct preorders before the backers get their rewards.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:11 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shepherd: "I'm currently working on a large, complex project (and many MeFites helped me beta test an iteration of it, well over a year ago) and have decided to hold off on crowdfunding until its base is super solid, and possibly look to crowdfunding when it has an audience and a following and I know, for sure, that I have the infrastructure to deliver on what I'm raising money to do. "

Based on your location, it's a bit of a haul for you, but we have a local convention for game designers. They don't have this year's panels up, but last year they had two Kickstarter panels. It looks like you're not the only one trying to figure out the timing of things.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:20 AM on July 25, 2013


If only there was a way to crowdsource funding for such an endeavor..

Doing it on the cheap:

1) Retired lawyers who no longer needs/cares about their bar card helps with the paperwork. Having the citations and a more or less slam dunk of a tort out of the gate is important. If you are entertaining this sue idea - do get the case law legwork done 1st.
1a) Paralegal
1b) Gaming law student
2) Someone who invested $20+ and is otherwise broke so they can file informirus pauperous (whatever the latin is for I'm broke)
2a) Said broke person buys someone elses $20+ investment debt (might be a big assed stretch
on that one, may not be possible under Kickstart and hard to defend the charge "you bought this debt just to sue")
3) Send the tort letter - see if you get paid.
4) File in FedCourt. For added crowd sourced fun, have more than 1 party file a similar action in the same FedCourt so that the staff see that this is a wide-spread matter and they opt to turn it over to the criminal division for further investigation.
5) If it gets this far - Discovery! (Now the fun begins)

Step 1 can be done right now - crowdsource the contract legal language and the fraud/tort caselaw that supports/does not support the matter. You can see that happen here on The Blue with threads about car searches or parts of the Snowden issue.

Additional pathway:

Your local Grand Jury. One State only has Grand Juries if the Judge gets a complaint and opts for option number 2 - form a Grand Jury. If the Judge opts for #1 - they file the complaint with the Clerk of the Courts. The Judge has no power to just send the paperwork back. Consider reading the various State laws and see how a grand Jury gets formed and how you, the citizen, can go to that Grand Jury for a true or no bill. Let 'the government' do its job of enforcing the laws.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


graymouser: "I personally didn't get burned on this one, but nearly did on Dwimmermount until the author's unpaid partners basically forced him to turn something in and release it open source so that they could deliver on the rewards."

Can you fill in the backstory? I used to read Grognardia, Maliszewski's blog, but he stopped updating, and it was hard to piece together what was going on from vituperative threads on RPG boards.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2013


Starting with those who've pre-ordered after the Kickstarter campaign through our webstore, then I'll begin working my way through the backer list, starting with those who funded at the highest levels

Hm, I guess people who paid $2500 or $1000 might be more likely to look into legal options. However, the $9000 it would take to refund the 11 people who paid $500 or more could be used to refund the 163 basic-tier backers.
posted by ersatz at 10:03 AM on July 25, 2013


Since this sees like the thread for it, here is my official Kickstarter advice.

As background, I am one of the few academics who has studied the topic. I have been the industry expert in lots of news articles and other forums. This is based on work that has either been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, or else will be:

Fraud and Kickstarter As I mentioned upthread, fraud is really rare. There is a reason the same few projects keep coming up as examples of fraud. Numbers are less than 4% across all categories for actual fraud/non-delivery, or less than 1% of the total money invested. Large fraudulent projects are generally detected because enough people look at the project, meaning that someone will have the expertise to spot an issue. It is the same reason why MeFi is so fun - on any topic, there is a good chance that an actual expert will show up. Be more wary of small sketchy projects than big ones. Again, expect your reward to come very late, 75% of them are.

What makes a good project The best projects are dreams of a particular online community made real. There is a built-in constituency, potential for a runaway "viral hit" and built-in error checking, for these sorts of projects. That is why boardgames, video games, etc. do so well.

How to succeed at crowdfunding
The crowd is generally pretty smart, and they look at things that your would hope investors look for in a company. Your chance of success goes up if your team has experience, if you have outside endorsements, if you show prototypes, if you provide a good video and update frequently. Your chances go down 13% if you make a spelling error. Social network size highly predicts success. Large projects succeed less than small ones, and overfunding is rare - ask for what you need, don't expect to raise much more.

Why it matters Guess what percent of tech companies with VC backing have female cofounders.... seriously, guess:

1.6%! That is just terribly disheartening (some other studies have put the number as high as 6%, but they are generally optimistic), especially as women make up 40% of business owners.

Among larger (>$5k) projects in the tech space, 21% of successful projects have female cofounders. Being a woman has no statistical bearing on outcomes (16% of proposed projects have female cofounders). Crowdfunding opens up funding to many new ideas and people that otherwise would have trouble doing so. It is a really cool concept, and I worry about people like the one in the thread messing it up for everyone.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:31 AM on July 25, 2013 [140 favorites]


The other thing to note is that he seems to have not come forward until after the content creators, Keith and Lee, lawyered up.

This whole thing is heartbreaking.
posted by corb at 10:40 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you fill in the backstory? I used to read Grognardia, Maliszewski's blog, but he stopped updating, and it was hard to piece together what was going on from vituperative threads on RPG boards.

James did the Kickstarter based on the dungeon he developed for several years, and posted actual play reports on his blog. Since James couldn't run a Kickstarter from Canada at the time, he enlisted Tavis Allison of Autarch Games (the Adventurer Conqueror King guys) to run the Kickstarter. He put it up with aggressively optimistic target dates, and it got funded in April 2012. Tavis gave James all the money. James then promptly didn't update a thing on the Kickstarter until June, when the PDFs were already supposed to be done. He dragged a bit but was doing some development, until July when he disappeared from view again. At that point Tavis basically had to start doing project management and James did several months' worth of consistent work.

Then, James's father had another health crisis after the draft was complete (12/14/12) but not revised, and disappeared for a month (until 1/16/13 when he made brief contact with Autarch). Then he went and didn't contact Autarch again for another month and a half. In March 2013 Tavis got James to hand the money back and sign a contract making Dwimmermount and his blog posts about it open gaming content. Since then Tavis has been running the show and slowly moving towards getting a physical product out - they were trying to get the Labyrinth Lord version out for Gen Con but will miss it, and are supposed to give us an update sometime today, actually. (Until March the product fulfillment was reliant on James; after March it shifted to Autarch.)

In the meantime, Dwimmermount became known as a total fiasco and James's reputation - which he had spent four years building - was totally destroyed. Tavis and Autarch have presumably lost money, considering they gave all backers coupons for money off their products, but they're responsive and serious about delivering a final product. The problem was that James really was in a position to keep the money, deliver nothing and leave Autarch holding the bag, which to be fair he didn't actually do in the long run.
posted by graymouser at 10:50 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) Retired lawyers who no longer needs/cares about their bar card helps with the paperwork. Having the citations and a more or less slam dunk of a tort out of the gate is important. If you are entertaining this sue idea - do get the case law legwork done 1st.
1a) Paralegal
1b) Gaming law student
2) Someone who invested $20+ and is otherwise broke so they can file informirus pauperous (whatever the latin is for I'm broke)
2a) Said broke person buys someone elses $20+ investment debt (might be a big assed stretch
on that one, may not be possible under Kickstart and hard to defend the charge "you bought this debt just to sue")
3) Send the tort letter - see if you get paid.
4) File in FedCourt. For added crowd sourced fun, have more than 1 party file a similar action in the same FedCourt so that the staff see that this is a wide-spread matter and they opt to turn it over to the criminal division for further investigation.
5) If it gets this far - Discovery! (Now the fun begins)


Do not listen to this. A paralegal cannot help you with a filing--many of the above described actions are illegal. A "gaming law" student cannot assist you without supervision from a barred attorney.

Additional pathway:

Your local Grand Jury. One State only has Grand Juries if the Judge gets a complaint and opts for option number 2 - form a Grand Jury. If the Judge opts for #1 - they file the complaint with the Clerk of the Courts. The Judge has no power to just send the paperwork back. Consider reading the various State laws and see how a grand Jury gets formed and how you, the citizen, can go to that Grand Jury for a true or no bill. Let 'the government' do its job of enforcing the laws.


This makes no sense.

Please, if you feel you have been the victim of fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch or a competent attorney in your jurisdiction. If you do it wrong, you may incur legal liabilities yourself.

Other possible sources are local law schools who have programs for their students. These are supervised by barred attorneys.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 AM on July 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, that's the risk part of the investment equation - not every investment is going to pan out, and not every result is going to meet expectations.

I wonder what the ratio of delivered product vs. gone bust kickstarters is compared to regular ol' investment capital is? (Angels, VC, partnerships, etc.)

Seat-of-my-pants estimation indicates they have a better track record of getting product onto the market, but less success with creating viable long-term business operations (this includes outfits that are bought out by larger firms.)


This drives me crazy. The reason investors take risks is because they stand to earn dividends. Giving money to a Kickstarter campaign is *not* an investment. You are buying a product, plain and simple. You stand to earn no money. Kickstarter's genius was in making people *feel* like investors when they're really just shopping. (Not Kickstarter-ist.)
posted by nosila at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Giving money to a Kickstarter campaign is *not* an investment.

Agreed.

You are buying a product, plain and simple

Well, no, not really. You can't shop for things that don't exist yet. As a kid --- don't know if this is still true --- I was told that the difference between the Boy Scout oath and the Girl Scout oath is that the Boy Scouts promise to do, and the Girl Scouts promise to try. Kickstarter's the Girl Scounts. There's many a slip twist spoon and lip, and when people are trying to create brand new things a bunch of them are going to fuck up and fail. Hopefully the most risky projects are filtered out by failing to fund, but you're always going to get some that just don't work for whatever reason, and a lot if them won't hit that point until they've spent a bunch of money. Plenty if things that work in prototype don't scale.
posted by Diablevert at 11:53 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Giving money to a Kickstarter campaign is *not* an investment. You are buying a product, plain and simple.

Your first assertion is true. Your second is not (and does not follow from the first).

Kickstarter pledges are not investments, but neither are they purchases. There are many successful, non-fraudulent Kickstarters whose end result is not a product for anyone to own, but simply the completion of a creative project. This shows up a lot in theater, dance, music, etc. They frequently either don't produce anything tangible, or produce at best some small thank-you trinket, with the majority of the money going towards a performance.

The only thing a person running a Kickstarter is obligated to produce is what's specified in the rewards. While it is true that for some categories, the rewards usually include a physical product (or a digital one), that's not a requirement for creating a Kickstarter. You are completely within the TOS to run a Kickstarter to fund a creative project, while having all of the reward tiers be "You'll get many thanks from me". Granted, you probably won't get funded (people like tangible rewards, even if they're just trinkets), but it's within the TOS.

Personally, I don't put any money towards a Kickstarter that I wouldn't be comfortable losing. I've backed about 50 in the last year, and of those, not a single one has ended up not fulfilling. The majority have either already been fulfilled (often late), or are on track to do so (again, often late). Lateness, and bad project management, are significantly more likely than outright fraud. Still, I'm interested to see how this pans out, because I'd prefer that cases like this end in serious enough repercussions that others aren't tempted to follow in its footsteps.
posted by tocts at 11:54 AM on July 25, 2013


Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder why people keep giving money to projects run through this site.

While people who can't get their money back are essentially screwed, I'm still wondering why Kickstarter can't simply keep funds in escrow and refund people (minus any escrow/merchant fees), if projects have to be cancelled.

They could well stand to do a bit more to earn their cut, I'd think.

Like software publishing, Kickstarter as a web site is already up and running, so there is minimal additional cost to running another site for a project that might fail. If the project is funded and the ones running it are ready to go with documented expenses, the funds are released from escrow. Everyone is happy.

It would minimize risk for the investor and minimize ill will in the community of investors. That minimizes the hurt for Kickstarter's brand, in the long term.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on July 25, 2013


when people are trying to create brand new things a bunch of them are going to fuck up and fail

Yup. And the rules of Kickstarter, the promise to me as a backer, is that if the creator fucks up and does not deliver as promised then I get a full refund. We all understand that's not realistic. But Kickstarter continues to say it, it's the rules they've defined in their almost-a-marketplace. They need to figure out how to more realistically adminster risky projects as the business matures. They made a significantly good step towards this last year (see Kickstarter is not a store), but it's not complete.

I'm still wondering why Kickstarter can't simply keep funds in escrow

Because that way Kickstarter would become a party to the transaction. They don't want that, they want to remain like eBay and above the business dealings between the customers they match. Also the Kickstarter funds are generally intended to be spent during project development. That's part of why the refund promise is so ridiculous; it's impossible for many creators to fulfill.

I love Kickstarter, I love the type of product development it enables, I think it's all very exciting. But there's a bunch of bad news coming in the next year or two on the tails of all the hype and multi-million dollar "successes". It's going to get ugly, and how Kickstarter handles the challenge will make or break their business.
posted by Nelson at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder why people keep giving money to projects run through this site.

While doing this wondering, are you taking into account just how rare actual fraud on Kickstarter seems to be, and how many totally normal projects there are for every one bad one that makes the news?

There have been over 45,000 successfully funded Kickstarters projects (and nearing 60,000 that have failed to fund). Despite this, the number of actual, honest-to-god, high-profile cases of fraud or major scandal is very, very low.

This particular story is notable precisely because it is so abnormal. Only about 1.6% of projects actually raise more than $100,000. Above, 'blahblahblah' linked to his/her own paper, which shows that the rate of non-fulfillment is about 4%. So here we have a perfect storm of one of the very few projects that raised anything close to this kind of money, and what appears to be fraud (or at the very least massive mismanagement, though I'm skeptical that could be the case myself).

It's very interesting, yes, and there's certainly a lot of PR at stake to see how this pans out, but what, exactly, is the solution you are proposing really going to solve? As the old adage goes, hard cases make bad law. There's not a lot to be gained by Kickstarter to try to make sweeping changes to how they do things to prevent what so far seems to be a pretty low-likelihood occurrence.
posted by tocts at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2013


Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder why people keep giving money to projects run through this site.

I noted above that I've unfortunately stopped contributing to Kickstarters that aren't run by someone who is already established and has released quality products.

While people who can't get their money back are essentially screwed, I'm still wondering why Kickstarter can't simply keep funds in escrow and refund people (minus any escrow/merchant fees), if projects have to be cancelled.

How exactly would that work? At least in theory the funds are operational funds for creating something. If you need $5000 to produce a physical product how can they hold that $5K in escrow? Kickstarter isn't project managing these things; in many cases the tragedy is that nobody is project managing them.
posted by graymouser at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2013


Your first assertion is true. Your second is not (and does not follow from the first).

You're right especially wrt artistic endeavors. I was specifically thinking of Kickstarter projects like this, the Pebble, etc., which are simply pre-selling products.
posted by nosila at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2013


"Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder why people keep giving money to projects run through this site."

That's kind of like saying that after every man-bites-dog story, you wonder why people still own dogs.
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


This guy clearly took the money and has zero to show for it. I feel sorry for the two folks who actually designed the game.

I've found that the more over-funded a Kickstarter project is, the higher the probability that delivery of perks and products will be delayed or have problems. I've seen a number of projects over the past two years where the project creators got bogged down after deciding to add features not originally specified at the time of funding, or continually "tweak" features that then result in delay after delay.

Looking through my 57-project backing history, some examples:
Honey Badger BBQ sauce: first run had bacterial problems. Had to send out new batch months later. (can't really blame this on them, but the production facility)
Electricity | The Life Story of NIKOLA TESLA: "The perk you chose is out of production, if you want something equivalent you'll have to send me more money". Nope.
L8 SmartLight The SoundLess Speaker: "Ooops, we forgot about CE/FCC certification..."
NeuroDreamer sleep mask: "Oops, battery problem." Funded July '12, finally shipped June '13
Ouya: ETA was March '13, finally delivered in June.
HexBright flashlight - funded July '11, delivered Feb. '13.
IronBuds earbuds: Funded Aug. '11, sent "freebie" 3-piece earbuds Sep. '12, now they're trying to get a $15K loan to produce the 6-piece earbuds that were originally promised as rewards.

The projects that I've seen with the quickest "fulfillment" and so forth? Custom sets of playing cards.
posted by mrbill at 1:39 PM on July 25, 2013


I didn't realize the Ouya has finally been shipped. Impressions?
posted by Think_Long at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there's a good market for an ebook just of interviews of funded kickstarters that failed to deliver. Kickstopped: Project Post-mortems and the lessons we learned.

Who wants to support my kickstarter for my book??
posted by Think_Long at 1:52 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the Ouya actually hit retail in the past few days too. Initial impressions from an afternoon fiddling with it about a month ago: "this will be really awesome once they tweak and improve the software a bit". I've not had time to mess with it after the initial unboxing and couple hours of gameplay. I got the same feeling/impression from my Leap Motion controller when it arrived yesterday, as well.
posted by mrbill at 2:24 PM on July 25, 2013


They don't want that, they want to remain like eBay and above the business dealings between the customers they match

Their business model may be in for a shock if the good will ever runs out, but they've weathered it all so far. Perhaps they can monetize the risk by offering insurance for a meager fee, make a few more bucks and still cover people who lose their investment. Sounds like a possible Kickstarter project...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2013


Giving money to a Kickstarter campaign is *not* an investment. You are buying a product, plain and simple.

The first part is true -- you're unlikely to get any ROI other than the thank-you reward for the pledge you made. But the second is not always true -- I think I've only "purchased a product" twice. I've helped start a brewery and a small publishing company and finance a couple of movies and an expanded pattern book and some reprints of OOP books. Sure, I've gotten some books and a beer glass, but those weren't the point. (WRT to male/female, I think that only one of the campaigns I've supported had no women on it. Then again, most of the campaigns I've supported have been no more than three people.)

My kids have been playing DaughterR's Ouya, and it's got some hardware problems -- the USB socket kept overheating and eventually died (MrR thinks it was a soldering problem, exacerbated by the proximity of the HDMI socket, which may or may not be a design problem -- we'll see when the replacement console shows up) -- but it seems to be a pretty good thing.
posted by jlkr at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2013


Who needs Kickstarter? You can have the exact same experience without giving 10% to a middleman.

See, every time I read an article like this, I take a look to see how close my OpenPandora unit is to shipping.

They took pre-orders to fund the initial production round, and then a combination of supplier issues and plain old poor management ruined their chances with the initial production run. Then followed a saga of needing more money, more poor management, getting production running but selling the units to new purchasers (instead of fulfilling pre-orders) to get cash flow, the whole schemozzle. Last time I checked they were slowly sending out units to the original orderers using whatever profit can be generated by new sales.

So I gave 'em my money in Feb 2009 and perhaps in the next year or so I'll get a device that would have kicked arse if they'd delivered it in mid '09 as originally promised.
posted by russm at 6:16 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been involved with two Kickstarter projects, both as a vendor. One of them shipped a month late but has been getting great reviews, and I'm proud to have been involved with it. (And if sales keep growing I might get hired for an expanded edition!)

The other was in process for three freaking years (sure it was stop-motion animation, but still), and I only got brought in at "the last moment" to do work which was discarded at the "real" last moment. As far as I know it still hasn't shipped. *shrug*

If Kickstarter hadn't been involved I think both projects would be in the same position right now.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2013


I'm surprised there isn't a "good" unofficial guide to Kickstarting right.

I wish I were a more influential blogger or had the guts to poke celbs on Twitter to make them look at some of the really cool projects out there. A friend linked one yesterday that's like Scrabble, but the game play is different enough (the board; might need changing) that I can totally see their "Scrabble but for numbers" game taking off as a board game. But they aren't even halfway to their goal. :( I've mentioned it to my teacher friends (It's super cheap and really really awesome) but I don't expect it will succeed.

Most of my others have gone well - late or CRAZY late (especially the SJ Ogre project) but I don't think any of them I came away with empty handed except maybe InstaCube.
posted by tilde at 6:02 AM on July 26, 2013


Every time I read one of these stories, I wonder why people keep giving money to projects run through this site.

This is one of the best answers to that question: The best projects are dreams of a particular online community made real.

I've sponsored a few projects, mostly niche web comics and interactive fiction games of artists whose work I've followed for years. These are people who's work I have admired, who I want to support and encourage, but who have been doing the awesome things they do as hobbies or side jobs or barely scraping by pros, with very few mechanisms for me to support them directly.

Kickstarter is partly a way to validate their past contributions, to say "We think you're great!" to your favourite artist. It is, of course, also the way to fund dream projects, the way to support someone to put their full attention into creating the thing they've been talking about for years, but been unable to do because of practical concerns like needing to eat.

When these seemingly minor projects blow past their goals, like the Order of the Stick one did, raising something like 20x the ask, that's what's happening. The creators have past records of accomplishment, and a smallish, but loyal, fanbase.

These communities existed pre-Kickstarter, of course, but were hard to access financially. Geography and banking regulations make micro-fundraising very difficult. Go into any on-line community that has the potential to monetize or partially monetize a project and you'll find the creators swearing about micro-payment schemes and PayPal in particular. People have been trying to make these sorts of group fundraisers work for almost two decades now, since the early days of Usenet. Kickstarter is the first to be really successful at it.
posted by bonehead at 8:38 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got the same feeling/impression from my Leap Motion controller when it arrived yesterday, as well.

Mine showed up yesterday, and I have the same impression. The mouse drivers, especially, need some work (both on the tracking, and on the gestures used).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:04 AM on July 26, 2013


That's kind of like saying that after every man-bites-dog story, you wonder why people still own dogs.

To bite them.
posted by squinty at 11:14 AM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've backed 12+ projects, and all but one have come through as promised. The one that didn't was a similar story (though it was a much smaller project with much less money on the line) - it was a cookbook, everything that could go wrong did, and she offered to start refunding people in dribs and drabs. It's disappointing, but, well, it's also Kickstarter.

On the other side of things, I ran a Kickstarter about year ago (warning: self-link to my kickstarter project: Defcon YUM!) that was successful. Our estimated time vs delivery time was about a month off (estimated in September, delivered in October), which we were pretty pleased with.

Most interesting, though, was someone trying to game the system from the other side. One of our backers received her reward, reviewed it 5/5 stars on our site, and then two months later initiated a dispute with Amazon, claiming that the reward was not as described. We fought it and were rather clearly in the right, but it still cost us $10 to fight, which was pretty crappy.
posted by firei at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2013


It seems that Doom has had a reprieve of sorts - though Forked Path is still toast, the game is going to be released and sent to all the KS backers who are owed games, independently of any refund from the Kickstarter. This isn't the original company making good but a third party that the designers have made an agreement with, contingent on them getting the game to the KS backers. Probably as good of an outcome as we could have hoped for at this point.
posted by graymouser at 1:05 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


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