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Code Hero, “a game that teaches you to make games,” raised over $170,000 on Kickstarter this past February — nearly double Primer Labs’ original goal of $100,000. As the months passed, however, the campaign effectively fell apart.
Back in February, lead game developer Alex Peake promised backers “immediate access to … the Code Hero game beta,” as well as a bevy of additional rewards like t-shirts and USB sticks. By September, the team had yet to release an alpha version of the game to its backers, some of whom contributed thousands of dollars to the project.
With no word on the game beta launch date or any other promised rewards, dozens of exasperated backers pleaded for updates from the Primer Labs team. No response. Some publically requested refunds. Still nothing. Yesterday, project backer Dustin Deckard (who pledged $313 to the project) decided he’d had enough.
“A modest number of Code Hero backers have reached out to me, sharing information and requesting to be kept ‘in the loop’ with any of our collective findings,” Deckard wrote in the campaign’s comments section. “Based on what we've found (and been told) - Alex Peake seems to have run out of money after spending it recklessly, and doesn't plan on continuing with this project.
“I'm sort of desperate to be proven wrong about all of this,” he continued. “An update on the status and future of Code Hero would be more than welcome. But, should that update never come, all backers should feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The threat of legal action proved sufficiently concerning to merit a response from Peake, who issued a formal apology to backers this morning.
“I know the level of frustration some people have is high right now and that it is my fault for not communicating about our ongoing progress, but I want to reassure everyone who has backed us not to panic: Code Hero is not dead and we will not let our supporters and Kickstarter backers down,” Peake wrote in a post on Primer Labs’ website. “All our backer rewards will be delivered along with the game. It is taking longer than we hoped, but the game is becoming awesomer than we planned too. I'll post a more detailed update soon with the new alpha build and answer any questions and concerns people may have.”
No one thinks game development is easy. The world’s best game creators, indie developers and AAA studios alike, regularly miss public deadlines, but most keep their fans updated every step of the way. Crowdfunders have a responsibility to be even more transparent with their backers, who are (literally and emotionally) invested in the game’s success. Peake failed this obligation. Here’s to hoping he and Primer Labs redeem themselves.
Crowdsourcing.org reached out to Peake for more information, but he didn’t respond by the time of publication. We’ll update this article if we hear back.