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Update: Cryptozoic Entertainment, a board games company, has decided to pick up the game and will deliver it to its backers. Polygon has the details.
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The game had raised $122,874 (initial goal was $35,000) from 1,246 backers last summer and was originally slated to ship in November 2012. As recently as last month, Chevalier had been saying the game would ship in Q3 of this year.
On Tuesday, however, Chevalier wrote a ‘Terminus’ update, stating, “the project is over, the game is canceled.”
“Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications,” Chevalier continued. “No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person.”
Chevalier didn’t specify what exactly went wrong, though he promises to write a “full post-mortem to explain every issue in greater detail.” While delays and complications may have come at any point throughout the game’s development, snippets of previous updates posted by backers in the comments mention legal obstacles. The game looks similar to Monopoly, so it’s possible the campaign raised some red flags over at Hasbro (despite Monopoly's long history of variants).
Chevalier wrote that he hopes to “eventually refund everyone fully” out of his own pocket, starting with those who pre-ordered the game after the crowdfunding campaign ended, and eventually working through to the Kickstarter backers.
The backers are not taking the cancellation lightly. Many have expressed their frustration and are threatening to take Chevalier to court.
Some are taking issue with his statements that “from the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with Doom as only our first of hopefully many projects,” and that he moved the company back to Portland (potentially with backers’ money). We couldn’t find any mention of this on the campaign page, and it’s technically against Kickstarter’s project guidelines: “Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. A project is something with a clear end, like making an album, a film, or a new game.” While it’s difficult to police this sometimes, as successful projects can lead to new businesses being created, it’s unlikely the campaign would have passed Kickstarter’s screening process if the outright goal was to use the money to create a company.
Adding fuel to the fire, a comment from ‘Mighty Rabbit Studios’ suggested that a similar situation happened in the past, when Chevalier formed a games company called Inari after receiving $20,000 from an incubator. That company folded, too. (Chevalier confirmed this in a ‘Clarification’ update yesterday, though he says that story is irrelevant.)
Another commenter, ‘Kevin Blacksheep Thompson,’ dug up an application filed by Chevalier in April to form a new company called The Suicide Pact. This has also caused some concern among backers.
In the meantime, Keith Backer, who designed the game along with Lee Moyer, put up a blog post explaining that he was not involved in the decision process, and that he was “misinformed about [the game’s] progress and… state.” Baker also announced that he and Moyer will be producing a print-and-play version of the game and getting it to backers “at no cost.”
This isn't the first time we've seen a crowdfunded project suspend development, and it's unlikely to be the last. This isn't just a crowdfunding problem, of course -- businesses fail and projects get shelved. The difference is that crowdfunded projects and companies must answer directly to the funders; as early adopters, these are often passionate fans of the project who want to see it succeed. Perhaps with a little more transparency throughout the process, Chevalier could have assuaged some of the anger now directed at him.
We’ve reached out to Chevalier to find out more about what went wrong and how he plans to move forward; we will update our readers when we hear back.