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Quantum – When Kickstarters Fail to Deliver

About two and a half years ago, I funded my first Kickstarter.  It was for an ambitious project that had grown out of the author’s experience with Pathfinder, and it promised to blend science fiction and fantasy in Lovecraft influenced post-collapse setting inside a barbaric Dyson Sphere.  The artwork was fantastic, and the first draft PDF’s had a solid ‘work in progress’ system that was coming together.  The game was to be called Quantum.

I figure that the whole ‘two and a half years’ marker has already hinted where this post is going.  Yesterday, I got the most recent update from the Kickstarter creator, bleakly informing the backers that, despite having a good portion of the work on the game done, the project was dead in the water.  The author had worked steadily on it for a year and a half, fought with the primary artist, and ended up having to take a new job to be able to support himself as he tried to get everything in line.

A good portion of the blame was lain at the feet of the artist, whose inability to meet deadlines seemed to cripple the forward motion of the book.  Otherwise, a strange bout of epiphany was cited as being responsible for a rewrite on the project, delaying the beta from being released around Thanksgiving of last year.  The author slowed his Kickstarter updates, as the new job kept him from having much time, and only now has he given up and thrown in the towel.

The backer rage has been fascinating to watch from the sidelines.  I’d thrown in some $40 for the game, and while I could lament that money being gone, when it could have funded some other element of my library, I’m not going to stamp my feet and cry to the heavens.  And to be honest, less than 10% of the people funding it spent over $100 toward the project.  I have the feeling that most of the white knuckled, spittle flecked frenzy that has taken over the Kickstarter comment thread is dominated by those people that lost real money.  I’m simply not invested enough, financially or emotionally, to get that upset about it.

The announcement comes at the heels of another failed Kickstarter, namely the Asylum Playing Cards project, whose creators have been named in a consumer protection lawsuit for failing to deliver a product.

This whole debacle, in terms of both the Asylum guys and Quantum, speaks to the determination of the fanbase and whether or not they’re willing to hold the company’s feet to the fire or not.  Personally, I’ve backed Onyx Path projects, time and again, and blowing through delivery deadlines is so commonplace with that crowd that I find these other instances to be properly ridiculous in comparison.

Let’s compare for a second, shall we?

The Asylum Playing Cards Kickstarter was funded exactly one day before the Werewolf 20th Anniversary book.  As yet, there is still $60,000 worth of Werewolf product that verifiably has not been received, along with however many of the damaged and lost books are still waiting for delivery.  And this is for a book that was completely written at the time of the Kickstarter launch, which promised about a one month turnaround for delivery, back in 2012.  There have been no lawsuits filed on behalf of the Werewolf backers, and the responses on the Kickstarter comment thread tend towards fawning admiration at the blown deadlines and empty promises.  In the mean time, the $25,000 worth of Asylum cards that are a crime against humanity.  And Onyx Path continues to build out Kickstarters.  And their fanboys continue to fund them, knowing full well that they’re being lied to.

The difference on a lot of this is that the guy in charge of the Asylum project just stopped updating his backers.  The same thing happened with Quantum, even though it became immediately evident that there were crippling delays that couldn’t easily be overcome.  Onyx Path, in the mean time, continues to put out regular updates that are either mostly content free or shills for more money.  (They run a brisk trade in t-shirts, it turns out.)

In the mean time, the Quantum Comment Threads have exploded in a series of angry tirades against the creator, various calls for refunds or accounting of the Kickstarter funds, and threats of legal action.  The occasional inquiry about seeing the work in progress is drowned out in the calls for vengeance, as most of the people who want to comment are doing so to try to drum up names on a criminal complaint.

I’m of two minds on this whole affair.  On one hand, the bottom line of a Kickstarter project has always been that it’s not a guarantee of success, even if the project funds adequately.  The lawsuit against the Asylum guys seems to broadly indicate that the legal boilerplate to that effect may be challenged, even though it has yet to resolve in the courts as to whether the liability will hold.  When I put my money down on the project, it was with the understanding that there was risk involved.  I had the money available, thought it sounded interesting and walked away.

On the other hand, I’d just like to have a book out of this whole mess.

But the reality is that all of the outrage regarding this whole affair is going to accomplish nothing.  The project funded on $42K worth of backing, which falls squarely in the realm of ‘impossible to pay back’ now that it’s been deemed as a dead project.  The best that’s likely to come from any of these complaints is that some sort of criminal case will be brought, the creator will have to file bankruptcy in response, and no one will be any closer to actually receiving a product.  How this helps is utterly beyond me, so I’ve avoided stirring the pot in the various forums that are in the midst of discussing it right now.

There are the occasioned offers of assistance, but they’re mostly lost in the sea of bitterness.  At this point, I’m going to assume that there will be nothing of positive consequence to come out of the whole deal from this point forward, so I’m going to wash my hands of it and not worry about it.  The $40 that I’m unlikely to see resolution about certainly isn’t worth trying to ruin someone’s life over.

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