All is not right in the world of crowdfunding. For every massive critical success like Shovel Knight or Divinity: Original Sin, there are numerous games or game-related projects that disappoint, under-deliver, or, as has become scarily common, take people's money and never make what they promised in the first place.
One of last week's biggest stories was the struggle of Godus, Peter Molyneux's undercooked strategy game that raised ~800,000 on Kickstarter in late 2012. But at least that game came out, even if it was unfinished and disappointing to most backers. There are other Kickstarters, both big and small, that have gone MIA or taken years longer than originally promised.
We've put together a list of 12 game-related Kickstarter projects that took people's money but never quite delivered. The combined total: $2,098,967. We plan to continue shining a light on crowdfunded projects that never come to fruition, so e-mail me if you'd like to share any.
Funded: April 6, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: May 2012
It's unclear why Aura Tactics—which promised to be a tactical RPG with asynchronous multiplayer—disappeared with over $11,000, but their last Kickstarter update was in January of 2013. In November 2013, creator Douglas Miller wrote a comment saying that members of the team had been laid off and were looking for new work. At the time, Miller promised that the game was not cancelled, but a year and a half later, it's MIA. The creators didn't respond to a request for comment.
Funded: December 7, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: May 2013
The LA Game Space—envisioned as "a place for discovering the potential of video games" that would host exhibitions, stream games, and facilitate indie development—still doesn't exist, at least in the physical realm. The organization is active, hosting the occasional gaming event in Los Angeles, but nearly two years after the estimated delivery date, they have yet to open a physical location. The folks behind the project say they've given out 99% of promised rewards to backers, but the company's last update on the status of the physical game space was in September 2013, calling it a "work-in-progress."
When reached by Kotaku, the creators said they had run into unexpected problems:
The launch of our permanent space has been delayed. Institution-building is a lot of work and can take a long time, and the reasons are usually boring to the public. Still, we are proud of everything that LA Game Space has already delivered, enthusiastic about our upcoming events, and still working towards the launch of a permanent physical space.
Funded: February 24, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: February 2012
This one sounded so promising. Code Hero—a game that promised it'd teach you how to make games—blew through over $170,000 by December of 2012, leaving backers angry and incredulous. Project creator Alex Peake told me at the time that he was still working on the game, but it's still MIA. The most recent update, from April 2014, starts off with a note from the project coordinator saying he's quitting. Peake didn't respond to a request for comment.
Funded: March 26, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: June 2012
This is the only book on what is otherwise a game-focused list, but it's worth noting here because its creator, Stephen Toulouse, spent many years working as the face of security for Xbox Live. Toulouse, a well-known figure in gaming, said backers would receive soft- or hard-cover editions of the book based on what they had pledged, but three years later, he has yet to release it.
When reached by Kotaku, Toulouse sent the following statement:
I have offered and given a refund to anyone who asked, provided more content in the form of short stories and a full length comedy album free of charge (mine was done long before "stretch goals, etc") than the size of the original project, and yes, am still working on the final text.
Funded: May 14, 2014
Estimated Delivery Date: October 2014
The domain for Shining Empire appears to no longer work, which is probably a bad sign. Project creator Robby Mulvany hasn't posted an update on his ambitious retro-style RPG since last June, and backers are currently trying to figure out how to get refunds on what they believe to be a dead project. Mulvany didn't respond to a request for comment.
Funded: February 13, 2013
Estimated Delivery Date: August 2013
After raising over $78,000 for his rogue-like procedural strategy game at the beginning of 2013, project lead Joe Houston wrote in January 2014 that his family had been struggling with medical issues and that they had run out of money to complete the project. Houston says the game is still happening, but backers have been frustrated at the lack of updates over the past year.
When reached by Kotaku yesterday, Houston said the game is still in production:
Although the project was always tight (we had ambitious goals and a small budget) everything changed when my daughter and my wife were diagnosed with long term medical conditions. In addition to my family requiring my full attention and support, as a US citizen I was squeezed by a healthcare system that is hostile to independents. The US affordable healthcare act helped some in the final stages, but not by enough.
Development on the game has actually continued ever since that last project update, but the situation is undeniably different. I was fortunate to find a fulltime games job that respected my creative property (and had real health insurance), but like anyone squeezed by work, family, and a difficult situation I haven't had as much time for my creative pursuits as I would like. I spent all of last year collaborating with another programmer to help make my time go farther, and this year I'm optimistic as the health situation in my family has stabilized somewhat. It is slow going, but there is something about this game that keeps me and all the old collaborators coming back.
This is clearly a different situation than any of us expected when our project met its initial funding goal, which is why I opened a round of refunds a year ago with the last project update. I plan to post further updates if and when I am confident that I can deliver something of worth. I take my commitments to everyone in my life seriously (including the original backers), and I want to be as sure as I can that I don't make promises that I cannot keep. I am especially grateful to the vast majority of backers that extended words of support during the worst part of my family crisis. Despite all the press to the contrary lately, there are good gamers out there and I am grateful that I can continue to make games for them in whatever way I can.
Funded: June 5, 2013
Estimated Delivery Date: November 2013
The last update for Sam Hutcher's Moon Rift—"an RPG platform shooter" with randomly-generated levels—was in October of 2013. Since then, the website has been taken down, the game is nowhere to be found, and at least one backer is hoping to sue. Hutcher didn't respond to requests for comment.
Funded: May 6, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: December 2012
This one's a doozy. A group of YouTube personalities called the Yogscast put together a Kickstarter campaign, raised over half a million dollars, and then abruptly announced that the game had been cancelled following a number of conflicts between Yogscast's Lewis Brindley and developer Kris Vale. A cautionary tale in Kickstarter funding.
Funded: July 7, 2013
Estimated Delivery Date: Jan 2015
Billed as a spiritual successor to SOCOM helmed by the original creator of those old shooters, David Sears, the H-Hour project was remarkably successful, raising a quarter million dollars. The most recent real update, from April 2014, is a dismal monologue from Sears about how difficult it's been to fund the project. And today, rumor suggests that Sears has left the team entirely. Reps for the game did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE (3:38pm): As has been pointed out by several readers, the people behind H-Hour have been posting regular updates on their website rather than on the Kickstarter page. Though Sears is indeed no longer on the project, the game has entered alpha and at least appears to be making progress, unlike the other projects on this list. We apologize for the error.
Funded: July 9, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: February 2013
Author Neal Stephenson's Kickstarter—which promised to "revolutionize" sword-fighting in video games—raised over half a million. But it's dead. Said Stephenson when it was officially cancelled late last year:
Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the CLANG prototype and the other donor rewards as promised. The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn't very fun to play. This is for various reasons. Some of these were beyond our control. Others are my responsibility in that I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment.
Funded: July 10, 2012
Estimated Delivery Date: October 2012
Rival Threads, a promising (and beautiful) 2D game that raised close to $25,000 back in 2012, never came to fruition. In April of 2014, developer Leonardo Molar wrote that his action-RPG project was "temporarily on hold" and that they'd be offering refunds to backers. When reached for comment, Molar sent over an extremely long statement that you can read here. In short:
I can only ask people to stay patient. I can't promise anything any longer because this has become much bigger than me. Our initial estimates were based on my personal experience of making games, but as the team grew and the quality with it, the further and further that estimate got pushed back. It is now a big unknown. One thing's for certain, as long as I'm running the group, I won't let things completely fall apart and we won't sacrifice and rush our personal work for a quick buck. I might have become a bit too ambitious with the things we've involved ourselves in and in a way became a traitor to our own goals… but I regret nothing, we've made a lot of good friends and we've learned and grown a lot and picked up a thing or two along the way.
From being merely pedestrians trying to make a game, to actually knowing what we're doing and wanting to achieve bigger things than what we set out to do in the first place. Everything we've learned and experienced will be reflected in the game, it'll be a much more well executed, polished and enjoyable experience, everyone wins. It's been a very painful and unique journey and we're not even halfway there, I'm sure most of your readers have never even heard of us, but we're hoping to change that within the next few years.
Funded: June 6, 2013
Estimated Delivery Date: May 2014
Perhaps the most infamous Kickstarter on the list, The Stomping Land was released on Steam Early Access in May of 2014 before developer Alex "Jig" Fundora went radio silent and apparently stopped working on the ambitious dinosaur game. Just last month, artist Vlad Konstantinov announced that he had quit the project after his messages to Fundora went unreturned, and backers are furious. It's unclear why The Stomping Land—which is buggy and incomplete—is still on Steam today after being pulled last September for a lack of updates. Fundora didn't return a request for comment.