Eric Johnson

Recent Posts by Eric Johnson

Embattled Game Developer Has “Strong Suspicions” About Who Sank His Kickstarter Campaign

elementaryOn Friday, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter suspended the project for Elementary, My Dear Holmes. As a result, its developer Victory Square Games withdrew from Ouya’s Kickstarter-matching contest, the Free The Games Fund, and began seeking alternative funding from venture capital.

But Victory Square CEO Sam Chandola isn’t done just yet. In a blog post addressed to “all our Kickstarter backers,” Chandola re-asserts that he and his studio had nothing to do with the suspicious backers who put his project under scrutiny. After noticing that some of his project’s backers looked “fishy,” he writes, “I reported my own project to Kickstarter because I did not want anything to do with any shady matter.” He continues to say:

Some people allege that I have a hand to play in this. That I orchestrated the whole campaign. That I am an evil overlord who laughs like a maniac in the middle of the work day to scare all our employees. Those people have a right to their opinions. You’ve probably heard me saying this to the media, but I want to say this to you personally as well: Not me, nor anyone at Victory Square Games did anything to astroturf our project. We did not do it ourselves, we did not pay anyone to do it, we did not ask anyone to do it. If we had, I would not have reported my own project.

The strength of Chandola’s wording hints at just how much of a “huge drain” the Ouya-Kickstarter controversy has been for him, as he wrote in an email last week.

But the story’s not over, and he knows it. Why did Elementary get suspended while the other scrutinized project, Gridiron Thunder, finished its campaign today? Does the suspension mean that Kickstarter is considering a change to its policies, as it did last year when it began requiring project creators to list risks and challenges in their project descriptions?

A Kickstarter spokesperson did not respond to either of these questions via email, but did reply to say that since backers’ money is never processed until a project’s end, no money ever changed hands around Elementary, My Dear Holmes. I have updated my story from Friday to make note of that fact.

In his blog post, Chandola said Kickstarter “does not comment on suspensions,” but he has his suspicions.

Do I know what vile sorcery is this? Do I know who tried to make us look like shit and succeeded? No, I don’t. I wish I did. Do I have my suspicions on whom I think did it? Yes, I do. But they are suspicions. Strong suspicions, but suspicions nonetheless. And I will not make claims based purely on suspicions.

All of which amounts to a bit of a tease, but it seems the fallout from this controversy has just begun.

Incidentally, with $171,009 raised as of the end of its campaign yesterday, Gridiron Thunder is currently the only game eligible for matching funds under the terms of Ouya’s contest, which requires projects to both succeed and surpass $50,000 in funds raised from Kickstarter. That means that if no other game can raise that much, its developer MogoTXT stands to make $442,018 (including the $100,000 bonus Ouya has promised to the top fundraiser) thanks to the contributions of just 183 backers.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work