Backers of the The Doom That Came to Atlantic City boardgame Kickstarter are learning a harsh lesson about crowd-funding: there's always a risk that the project you put money into will fail miserably. Eurogamer chronicled the epic failure of this popular Kickstarter-funded board game in an extensive report this morning. Last spring the board game garnered $122,874 worth of attention – well over the paltry $35,000 developers were asking for. Everything seemed grand. But thirteen months later, the project has been canceled and the game's developer, The Forking Path, says that it has run out of money.
"The project is over, the game is canceled," wrote project lead Erik Chevalier in a Kickstarter update. "Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications. No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person."
Someone involved in the project made all the funding disappear, but no one associated with the board game seems to be able to give a definitive answer as to what it was spent on. Chevalier claims that some of it went to form the company, to make miniature statues, on buying software licenses, hiring artists for rule book design and art, and paying down expenses related to a move to Portland.
Funders probably don't recall the appeal to help the company pay for a move to Portland in the Kickstarter pitch, nor do they remember agreeing to pay for forming a company. They wanted a board game… Chevalier said later in an update today that this move was a business decision based on Portland's lower cost of living.
"The move back to Portland from California was multi-pronged, but mainly in order to work in a less expensive and more supportive community that I felt would benefit the company, and by extension its customers, in time," he explained.
He also said that he has spent a lot of time looking for outside investment, but no one was interested. Chevalier also attempted to deflect anger at his colleagues concerning the failure of the board game:
"Lee [Moyer, artist] and Keith [Baker, game designer] were not directly involved in this decision," and "Keith has only ever done amazing work in getting this made and can't be blamed in any way for its downfall."
Baker agrees with Chevalier's statement, noting that he is not a part of Forking Path. He also notes on his blog that he never received any funds from the Kickstarter, nor did Lee Moyer.
"I would like to make one thing crystal clear. Lee Moyer and Keith Baker are not part of the Forking Path," he wrote on his blog. "Neither one of us received any of the funds raised by the Kickstarter or presales. I haven't received any form of payment for this game. Lee and I were not involved in the decisions that brought about the end of this project, and we were misinformed about its progress and the state of the game."
Baker also seems to be confused with where all the money went:
"When Lee and I first heard this news from Erik, it came as a shock," Baker wrote. "We've been working on this game for over a decade… Based on the information we'd been receiving from the Forking Path we believed that the game was in production. It's a personal and financial blow to both of us, but what concerns Lee and I is that people who believed in our work and put their faith in this Kickstarter have been let down."
"Lee and I don't know exactly how the money was spent, why the backers were misled, what challenges were faced or what drove the decisions that led to the cancellation of the game," Baker added. "Not only did we not make any money from the game, we have actually lost money; as soon as we learned the true state of affairs, we engaged a lawyer to compel The Forking Path to come forward to the backers and to honor its pledge to issue refunds.
Baker and Moyer will continue to make a print-and-play version of the game, though Baker notes that players will have to use their own "cardstock and paper, and we can't produce the amazing miniatures sculpted by Paul Komoda."
But the worst part of the story is that Chevalier promises to "eventually refund everyone fully." Eventually. That is because the terms of service on Kickstarter stipulate a repayment if a project is cancelled. As for legal action against Chevalier, he doesn't seem all that worried because, he notes that "you can't draw blood from a stone." You know what else you can't get from a stone? Answers.
Chevalier promises a future update on the Kickstarter page to explain in detail what happened with the project.