When a Failed Kickstarter Becomes a Scam
Earlier in the week I vented some frustration about a Kickstarter campaign I’d backed which had gone south. Communication between creator and backer had broken down, the state of the project was dubious at best and backers were taking out their frustrations on each other.
Well…the good news is that the backers are feeling quite unified, but that’s only because we have a common enemy. Project creator Space Goat Productions and CEO Shon Bury have dug themselves into a pit and the simple act of making an ‘Evil Dead 2’ board game has morphed into a scam.
First up, I’ll make it clear that I don’t know what has happened behind the scenes of the company. I also firmly believe that they set out with the best intentions – they wanted to make this game and deliver it to fans. Then they made some mistakes and instead of being upfront they dug themselves in deeper and deeper.
If you saw the previous article, you’d know that backers of Space Goat’s three successful but undelivered Kickstarter projects were already unhappy. The biggest concern was that they didn’t seem to be making progress despite being more than a year overdue on delivery and didn’t seem interested in answering questions. Within a few hours of the previous article the shit well and truly hit the fan.
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, Shon Bury is asking that we give him more money. Yes, he took our money and gave us squat in return and would like some more money. We know the game is late in getting to backers but it’s not like they have NO money left, right?
They have no money. They collected close to a MILLION DOLLARS from public supports and have nothing to show for it. If Shon doesn’t get enough new people to give them money then the company goes under and the games never get finished.
There are two things to unpack here: what happened to the money and what is Shon Bury offering new investors into his company? To answer the last question first, nothing. It’s presented as an investment opportunity, like stocks you could sell or trade. But that’s not the case. You get SAFE, an investment that earns you rewards like (wait for it) 25% of your next board game purchase (which never got made) or part of a play test group! Regardless of how much success Shon Bury sees on the back of your money, you will not profit from it.
A quick glance at the wefunder investment page will reveal that Shon Bury is not above lying to people either. There is much in the way of smoke and mirrors where he tries to hide the fact that Space Goat Productions has NOT made the projects they got investments for or that they’re almost bankrupt.
What is this ‘market’ they’re talking about? These games have never seen the light of day.
As we said before, the ripped-off backers are feeling a bit more unified. The wefunder page as been flooded with warnings for future victims of this crook and demands for answers. Kickstarter creators are obliged to provide information about production and the use of their money by the platform’s terms and conditions, but in the ongoing silence from Shon Bury they have taken to this new space with gusto.
And Shon Bury has responded! And then deleted his response!
As you can see, Shon Bury considers the funding provided by Kickstarter backers to have been ‘earned’ by the end of the campaign and doesn’t feel obliged to follow up because sometimes Kickstarters don’t work out. For many you have just Shon Bury for the first time and, yes, he looks like someone who spends his free time scraping up roadkill, putting it in tuppleware and storing it in his freezer.
One creative backer circumvented the shutting down of communication channels (Twitter deleted, Facebook bans for backers, ignoring emails, etc.) and managed to get hold of Bury’s cell phone number and gave him a phone call. His report indicate that after asking Shon to answer some questions about the project Shon screamed abuse and obscenities while accusing the backer of being a ‘troll trying to sabotage my company’ before hanging up.
Wow, hostilities from this guy:
Who would have thought?!
Anyway, on to the second question – what happened to the backer money? They raised more than enough to get the game made. In fact they claim that it’s the highest earning horror board game on Kickstarter! (By the way that’s another outright lie – ‘Zombicide’, ‘Deep Madness’…there are plenty of higher earners.)
The story doing the rounds is two-fold. Firstly, rumour around the gaming community is that Space Goat Productions paid way too much for their second board game license – ‘The Terminator’. The current belief among backers – and there has been some evidence to suggest this may be true – is that Shon Bury took the money from the ‘Evil Dead 2’ Kickstarter and used it to buy his ‘Terminator’ rights with the intention of using the “earnings” from that campaign to put both games into production.
Yeah. Although ‘The Terminator’ had some interesting mechanics it didn’t perform nearly as well as ‘Evil Dead 2’. This is perhaps in part because they hadn’t yet delivered on their first game and this was their first time working with board games.
If the story is true and Space Goat Productions DID put the ED2 money into obtaining this license then this is a major, major set back and could be the beginning of the end. A bad gamble that could’ve been avoided if Shon Bury hadn’t misappropriated public funding to further his own company. It’s no wonder they rushed out a third Kickstarter, a collection of Evil Dead comics (their original and more successful enterprise). Something they could deliver with ease and could help get everything back on their feet.
They haven’t delivered it though. Points for consistency.
Then there’s ‘Game Buds’, an original title they were developing for future crowd funding. Some former backers claimed to have evidence that Shon Bury used the ED2 and Terminator funds to develop this game, but Bury gave him an unrequested refund to shut him up.
That was a pretty big red flag right there.
So where do we stand? The backers are out a combined total of almost a million dollars. We don’t know what happened to it but we do know that it’s been squandered by Shon Bury. He’s cutting all communication with his investors and pushing to bring in new suckers. This effort includes sending out press released to industry bloggers, but existing backers have wasted no time in commenting on all appearances of this release to warn people away.
Yes, even though these push backs makes it more unlikely that the promised games that brought us all together will get made many believe that it’s worth it to prevent others from being scammed.
Kickstarter have received many, many reports, particularly concerning Shon Bury’s solicitation of an “investment opportunity” and are investigating the matter. Backers with accounting know-how and digging through the available information to identify instances of fraud. Public warnings are being posted in all available news outlets and funding pages. Backers may even have a potential champion to fight for them, as ‘Angry’ Joe Vargas is among their number and is…unhappy.
Throughout all this Shon Bury is remaining silent. He refuses to address his current investors, not to apologise or explain. He continues to build on the initial, most glaring problem that has dogged these campaigns: he won’t communicate. There is no trust and there is no sympathy. So if you run into Shon Bury, please ask him to speak up.
Now give me my money back, you jerk.