$122,874 Kickstarter-Funded Board Game Cancelled, What Happens to the Money?
In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits with all of your money. Good luck getting that back.
Kickstarter is the go-to crowdfunding site for a lot of people looking to launch ambitious projects, but it takes more than money to get something done, and sometimes Kickstarter campaigns — even ones that raise more than three times their goal — fail. That’s what happened with the now appropriately named board game The Doom That Came To Atlantic City! It raised $122,874, but now that the creators of the project canceled the game, what happens to all that money?
The Doom etc. was by all accounts a successful campaign. It launched with a goal of $35,000, and crushed it by nearly $90,000. It had 1,246 backers expecting rewards ranging from branded desktop backgrounds and T-shirts to custom art from the game. In an update emailed to backers and posted on the Kickstarter site for the project on July 23rd by project creator Erik Chevalier wrote:
The short version: The project is over, the game is canceled.
After much deliberation I’ve had to make this decision. I’ve informed Keith and Lee and neither at all happy with this situation. 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.
Chevalier hints at the reasons for the cancellation, and promises a future update with the specifics. He also states his intention to refund all backers, but since he quit his job to launch the game company that would have published The Doom Blah Blah Blah, he currently has no way of doing that.
The comment thread of the update is, as you might expect, a lot of people moaning about lawsuits, speculation about exactly what went wrong, and demands for Kickstarter to do something. There’s even a Reddit thread about it with a popular theory being that the game faced legal complications due to its similarity to the Monopoly franchise. I checked the Kickstarter FAQ and Terms of Service agreement that all creators see before launching a campaign to find out what backers can expect from the current situation.
First, here’s the question of whether creators are legally obligated to fulfill their promises:
Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?
In other words, if you launch a Kickstarter saying you’re going to make a game, well, you’re obligated to turn out a game. The text all creators see before their Kickstarter campaigns reads as follows:
If your project is successfully funded, you are required to fulfill all rewards or refund any backers whose reward you do not or cannot fulfill. A failure to do so could result in damage to your reputation or even legal action on behalf of your backers.
So Kickstarter’s terms demand that funded projects come to fruition, and that rewards are met, or the creators are responsible to make things right, but Kickstarter has no liability here.