(This post concludes part one of this tale of woe)
I’ve owned a copy of the card game Glory to Rome for quite some time and my only complaint with it was the poor quality of the cards (and the art wasn’t great either, although many others had more of a problem with that than me). So when a posher copy was announced, to be funded on Kickstarter, I was all over it like a big nerdy rash.
This was an established company after all (Massachusetts firm Cambridge Games Factory, CGF), so it didn’t hold the risk of being made by some fly-by-night amateurs that had put me off of other Kickstarter projects before. Oh, how totally wrong I was.
In case you’ve not heard of it, Kickstarter is an American website (there is a slightly crappier (for games at least) European version too, Indiegogo) which allows (via Amazon payment) companies or individuals to try and crowd fund projects they’re embarking on – from board games to music tours to films to gadgets. The money is only taken from your account if they reach their goal – and then the waiting begins. Yup, it’s a bit of a risk but then you’re funding creativity – there’s always a chance things will go wrong.
And with the Glory to Rome Kickstarter campaign, BOY have they gone wrong. This is a project run by a company with a stable of games already on the market, which already had the artwork in place for the new cards. Better yet it finished with well over three times the amount of money it had asked for (a massive $73,000 after asking for $21). I really didn’t think this was a risk at all – back in August 2011 when the project was funded.
‘You cheer my heart, who build as if Rome would be eternal’
Here are a few significant dates from the ensuing (and ongoing) debacle:
- August 3, 2011 – project hits target after two days
- August 18, 2011 – they big-up another Kickstarter project also about to end its funding period, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue. That game shipped in October 2011.
- August 21, 2011 – free shipping offered to stores who want to stock the game and who are wiling to let people pick the game up from them (so I sign up after my local games store (LGS) agrees to get involved). “Once the Kickstarter project completes we are going to stop taking additional pre-orders, while we will be promoting all of the stores who have agreed to receive games as an option for pre-orders”
- August 22, 2011 – project ends, CGF says it “intends” to have the game available for collection at Essen (in October 2011)
- September 23, 2011 – first apology and excuses as wheels start to come off, but still claiming game will be available for Essen collection the following month
- September 28, 2011 – and I quote: “Depending on what time you’re reading this update, your cards could be rolling off presses at the same time…”
- October 10, 2011 – wheels, axles etc off. Printing didn’t happen due to complete misunderstanding and general incompetence. New target: Europe/US January 2012
- November 14, 2011 – “Glory to Rome is… expected to be to you in January”
- TWO MONTHS OF SILENCE
- January 10, 2012 – doors fall from clown car, all backers get another custard pie to the face. More blame/apologies/excuses. Outcome? Admittance card files have only just been approved. Main shipment to arrive late April 2012.
- January 25, 2012 – digital proofs received by CGF and “looked great”
- February 8, 2012 – CGF heading to China on February 28 to check final product
- April 19, 2012 – “Glorious news” – they simply must be taking the piss now, but no. “… we expect games to be arriving at your doors in the summer.”
- May 21, 2012 – game still sitting in Shanghai
- June 2012 – some advance copies actually arrive in the hands of punters, but not for the majority of backers. Also more people quit, giving rise to plenty more excuses as to why EVERYTHING has gone wrong
- June 12, 2012 – I’m emailed by CGF: “We have reached out to [my LGS] through email, and hopefully we can make arrangements soon”. I tell my LGS, which replies “We have also had Email communication with them awaiting a reply. Things look like they are moving now.”
- June 15, 2012 – main shipment leaves Shanghai…
- July 19, 2012 – shipment ‘almost’ at Boston. Which isn’t in Europe
- August 1, 2012 – One of my favourite updates: “We have received a notice from the shipper that the goods were scheduled to arrive on about July 21, but I have not yet received the actual arrival notice, possibly because our customs agent is on vacation until August 6th. There’s little doubt that the games are there, but I need to coordinate with our agent to get the games through customs. Oh, and also, we don’t actually have a warehouse in Holland yet”
- August 3, 2012 – “Week of August 12 – Ship all in Europe from Amsterdam (definite)”
Plus, for those who haven’t heard about store collection, “If you haven’t heard from us by next week, know that you are okay.” Right…
- September 6, 2012 – In Europe, CGF is “planning to start shipping to game stores this week and individuals next week.” (see August 3 entry above). This was the last Kickstarter update
- On the same day I receive an email from CGF telling me it has not been “successful in securing the participation” of my LGS – a month after “I knew I was OK” (again, see August 3 entry above). I reply the same day with my postal details
- September 18, 2012 – having heard and received nothing, I email CGF to get an update or at least confirmation of shipping. I am yet to get a reply
So, in true British fashion, I’ve steeled myself for further disappointment. I’m expecting to wait at least a few more weeks and then the box will probably be damaged – or I won’t get everything I think I should in the package etc.
But what even I wasn’t expecting was to see that very same Glory to Rome: Black Box Edition on the shelf of my LGS when I went browsing a couple of weeks back. Not only that, it was priced at a very reasonable £25 (I paid $35 to Kickstart it, or about £21.50). And no, I don’t have my copy yet.
When I got home I checked and yes, I could order it elsewhere online for under £20.
It’s hard to know where to start really. Not only do I not have my game, but I paid for it a year ago and can buy it for less elsewhere before I’ve even received it (in fairness, I should also be receiving some bonus items for pre-ordering it, but then these were meant to be rewards – not paid extras).
Then there’s the question of where the truth lies in terms of my LGS and CGF: what really happened here? did the store say ‘no’ to keeping the game for me after saying it would? Or did CGF simply screw up and not follow up on the emails? either way, neither of them has redeemed themselves in the situation.
But the outcome is simple: neither of these companies will receive another penny of my vast wealth (ahem). Sure, they won’t lose any sleep over that, but then again I am sure I’m not the only person coming to this conclusion.
When in a disastrous production life cycle do you realise that it might be prudent to stop making promises you’re clearly incapable of keeping? Or realise you should start throwing REAL money to ensure you can hire proven members of staff with the expertise to do the job and salvage a situation so embarrassing it is likely to taint your company forever? Short term expenditure to ensure your long term reputation. You can’t lay the blame at the door of interns…
And if you run a bricks and mortar retail outlet, you need to do one of two things: go cheap and scrimp on service (to compete with online stores), or charge more but offer exemplary service, stock and surroundings to justify those prices (and that’s for All staff and ALL of your customers, not just the nerdy teens who kiss your ass).
If I ever get Glory to Rome delivered, I’ll do a little update post to let you know (although I doubt publishing this will speed up the process). And if I ever go back in that store.. ah, who am I kidding – unless it changes hands, or I hear of miraculous changes on the grapevine, that simply isn’t going to happen.