A Message to all our Kickstarter Backers
First of all, thank-you for your awesome pledge to the Kickstarter campaign for Elementary, My Dear Holmes. I know I promised to send a personal message to each one of you, but apparently one cannot do that with suspended projects.
Unless you've been without internet over the weekend, you've probably read it in the news: the Kickstarter project for Elementary has been suspended. It's over. Finished. Zoinked. And not in a good way.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you what this means for you, what our thoughts on the matter are, and what this means for us. I will try to keep the bad jokes to a minimum: it's difficult to make good jokes when you're somewhat down in the dumps.
On your end, your pledge to us on Kickstarter has not been charged. And it will never be charged. There will be no transactions to your credit card from our project, and in the weird chance that you do see them... well, you go yell at your credit card company and yell at them hard. They have no right to charge you for that.
So why did we get suspended? It would be a lie to claim that I have the 100% correct answer. Kickstarter did not give a reason to us, and it does not comment on suspensions. Do I have my suspicions around the suspension? You bet I do.
For many weeks, there were allegations that our backers were astroturfed. Which means that there were claims that there were fake backers for our project in order to increase the total number of pledges. At first, like any other normal project creator, I naturally cried "Balderdash! Of course not - everything is fine!" But when some members of the community pointed out the discrepancies to me, I, like any other normal project creator, scratched my head and said "You know what? You're right. Something is fishy."
And then I did what any other normal project creator might not have done. I reported the matter to Kickstarter and Amazon payments asking them to investigate.
Again just so we're good: I reported my own project to Kickstarter because I did not want anything to do with any shady matter.
Fast forward - the project got suspended. I was hoping our pledges would be investigated and any suspicious ones removed. But the project got suspended. And, to put it quite freely, that sucks.
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. I created four accounts for my immediate friends and family, and the employees we have at Victory Square Games created a few for their friends and family to donate. We operate from a huge shared office space with 7 other companies, and so we coaxed some of those people to donate as well.
We went to Kickstarter because we did not have money to build this game. If we already had the money to finance our own project, there wouldn't have been any reason for us for Kickstart it. And before any claims of us doing so because Ouya would double our funds are made, let's take a minute and think about this. We would not have seen the bulk of the Ouya money until the end of production, which was not happening till March 2014. Our survival, for six months, was going to be on the amount raised from Kickstarter. The money we would have got from Ouya later was a security against exclusivity on the platform. We did not have high expectations for a gazillion sales on the Ouya - the install base does not justify it - and so the money we would have received after we would have shipped the game would have kept us alive till the exclusivity was over and we could go to other platforms. It was not in our best interest to go with Free The Games. But we chose to do so because it appeared to be a guarantee against low sales.
So if we did not astroturf ourselves, do I know who did it then? 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.
What I will do, though, is talk about what this means for the project going forward.
I hinted earlier that Elementary is not dead. I stand by that. Not everyone on the Internet thinks we orchestrated this mess. Some people believe our side of the story. That we, more than anyone else, are victims in this entire mess. Some of the people who believe so happen to be people with access to capital and people who like to invest in high technology. And they have reached out to us. Has anything been finalized yet? No. But it is our hope that things soon will be.
And even if not, things shall still proceed, even if we have to work out from an alley. John Watson shall not have to suffer eternally from the sidekick syndrome. His chance to shine in his 15 minutes of fame shall live on. And we'll make sure that it's a damn good and fun chance.
As far as things stand now, the project will not be exclusive to any one platform or publisher. Rather, it will be platform agnostic, and will be released on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. And it might come to some consoles as well. We'll still need at least six months to make this, and because of the setbacks we have had, we might not be able to start till mid or late October. But start we shall and deliver we will.
I would love for you all to join us on this development journey. The easiest way to do so will be to keep in touch with us on either Facebook or Twitter, as it is not possible for me to be able to keep in touch with you on Kickstarter. If you want to go one step further, we will be setting up a pre-order page for the game on our website as well. But if you just wish to connect with us on social media, that's fine as well.
There will be haters, there will be supporters. There will be critics and there will be believers. I cannot win them all, but I did have my own two cents to put in to make our stance clear. I have now done that and I'd like to end with a bang and quote Roosevelt. It's cool to quote Roosevelt.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
With love and gratitude,