TUG studio Nerd Kingdom owes its Kickstarter backers an explanation – or their money back

    
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We’ve been following the sad story of TUG, The Untitled Game, for years now, ever since its May 2013 Kickstarter. At the time, studio Nerd Kingdom promised a creativity-driven sandbox built by scientists and academics rather than money-grubbing publishers, and it easily raised $300,000, supposedly to complement existing investor funding. It hit Steam in 2014, but then it hit the skids: first with the Yogventures fiasco, then an investor back-out, then mass layoffs, and it lingered in a survival mode until the 2016 announcement that it had picked up $8.5 million in investment money and promised a “minimally viable product” as of 2017.

And then… nothing. For most of the last two years, the game has officially gone radio silent, enraging backers and Steam buyers, even sparking discussion of a class-action lawsuit.

Indeed, most of what we know or suspect about the so-called The Unfinished Game since early last year has come from leaks and rumors; for example, one reader claimed there was another round of layoffs last year affecting even the company founder and that no one at the company is permitted to speak to the press. Another rumor promulgated more recently on Reddit and Discord asserts that IGG bought Nerd Kingdom and has set the remaining developers to working on a different game entirely, though there’s debate over whether that game is real or will ever release.

Nerd Kingdom took $300,000 from gamers and committed to transparency; consequently, the company owes those gamers one of two things: their money back or a clear explanation of where it went.
We reached out to Nerd Kingdom last week inquiring about the state of the game as of this fall, as both a backer and a journalist. We received no response. Now, we’ve chronicled the ways interviews and requests for comment often go nowhere in an industry with essentially no formal oversight, so we’re never shocked when a studio decides it’s better to duck under its virtual desk and hopes the journalists grow bored and go away. However, Kickstarter games have additional obligations to the public. Nerd Kingdom, or whatever is left of it, took $300,000 from gamers and committed to transparency; consequently, the company owes those gamers one of two things: their money back or a clear explanation of where it went.

With thanks to our tipsters.
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Chris Henzler

I will say I agree, they either need to come clean with the community, or give back money from the kickstarter or the steam game, as you can’t even buy it on steam anymore

but we aren’t looking for money, just answers

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Moolarurka .

I think in the coming years we may see legislation introduced in many European countries and maybe countries like Canada and Australia too in regards to crowdfunding especially if a game like Star Citizen fails to ever release in a reasonable amount of time .

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BDJ

This shit cracks me up.

No one makes you back games. You know EXACTLY what you are risking when you INVEST in a game through kickstarter or any other crowd funding platforms.

Delays are the norm with every single game backed by crowdfunding. Companies set dates, they miss those dates, they set new dates. A game like Star Citizen is fine. Sure it might take them 5 years longer to launch, but when they do (they will!) , you will have the game you invested in.

The only legislation needed is self legislation. People need to treat the games as investments and not “zomg i wants to try the game out in the alpha / beta , here is mahz monies!!!”.

Whats going to end up happening is every developer will put in fine print “there is a chance we won’t be able to complete the game, in this case, your investment will be lost”. Its literally like playing stocks. You can lose your money or get the product you invested in initially. Companies will start using worlds like might, try, possible.

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Chris Henzler

Reddit has one explanation but r/tug has a megathread but in short:

during a visit at IGG, Chinese investors were told that in short NK was put back in development, this is nothing new as IGG put them back into development in 2016 when the first version of TUG was not meant with their standards, this lead last dec of more NK being let go and its lead dev( co creator) heading to the board of NK

best buds has many assets from TUG 2.0, and seems to be having even more trouble as they are having to rehire more people, which you can find on gamasuta, and is once again a attempt to make another mobile game, these videos leaked are from a playlist called “private IGG” they deleted in june

in short: best buds is being made at NK, but from what I seen there are about 3 or 4 of the original staff left and NK has let go of almost every original dev to make another game that they hope IGG will accept

Mewmew
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Mewmew

So with that 8.5 million additional funding, they should be able to at least refund the 300k they got from Kickstarter funding right? You’d think so…

I’ve been following this game as well waiting for it. We saw a video for a totally new version pop up sometime along, then complete silence. All we’ve had have been rumors for the past year.

There are people that worked there for them that now are tweeting about what they are doing at completely different companies. A huge chunk (95%? More?) of their team was laid off, while the few left at the company seem to be working on things other than TUG.

Obviously, those waiting for the game have titled it “The Unfinished Game” – and it seems like that is where it will stay.

Those people that used to work there won’t say anything about what’s happening with it or the company, it seems they’ve signed an NDA and they’re sticking to it. While I do get sticking to an NDA, I wish we could know more about what happened… Especially where player funds are concerned.

I’ve been screwed over by Kickstarter campaigns as well, but at least it was clear what happened when I was screwed over. It wasn’t just silence. And the companies that screwed me certainly didn’t get millions in new funding before doing so.

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Chris Henzler

from my understanding, their is no nda, the discord made that up because they have no PR person and the lead dev has made sure to keep it silent

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Mr.McSleaz

I paid $5 for this game & I got my money’s worth out of it.

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Schlag Sweetleaf
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Paragon Lost

Good luck with that. I’ve had one Kickstarter go bad for some other project and I didn’t even get a response from Kickstarter when I pointed it out to them. You back a Kickstarter and you take your chances.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Though I doubt the game you pledged to got an additional 8.5 million in backing before vanishing.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Sorry, I wanted to add a bit more but it’s too late to edit my other comment :D

I was going to say that I too have lost due to Kickstarter campaigns, and no, Kickstarter isn’t responsible nor can it do anything when a campaign doesn’t go through.

But when I lost out, there was a chain of information that helped to see what happened and why things didn’t come to fruition. There wasn’t still a company existing that just was being silent. Though they did eventually go silent, that’s because the doors were closed and there was nobody left to respond – and as said there was a trail of information leading up to that to tell us what happened. There were things we could look up and see. We are not able to get any information about what is going on here.

Supposedly Nerd Kingdom still exists in one form or another and they just aren’t giving any responses. They got 8.5 million *after* the public funding and the company still exists (even though it is far smaller than it was). The people working there are staying silent, the people that used to work there are staying silent. There are explanations to be had but none are being given.

If they can’t refund the money, then give an explanation as to what happened. Don’t just stay quiet.

This was supposed to be a group doing things differently, telling us just how awesomely different they would be as a company. And then they ended up worse than the entities they were pooing on when they made all those promises.

I didn’t even lose my money to this one, but I think what they are doing is unacceptable.

Sure they signed some NDA somewhere along the line, but they had a bound promise and obligation to the players and funders that came before that which they are just ignoring.

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Witches

I think this is an accidental scam, devs are used to hyperbole, and games that aven’t launched all have these magical coders that solve anything in record time, they probably thought what they had could be turned into something with the minimal requirements to be launched in 1 year, 18 months tops.

We all played games that were far from done, so i can only imagine how optimistic that 2017 date was, plus the person that gives us that date is never someone who is coding the game, it’s usually a guy giving orders and expecting the work to be done just because he wills it.

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Chris Henzler

same, this wasn’t a scam, but more of a “we didn’t want to admit we messed up’ at at first IGG was just a investor, and the lead dev said the last one almost bought up the entire company, and NK thought IGG was letting them continue what they wanted to do

best buds is in my research something IGG is making NK make, and NK doesn’t have as much power anymore as they thought

Serrenity
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Serrenity

I should probably actually comment on the scope of the article too, instead of just writing mini-term papers :-p

This is super-sad. I had high hopes for this game, and I backed this for more than any other game (maybe SC was more? It’s been so long I’ve no idea and its not important enough for me to go look up). It was bouncing along for quite a while and then … I dunno what happened the finances went belly-up so far. Once Ino left I just assumed the project was effectively dead anyway.

It sucks, but even this game that I had high hopes for, I didn’t give more money too than I was comfortable. Which means that when something like this happens, I’m not experiencing any buyers-remorse (or is it backer’s remose in this case?)

But yeah, towards the end there it definitely skewed from “kinda shaky financially” to “I don’t think this place actually exists anymore…”

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starbuck1771

Welcome to the downside of crowd funding. Read before backing. Most are fund at your own risk. So even if you sue them your guaranteed nothing.