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.┬áNerd 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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