Just ahead of the weekend, we covered the news that TitanReach, an indie MMO that had taken significant sums of money from players and supposedly from a mysterious benefactor, was closing its doors. It was a story that didn’t surprise any of us here at MOP, as we’d been covering the game’s shenanigans since its original failed Kickstarter, through its imaginary Indiegogo, its community’s toxic behavior toward journalists, its proclamations of doom, its credit storefront with its potential for abuse, its poor pay for workers, its stealth-alteration of its own incriminating statements (the Internet Archive is forever, folks), its bizarre early access and then free-to-play switch, its initial closure, its restoration thanks to a then-unnamed angel investor, and the closure of its early access.
Last week, the lead developer abruptly announced the game was dead, talked at length about NFT implementation, deleted the Discord, hid social media and Reddit, and even switched his own Twitter handle over to a different studio and Kickstarter game. Over the weekend, backers and fans who had sunk significant sums of money into the game began telling more of the tale, with screenshots suggesting that Unravel had mismanaged the investor money, putting it into crypto and even buying himself a Tesla. The whole thing is absolutely wild.
Now, YouTuber KiraTV has a video out to “expose” Unravel for far worse. KiraTV, readers will recall, was one of the YouTubers who originally promoted the game; indeed, he was the YouTuber who claimed to have verified that the investor existed and had dispensed the money. Kira’s new video, if accurate, confirms some of the accusations and adds more details we didn’t already know. To wit:
- Kira says that the Discord was removed because backers were organizing to report Unravel for fraud as well as distributing his real name, which was already known, though apparently they also used his address and photo to threaten him.
- Unravel was apparently considering crypto implementation all the way back in November, with a plan to refund the original player backers. Kira knew about this plan but did not disclose it.
- Kira outs the investor as South African software and crypto dev Andre Cronje and says that Cronje is blameless in the whole ordeal. He does apparently actually exist, which is something quite a lot of folks, including us at times, doubted. His apparent gullibility in this whole situation continues to baffle.
- Kira says that on February 9th, Unravel admitted to him that he had gambled $150,000 on crypto and “lost most of it.” That would’ve been approximately half of one “chunk” from Cronje’s regular money drops, so it sounds like the company was pulling in $300,000 from this investor per month to make the game. When Unravel told Cronje what had happened, Cronje “cut the funding” (this was allegedly not the first time Unravel had demonstrated greed or untrustworthiness to Cronje).
- According to Kira, Unravel – knowing Kira would contact Cronje for answers – then proposed to Kira that Kira remain silent about all of it in exchange for a job or crypto windfall. In effect, he tried to bribe a YouTuber. Kira says he did not accept this bribe.
- According to Kira, Cronje wanted to let Unravel close the game, pay off employees, and clear up any tax debt, which Kira surmised was Cronje’s decision to make, since it was his money (the $200,000 in backer money was already long spent). Again, this part of the story – willingly paying off the tax debts of someone who misappropriated your investment – is baffling.
- Kira claims he interviewed three employees who said that Unravel had misappropriated funds before the incident for which Cronje cut him off. Apparently, he had indeed bought a Tesla, and that, like the crypto investment, were things Cronje explicitly told him not to do (contrary to his claims to backers in Discord). Kira also holds the studio’s other employees blameless in the whole situation, except…
- Another Square Root Studios employee was apparently fired from the studio for impersonating Unravel to scam Cronje out of $250,000 in crypto. Apparently, when he got caught, he gave back $200,000 to avoid being prosecuted; Cronje let him keep $50,000 because of a sob story about medical bills. The bafflement continues.
- At this point, Unravel exposed the investor’s name, which he knew would lead to more people contacting Cronje, so Kira felt he had to go public, against Cronje’s original wishes, as Kira didn’t want to be caught up in the scandal. Of course it also means Kira was able to publish a video about a scandal in which he was a key player, and he ends by appealing to people’s sense of forgiveness for Unravel.
I myself will end with appealing to your sense of sanity. For god’s sake, folks. Stop giving money to anonymous randos with shady pasts on Discord promising you someday-video-games.