Haunts Game Shows Kickstarter Risk
October 20, 2012

Haunts Video Game Highlights Risks Of Crowdfunded Projects

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Despite a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, development on the crowdfunded video game Haunts: The Manse Macabre has been halted.

The project's fate was announced by Rick Dakan, head of Haunts developer Mob Rules Games, in an update to its Kickstarter page. In that post, Dakan said, despite raising over $28,000 from more than 1,200 contributors since June, the company was unable to complete the project and no longer had the staff to do so.

Prior to soliciting funds through the popular crowdfunding website, the company had invested $42,500 in the creation of the multiplayer horror video game, Ars Technica reporter Kyle Orland explained on Friday.

Despite recouping some of that investment through contributions, the project had to be shelved because two of the programmers working on the project had to leave the company for full-time jobs elsewhere.

“The principal cause for our dire condition is that there are no longer any programmers working on the game,” Dakan said, according to VentureBeat's Jeffrey Grubb. “Our lead programmer was always going to move on to something else after a year or so. We had hoped that he would be able to work on the game in his spare time, but now that he´s going back at Google, he has told us that his spare time will be very minimal and not enough to make progress on the game. Our second programmer has quit the project entirely to take another job."

“I am currently in talks with another game company owned by some old friends and coworkers of mine, Blue Mammoth Games,” he added.  “They have expressed an interest in taking on Haunts“¦ These new potential partners won´t be able to make the decision for a few weeks at least and then after that it would be months before anything came out. Still, I think it´s our best shot at this point.”

As Orland points out, Kickstarter's website makes it clear there is no guarantee that any of the projects will be successfully completed, regardless of funding level, and that it cannot offer refunds to those who sponsor projects that are shelved before completion. However, they do also place creators under a "legal obligation" to make good on their promise, he added, and that financial backers could "theoretically sue."

"Legal requirement or not, Haunts is the first in what's likely to be a wave of Kickstarter-funded games that simply fall apart before they become viable products," Orland said. "Much bigger games with much more traditional funding methods are delayed and cancelled all the time“¦ Getting money directly from potential players, and keeping them involved and updated in the development process, doesn't change the basic risks and uncertainties of the development process, as Haunts aptly demonstrates."

"That's all part of games development, and now individuals are learning of the risks publishers take when they fund a project by the traditional models," gaming journalist John Walker told BBC News. "It's a real shame to see Haunts struggling. They've done exactly what Kickstarter suggests -- being open and frank about the issues they've faced, how they've spent the money, and their attempts to resolve them."

Meanwhile, Mob Rule Games is vowing they will somehow find a way to complete Haunts.

"We have not given up. This is not over. We are going to finish this game," they said in a Friday blog entry on the company website. "I´m more confident than I have been in many weeks, thanks entirely to the outpouring of support and offers of help that I´ve gotten from our supporters“¦ We´re renewed in our commitment to get this game out."