There are mistakes, and there are MISTAKES.
A while ago I posted about the third Terminator board game announced within about 18 months. One of the games I talked about was Space Goats Productions The Terminator: The Official Board Game, and the general wariness the backers had with the game and the company. Well, over the last 48 hours, some new information has come to light, and to put it bluntly – Nothing is looking good for Space Goat Productions.
Space Goat Productions started in 2006 and is primarily a comics and talent company. Space Goats founder, Shon C Bury, claims to have many years experience in the comics. Also, marketing blurbs claim Space Goat Productions has over 150 years of combined experience in various fields. Below is a copy of the blurb from a Space Goat email:
Now I say claims to because there are a few things put out there in the last 48 hours that show interesting interpretations of facts. Admittedly, I am looking at a small amount of history and select sources, but that is because information is now very hard to find on the company. This is also ignoring the ‘critical release’ of three unreleased games, but up until now I put this down to marketing hype.
A lot of information seems to be being removed from the internet, and some of what is left is contradictory. And in a case of at best very bad timing is Googling Space Goats CEO and founder Shon C. Bury.
The very first link is to his work DC Comics, with the next a story of accusations of sexism and abusive behaviour at Space Goat. Now, this kind of attention is never sought after, but the timing now is even worse for Space Goat. The why is coming up.
On the 24/4 I got an email from Space Goat, with a release about how Space Goat was going international with the Evil Dead 2 and the Howling comics. This would normally be seen as a positive sign for a growing company. The email listed the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/spacegoatpublishing, shown earlier. The companies Kickstarter profile and the company websites http://www.spacegoatpublishing.com/ and http://spacegoatproductions.com/ also lists the same Facebook link.
As of the latest email received and writing this article on the day 2/5/18 (Australian Time), this page no longer exists on Facebook. The ‘other’ Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/gospacegoat, seems to be the ‘new’ site, and I am wondering why this is.
Well, I say I am wondering. This may just be a bunch of bad timing and a string of misunderstandings, but this seems like a very clear-cut case of attempted damage control.
So what is all ‘this’ actually about?
As I said in my previous Terminator article, I am happy to wait and see how things go normally. Space Goat Play is a newly created division of Space Goat Productions after all. Delays in the Evil Dead and huge gaps in communications have led to a lot of backer concern, and the second project The Terminator is mirroring all of this. As a new company, I can forgive delays and unexpected hiccups, and I tuned out a lot of the flaming.
But the email I got on the 2/5/18 that started my Google searching?
That’s right. The company that has been silent and continually delaying projects is publically asking for money and offering small shares in the company to do it. Alarm bells start ringing. I jumped over to the Kickstarter page, and sure enough, there is a Backers only update. I have printed it in pdf form so you can read it by clicking here.
Reading it made me simultaneously sympathetic for the company, but also incredibly angry. I will go into the reasons for both in a little bit. With mixed feelings, I went and looked at the WeFunder page.
And wow. Just wow.
The facts just don’t seem to be facts
So, Space Goat have what they call Key Facts on the WeFunder page, for people looking to invest in the company. They are:
So, this sounds like Space Goat is a company that is on the fast road to growth, and everything is great. Very different to the information in the Kickstarter updates. But for the points from WeFunder, I give my own counterpoints to these facts.
Raised $1M+ pre-retail dollars on Kickstarter from 8k+ backers with just two campaigns.
You have to assume this is including pre-orders and excluding backers that have cancelled. Looking at the Kickstarter pages (Evil Dead 2 and The Terminator), the totals shown add up to $943,078 before all costs (Kickstarter cut, credit card surcharges and the like).
This total is also possibly including the shipping that has already been collected on the games, from BackerKit, which the collection of before the games were made was strange enough.
BackerKit is a third party company that is used for after pledge collection from many companies, including Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I don’t think these funds should be included as ‘from Kickstarter’ because of this.
Either way you cut it, from the information shown, this is not $1,000,000+ from ‘Kickstarter’ according to the Kickstarter numbers.
Management team has 120+ years of board game, comic book, commercial art, TV/Film, and video game experience.
OK, so what I am about to say can look like nitpicking.
All of the emails from Space Goat shows 150 years in the Space Goat blurb.
It’s true 150 is covered by 120+, so I am not trying to call them out on this alone. But I am wondering if the drop in years is because some staff has left?
The accusations of sexism and abusive behaviour in the workplace plus the fact the company seems to be in financial trouble have me wondering if there are staffing changes afoot, which can cause all sorts of issues in the day to day running of any company.
Oh, and just quietly – who is the management team? According to the WeFunder page, seven of the twenty ‘team’ members do not have ‘advisor’ in front of their titles. I can see Advisors not being listed as employees, so OK let’s say seven employees based on the titles. But then you read the descriptions. A lot of these seven have ‘contract’ and ‘on call’ at the end of their descriptions. There are two part-time people, one of whom is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
According to the company website, there are eight members of Space Goat, and very few names match between here and WeFunder’s ‘Team’. Tom Mason, the Vice President of Space Goat Productions, is conspicuously absent from the WeFunder ‘Team’, and someone I would hope doesn’t work part-time.
According to the Form C filed to the SEC, Space Goat has 2 employees. This could be explained as a badly updated company site or a ‘Full Time Equivalent’ Employee count. But all this does lend credibility to staffing issues at Space Goat.
Two more games are ready to Kickstart and are currently queued to be manufactured.
OK. I wouldn’t expect more information to come out than that, as you don’t want to reveal future work too early.
But in three points time, there may be a little more to this statement than it seems.
The Tabletop Game category is the highest grossing category on Kickstarter, generating in excess of $100 million since 2012. Space Goat has generated 1% of that with just 2 campaigns.
Well, this seems to be intentionally misleading. From numbers given to Polygon from Kickstarter, Tabletop in 2017 ALONE bought in $137.77 million dollars.
So Space Goat bought in about 0.7% of what was raised in Kickstarter in 2017. Given the boom in Tabletop numbers over time, the total amount of Tabletop money raised by Space Goat is probably about a fifth of that over the 5+ years they are implying.
This is basically the same as me saying there has been over 200 Tabletop Kickstarters, then pointing to my Kickstarter Profile (which today shows 183 projects backed). Now I have backed some video games and design projects, so say 175 Tabletop projects backed. So according to those numbers, I have backed almost 88% of all Kickstarter Tabletop projects. It’s just not true.
This really seems to be an intentional warping of the numbers given. Oh, and just in case you thought the years were a typo and the amounts a mistake:
Existing licenses include Evil Dead 2, Terminator, and The Howling — our “VHS Renaissance Games.”
Yes, yes they do. Make comics and everything. There is no denying this one.
Our first company-owned game, called Game Buds, is ready to be Kickstarted and is queued to be manufactured.
OK, this is probably the ‘third game’ that is already mentioned in May 1st Backers Only update, which was supposed to be on Kickstarter now. But is this one of the two games previously mentioned as ‘queued to be manufactured’?
This can be taken as there are three games essentially ready to go. It can also be taken that one of the two games ready to be Kickstarted is called Game Buds.
How many games does Space Goat actually have ready to launch on Kickstarter?
Our social media presence reaches tens of thousands of gamers and pop-culture consumers.
Look, the numbers are probably true. But they have actively deleted their primarily advertised Facebook page! What message were those ‘gamers and pop-culture consumers’ sending back to Space Goat that this needed to happen?
Oh, and I would be wary bringing attention to their social media community for another reason. Those accusations I referred to earlier? They were raised by Amelia Thompson, Space Goats Community Manager.
Signed a book distribution deal with Midpoint Trade Books and French foreign-language deals for our Evil Dead books and with Wetta Publishing for our Howling graphic novels.
Yes, I got an email stating this on the 24/04/18 (Australian Time). That’s great news for their comic division, and I am excited for them!
So where to from here?
If someone was asking you for money, and someone else told you things about the person, wouldn’t you look into them? There is a difference between a small gamble on a startup, and giving away money for the sake of it.
If I got burned with the Terminator Kickstarter, so be it. I have nothing but sympathy for those backers that did both Terminator and Evil Dead 2. But to me, that was my small gamble on a startup. The equity offering is not. This feels like good money after bad, and that is never a good position to be in.
I am not an investment person. I can’t give you financial advice. It’s true I do put options in front of you for Kickstarter projects, but the most I can do is tell you why I do or don’t think something is worth spending your money on.
Space Goat Publishing, well the comics side, actually have a great history. There may be individuals that are causing problems in the workplace, and it is unfortunate the reported one is the founder and CEO. There is already talk about the Kickstarter comments section that this is the final proof that everything is belly up at Space Goat, and that may or may not be true.
But I will say as much as I hope to get the Terminator game, this is probably the closest I will ever get.
You see, there is one more little nugget on the WeFunder page. And here it is:
So, yeah. Many, including myself, are reading this as “We need the money to deliver what we promised”.
The true cost
My biggest problem with all this isn’t the lack of a game, it’s how bad this is reflecting on the hundreds of other creators that do the best they can on Kickstarter.
If Space Goat continues down this path with no explanation, they may be forced to close their doors. This hurts most the staff that obviously love their jobs. From comments I have seen on the Kickstarter projects, there has already been damage done for new startups. Comments like ‘no new startups more than $50’ may not sound terrible, but there are ripple effects.
Imagine being the startup company that legitimately needs to charge $60 or $80 for the project they want to make. Now because of one companies mistakes, they have to put forward a ‘make do’ project that costs $30. The idea is if it’s cheaper, more people will be willing to back it. But then another sizable percentage of backers don’t back it, because they know for a bit more money it could be a great project. It’s a vicious circle and one that will be very hard to break.
So the real lessons to take away from all of this:
- Kickstarter is not a store. Backing does not guarantee a product.
- Be careful who you give your money to.
- Try not to judge everyone for another’s mistakes.
Until next time,