Maybe the Men in Black can track them down?
I have gone quiet of late on the subject because so much of the situation and the feedback around it has contained so much hate and misdirected aggression.
Up front, this piece is going to sound like an attack on Shon C. Bury. It kind of is, no matter how I try to tone my words. But please remember that so many others have been affected by this man and the actions of his company by his direction. Kickstarter may have given him a platform, but they did not disappear with false promises. Tommy Gofton and Lynnvander Studios didn’t take your money. Gamerati doesn’t owe you stock that they haven’t been paid for.
It’s unfortunate that these entities and others like them are in the firing line, and I understand that people are upset and angry at the situation, but blindly lashing out and making sweeping statements only serves to further tarnish and muddy an already confusing situation.
I imagine a lot of people already following the situation are about to stop reading if they haven’t already, but remember this before you go – You are right to be angry and upset. I feel we have been conned, and that is not fair or right. Ever. Everything I am about to talk about isn’t intended as a defence of Shon or Space Goat – the entities you should be directing your energy towards getting something back from.
And with that, what has been happening the last few weeks.
In short – nothing
Nothing on the Facebook pages, nothing on the websites. In fact, literally nothing – all of the Space Goat URL’s go to a Bluehost landing page, so there is another company I am betting never got paid. The @GoSpaceGoat Twitter account reads like an advertising feed for everything but games and comics.
Just over 4 months have gone by, and not a meaningful peep on any of their social and direct channels. I refuse to count the 10 best wooden salad bowls as meaningful contact.
Space Goat seems to be permanently closed
There have been signs of this for a while, but just – wow.
Google Maps used to show Space Goat Publishing as closed for a while, but while writing this I am having trouble getting even that up for an image.
The US Better Business Bureau is showing Space Goat as having Patterns of Complaint and now has the alert that it seems to be Out of Business. The Washington Business Search shows Space Goat Play as Active, but Space Goat Productions in Delinquency. This simply means Shon hasn’t filed his annual financial report and will be considered terminated (I couldn’t resist) and of January 2019 when they paperwork isn’t lodged.
Space Goat and Shon just disappearing from the internet and different companies using their pre-booked booths such as at San Diego Comic-Con all point to nothing good for people that gave money in good faith.
Tommy Gofton and Lynnvander Studios Offered – Something?
Now this section isn’t intended as click bait or a shot at anyone involved.
That said, Tommy Gofton announced on a few forums and on the Lynnvander Vlog over on YouTube that some news may be coming to help the Evil Dead people.
A build-up to the big announcement video and – an official statement that he can’t say anything without getting in trouble and/or potentially ruining deals.
Now, something positive can still come out of this, but a lot of already very upset backers got p… let’s say annoyed.
A lot of people have been talking about it, some attacking Lynnvander and some understanding that a third party that really has nothing to do with this is trying to help make something cool come to life. And if you read anything else about Tommy or Lynnvader’s involvement please remember neither party took your money, and they are just trying to help.
Yes, bad timing and suspicious build up people upset have some valid points but there is one point that these people seem to conveniently ignore – Tommy is still contactable and doing things publicly. He is still doing vlogs and stated his side pretty clearly early on – no disappearing act here.
Lynnvander is also hopefully soon launching an Army of Darkness board game on Kickstarter – check it out. Unlike Space Goat I have enjoyed a few of the Legacy projects already.
And the latest blow – Gamerati is selling off what has been made in a warehouse lien
So a few things were physically made, and a bunch of stuff for this from the Evil Dead campaign. This stuff is being warehoused at Gamerati, who (surprise surprise) haven’t been paid.
As such, they are enforcing a Warehouse Lien and auctioning off the items to recoup their $6,000 owed.
Now, by law, they can’t give the items to the backers that paid for them. This is a legal thing, but a few people have been making public bad comments at Gamerati about this. I can only imagine what they are getting privately.
This is one of those situations where I really don’t like the internet. A lot of backers have seen this via various means, and some have decided to publicly attack a company that is just another victim of Space Goat.
But Gamerati is in just as bad a situation as the backers – anything over the $6,000 they are owed has to legally be paid to Space Goat. That’s the law. They have no say in this. I think this is going to be hilarious because that means contacting a company that has pulled its head in and doing the best ‘I Don’t Exist’ impression ever.
A few people have complained that Gamerati won’t just accept payments from individuals for individual components or do a closed sale for the lot, then gotten verbally angry when told they can’t. I’m no lawyer, but the law is they have to put this stuff up for auction to everyone. If they sold it as a group to backers, even the people that ‘paid’ for it, Space Goat can sue them for theft as I understand it.
And it’s not in the companies interest just give away the items to backers – the work involved in separating out items will cost them labour hours, and there is still their own costs and the threat of legal retribution for doing so.
But bottom line, if Space Goat is just walking away from a $6,000 bill that their SEC filings show they could pay from the WeFunder campaign, it’s a good bet they are walking away from everything.
So what’s left for backers? Who is to blame?
And here is where I may be getting inflammatory. What do you do when a company runs away with your money?
There are a lot of people angry at Kickstarter and want them to reimburse the pledges or be held accountable. I disagree for a few different reasons.
One argument (now) is that Kickstarter allowed Space Goat to do another project without fulfilling the first one. This is a semi-valid point to me. There are plenty of other established companies that have had multiple projects running without initial fulfilment – Steamforged is one of them. It can be argued that they still have not fulfilled a project – Dark Souls the board game is on shelves, but not all of the content is finished still.
But the fact they hadn’t completed a project wasn’t hidden information. The fact Evil Dead was their first project was also public knowledge. I have said before Kickstarter isn’t a store – you are helping fund an idea. I saw the Terminator project, and pulled back my pledge to just the base game when the cost of the add-ons started piling up – that is a red flag for me always.
Kickstarter overall to me fulfilled their part of the arrangement – they gave Space Goat a platform to raise the money, and yes they took a cut (they are a business), so do the credit card companies and everyone else involved in the chain.
Kickstarter puts in their terms that project creators must do everything they can to provide the product backed. This is to allow backers the chance to pursue their money in court if things go bad. Allowing an established company (remember they are/were a comic book company with years of proven history when doing their projects) to do a second new project doesn’t seem an unreasonable choice to me.
Now, if I ran a Kickstarter for a deliverable product with no history behind me, then ran a second project I would expect a lot of questions to be asked. But companies like Steamforged and then Space Goat had a proven commercial history – not entities you would expect protection from.
But look at Space Goat today. From their last SEC filings, they were kinda broke and there are already a lot of companies before Gamerati looking for their money back as well.
Let’s say backers from both campaigns pooled their resources with these companies and we launched a lawsuit against Shon and Space Goat. Individual costs would be low, as we would grouping and spreading a cost against a single target.
But even if we won, how would we get anything back? They are broke. There is nothing to get from them. Legal people may be willing to help, but to what end? Sue someone for x% of nothing, including their own fees? In cases like this you usually make the legal fees a part of the suit itself, and there just isn’t a pool to get money back from.
eBay seller rips you off? Lodge the complaint through eBay and PayPal. Did someone access your credit card fraudulently? There are processes to get your money back. But Kickstarter isn’t a shop – you are handing over money in good faith to bring a project to life. This is Kickstarters strength and weakness. And this is another reason why I don’t think that Kickstarter should be held financially liable in this case.
And that’s where the wild thrashing begins
Space Goat is not the only Kickstarter where people have felt like this. There are other examples, such as Radiate Athletics from a 2013 thermal gym shirt. This one hurts because there is legal action starting to help get backers back at least something, and there is nothing visibly being done about Space Goat. This one has current interest again as legal action that began in 2015 is proceeding again.
There is one difference though – the people behind Radiate Athletics are still around and have a chance of paying back a successful suit. But when you are angry, you don’t always look at things like this, instead you start looking for someone you can blame.
Saying Kickstarter owes the backers is blind anger for being what feels like conned. Yes, we could pool our money and try and sue Kickstarter as well, but that will set off a lot of consequences.
The first and most obvious is Kickstarter costs would increase, increasing costs of projects. This is the exact same problem as holding credit card companies accountable for the losses.
Again, not a lawyer, but the base premise already exists for credit card companies. Part of the credit charges we all pay go to covering bad debts. The more times you get your money back from a credit card company, the higher this number gets. And it’s not just the example $100 you get back – on top of that is the costs of trying to recoup that money from whoever took it from you in the first place. This includes legal fees and labour hours. For you to get back your $100 may cost the company $130, so costs go up.
If for the example this was Shon, he has to pay back more than he owed. But he doesn’t have the couple of million raised in Kickstarter already, so the credit card companies have to cover these costs if we could successfully claim the money back.
Holding Kickstarter successfully liable means these same sorts of costs and insurance would be required by Kickstarter, and then the already inflating credit charges would start to be mirrored by Kickstarter.
Now by all this in no way am I saying we aren’t owed the money back. What I am trying to point out is who actually owes us the money and who should be paying it back.
So no one is to blame?
Not at all – Shon C. Bury is to blame. We essentially bought a dud product from a company that failed to live up to its promises, then ran. He seems to have taken the way out of closing shop and running, making it cost even more to go after him.
If this was your first and only Kickstarter, I can understand running from the platform at a full sprint. It hurts that this has happened – I have lost money too. Not as much as some of you, but this isn’t academic conjecture to me. I have a stake just like everyone else in this.
But blindly lashing out at people that aren’t responsible isn’t the answer. The people that just worked at Space Goat aren’t the ones that took your money. The people that made the components in good faith and haven’t been paid didn’t take your money. Shon C. Bury, CEO and founder, made the decisions that cost you your money and then ran.
There are con artists in this world. There are people that make mistakes that will cost you. Generally, these people will stand up and own their mistakes. It doesn’t make it OK, but it helps when someone can say “I did this, and I am sorry.” How does it help? You have a target. The responsibility for actions is taken. You still watch them closely, but most people that do this will at least try and make things right.
I have backed over 200 projects to date on Kickstarter, and only 2 have disappointed me. Terminator is one of those two, and the only one I honestly feel I got conned by.
I have been trying to write this for over two weeks, and each time I sit to write I feel physically ill about the whole situation. Originally this was going to be my first Blatherings again after announcing the new podcast with Alpal, but I have so much trouble keeping the anger out of my voice. This is the last time I am giving Shon C Bury my time with one exception – if I ever see anything he is attached to, I will make sure that my thoughts are shown to anyone else involved in the project.
Once again, if you are someone that has been affected by the dealings of this man, you have my sympathy. This sort of thing never feels good, and we should all hold the man responsible accountable. But no one else. Blindly lashing out never helped anyone, but making sure that others know the dangers and what to watch for does.
Would you pay someone that has never built a house thousands of dollars to build yours? Of course not. Be wary of Kickstarters by all means – you should be. If they have no track record, don’t give them your money – especially if they keep asking for more.
Yes, someone has to take the chance on someone for them to prove themselves, but think of Kickstarter like gambling – if you can’t comfortably lose that money, don’t spend it.
I cannot wait to see a world where people like this do not come out on top like they do today.
Never again Shon.