Creators aren’t strictly held accountable for fulfilling their obligations, the wording of the terms does leave an opening for backers to request refunds. This is helpful in dealing with the vaporware and scams that pop-up. It’s not much. Mostly it just details expectations that developers remain open and honest with backers throughout the life of the project and demonstrate that funds are being used correctly. It does leave the door open for some legal recourse, which can be helpful in extreme circumstances.
What happens then, when a developer decides to forgo the likes of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Fig, and run their own campaign with zero oversight? Let’s take a look at Pixyul’s fallen survival action RPG, ReRoll to find out.
Back in early 2014 Pixyul, a Montreal-based independent studio announced plans for the ultimate open-world game. The studio was founded by ex-Ubisoft developers, Julien Cuny and Louis-Pierre Pharand. After having worked on big name titles like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, Cuny and Pharand had big plans for their new IP.
In what sounds like the most ambitious, and expensive, undertaking possible for a new studio, Pixyul wanted to recreate the planet by using drones to 3D map every available landmass. They had partnered with senseFly, the developer of the eBee mini-drone and planned to utilize the drones to scan and generate an in-game rendition of the entire planet, one square kilometer at a time.
This sounds more like an insane plan for world domination than a reasonable pitch for a new video game. Still, survival games are growing in popularity and ReRoll had some exciting plans for their massive world. Players would have to eat, rest, exercise, fight, and learn to survive, all while factoring in environmental conditions native to the real world areas they explored.
An idea this big certainly wouldn’t come cheap, so to help pay the bills, Pixyul set up their own crowdfunding store. According to the internet archive of the webpage (as the actual page and all of ReRoll’s social media accounts have disappeared) Pixyul didn’t like the “crowd” part of crowdfunding. Instead they referred to their backers as “Gamer Angels.”
These “angel” investors purchased game packages, which granted a Gamer Angel Tier Status. The game packages consisted of bonus in-game content, character models, vehicles, weapons. The packs ranged in price from $19.99 all the way up to bundle packs priced at $274.99.
After being left in the dark, ReRoll supporters finally got an update last month when Pixyul officially canceled the project. In an email shared on Reddit, the Pixyul team discussed the difficulties they encountered. Particularly in trying to secure publishers and additional investors. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful.
“After being so close on multiple occasions, today, we have to face the fact that this rejection was our last hope to secure the necessary funding to pursue the development and complete the game,” the email reads.
“This is why we are officially announcing that the development of ReROLL is over. We want all of you to know that we gave our best shot and like you, we are extremely disappointed that ReROLL will not become a reality. It sucks. All of this sucks. We know many of you will be disappointed and even pissed. We understand that. We should have been better at communicating our progress. Not to give excuses, but we were caught in the process with potential partners that wished we stayed silent on our progress.”
The email stated that the money raised from the campaign had been combined with the team’s personal funds. The total was then invested in, “building up the necessary elements to pitch the project to potential partners.”
To me this sounds dangerously close to admitting that they weren’t funding the actual development of the game. Instead they were raising money to have a crazy idea, with nothing to show for it.
Clearly, this is disappointing for the developers, but what about the backers? The ones who put money into a project that in hindsight seemed destined to fail? Pixyul is gifting them Steam copies of their other Early Access FPS, BIOS.
According to the email, “it’s the best we can do.”
Giving away a copy of a game worth $14.99 doesn’t seem like much compensation. Especially when the minimum package backer could buy was $19.99. Sadly, it’s likely all they will get, thanks to ReRoll’s terms and conditions. All payments became non-refundable as they were used to fund ReRoll’s costs, however loosely detailed they may have been. This means ReRoll’s supporters have waived away any ability to claim a refund.
“In the unlikely event that ReROLL is not able to deliver the Game and/or the pledge items, ReROLL agrees to post an audited cost accounting on its website to fully explain the use of the deposits for the Game Cost and the Game Packages & addons Cost.”
As far as I am aware, Pixyul has not provided any account of the funds. With the ReRoll website being almost immediately shut down, it appears they don’t plan on it. I reached out to Pixyul for their take on the situation and will update if/when I hear back. In the end, crowdfunding is still very much a “Backer Beware” environment, especially when conducted outside of the usual platforms.