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Kickstarter Backers Demand Refunds As Neal Stephenson Cancels Unfinished Swordfighting Game

by Mike Futter on Sep 18, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Last year, we reported that author Neal Stephenson’s successful $526,000 Kickstarter project, a swordfighting game called Clang, had been “paused.” Today, that project has been fully canceled by his company, Subutai Corporation, and Kickstarter backers are seeking refunds.

According to a post titled “Final Update” on the project page, Stephenson says that approximately $700 of refunds have been distributed. A number of other backers have chimed in via the comment section to also request their money returned, despite Stephenson’s claim that all backer rewards have been delivered.

“Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the Clang prototype and the other donor rewards as promised,” Stephenson writes. “The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn't very fun to play.” Commenters are refuting Stephenson’s claim that all backer rewards have been distributed, specifically identifying a physical book for tiers of $150 and higher that has not been sent to eligible funders.

This might not be the end of Stephenson’s work in interactive media, though. He mentions in the post that there are other possible “ideas and opportunities presented themselves” in the year since development was paused. 

“I have delayed talking publicly about these projects for a long time because I kept thinking that at least one of them would reach a point where I could describe it in something other than generalities,” Stephenson says. “I apologize for that delay. But now a year has passed since the last update and I've decided that it's cleaner and simpler to cut the cord, and announce the termination of CLANG. Future announcements can then happen in their own good time, giving any new projects a fresh start.”

Backers can use their “backer number” to sign up for a mailing list to be notified should these other projects ever be made public. “It is possible that these projects will one day yield bonus rewards for CLANG backers, but no guarantees can be made on that front since these projects are just getting off the ground and will likely involve entities other than Subutai Corporation,” Stephenson concludes. “My recommendation is that you sign up for the list.”

We’ve reached out to Subutai for clarification on the claims made by backers that some awards haven’t been delivered. We’ll update should we receive a response.

Update: Subutai Corporation CEO Mark Teppo responded to our request for comment, stating definitively that every effort was made to distribute backer rewards to all eligible funders.

"Categorically, I can state that effort was made to send out all rewards," he told us via email. "I just went and looked at to see if they still had historical data from when we shipped all the rewards, and they do. I'm not surprised that a few backers didn't ultimately get their rewards due to the fact that the various postal services are quite busy and things can get lost along the way. We still have some of the physical items which we'll be happy to send out to backers once we have had an opportunity to follow up with them. Multiple comments aside, statements that the hard-copy fighting guide wasn't distributed is incorrect."

[Source: Kickstarter via Kotaku]


Our Take
This is a reminder that backing a Kickstarter is not a pre-order. Unfortunately for Stephenson, he opened the door to refunds, and many more backers are looking to take advantage. The willingness to refund undercuts the claim that all rewards have been delivered (but may just be a gesture of good will), though I’m withholding judgment on that until Stephenson and Subutai respond to our inquiry.