Kickstarter Suspends Campaign for Areal Amid Accusations of Foul Play

areal-concept-artIt’s not often that a Kickstarter campaign is the subject of such controversy but controversial is about the only way to describe the campaign for the planned game Areal. The game, by a new company of experience developers called West Games, was to be a spiritual successor to the STALKER franchise by developers of the games. Sounds like the perfect project for a Kickstarter, right?

That’s when the wheels started coming off. The game’s campaign was criticized for not having any sort of gameplay to show for itself despite the devs saying they’ve poured every last cent into developing the game to this point. Spam comments flooded the campaign, allegedly to bury questions or criticisms about the campaign. And it ended with a couple of massive last-minute to push a campaign that had stalled out over the goal.

The suspicious circumstances surrounding the campaign resulted in Kickstarter suspending the campaign two days hitting the goal and told backers that their pledges wouldn’t go through.

Areal’s Kickstarter campaign started fantastically by raising just under $30,000 in the first two days of its campaign. Against a $50,000 campaign goal, that had to mean that success was ensured, right? Well, over the next 23 days, the campaign raised less than $10,000 dollars. Then just a few days before the deadline, they pulled in $26,000 over the weekend to get over their funding goal and make it to $64,000.

On Tuesday, two days before the campaign was due to end and three days after the goal was reached, Kickstarter suspended the campaign. According to Kicktraq, the campaign received almost $26,000 from two donors to get to the happy side of their threshold. Kickstarter thought this was too good to be true and suspended the campaign as it was on the cusp of success.

What likely caused the suspension was a violation of Kickstarter’s rules. One of the crowdfunding site’s rules that leads to suspension is: “A related party posing as an independent, supportive party in project comments or elsewhere. Misrepresenting support by pledging to your own project.” In addition to the suspiciously large late donations, the campaign’s page was inundated with numerous spam comments that one writer suggested were there to hide critical comments from other users.

Those large donations weren’t the only controversies from the campaign. Many people found it odd that a Ukrainian developer’s Kickstarter would be billed as being in Las Vegas. The project’s funding goal was thought to be too low for a game that would be an open-world with a custom engine and on Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U.

Perhaps the most odd moment of the Kickstarter (and the most likely evidence of “misrepresenting support” used by Kickstarter) was a letter posted by West Games from someone claiming to be Vladimir Putin. In it, the Russian President said one of his daughters was a backer, expressed his interest in the game and offered an invitation for the developers to come to Moscow to play the game with him. While West Games admitted that the letter was likely a hoax. They posted it anyway.

West Games’ position on the suspension of their campaign is that they were the victim of the ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine. They claimed that rival developers with interests in the STALKER franchise and anti-Ukrainian Kickstarter users conspired to undermine the campaign and caused it to fail through suspension.

If you are still interested in seeing Areal become a reality, West Games is still trying to crowdfund the game. They’re offering the opportunity to contribute to the development of the game directly through their website. Well, I guess that’s if you’re comfortable doing that.

Normally, I’d close a post with a little analysis or editorializing. In this instance, I’m too busy scratching my head at all the oddities of this story to be able to do that.

Sources: Eurogamer, Kotaku, /r/Games


About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on July 24, 2014, in Games and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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