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The Most Disappointing Games Ever Crowdfunded

Thanks to the success of games like Double Fine Adventure (Broken Age), The Banner Saga, Thomas Was Alone and Shovel Knightcrowdfunding video game development became a legitimately viable option for projects that might not have otherwise been made. Even still, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch...and in the world of crowdfunded games, there have been a lot of bad apples.


Some crowdfunded video games never see the light of day. Others are scams. And some...well...just plain stink. Here are the most disappointing games ever to happily accept fans' hard-earned money, before leaving them with little more than an IOU.

Project Phoenix

Project Phoenix purported to bring together the best of both worlds by combining Japanese aesthetics with Western gameplay. Promising to be "a JRPG developed by JRPG veterans" with squad-based RTS game design, it was easy to get excited about the project. In 2013, nearly 16,000 backers pledged a total of $1,014,600 to the project, with the expectation that the game would be delivered in mid-2015.


There was one major problem, however — Project Phoenix didn't have a programmer. "We were waiting for [David Clark] from Ori and the Blind Forest to finish his work on that project," director Hiroaki Yura told Kotaku in an e-mail in late 2015. "However, that got delayed by 14 months...by the time it was April [2015], he was required to stay on as there were continuing commitments with Moon Studio that he cannot talk to us about." Still, Yura promised to find a replacement.

Fast forward to April 2017, and it seemed clear Project Phoenix would never rise from the ashes. "We expect to make our backers happy will require higher quality assets and more programmers," Lead Programmer Daniel Dressler wrote in an update. "To this end[,] we stopped investing the returns from our music business into art assets and instead drove them into a different smaller production, with further assistance from private investors. Should this tiny product succeed those private investors have promised to invest significant capital into Project Phoenix." Promises, promises.



In 2012, author Neal Stephenson and his company, the Subutai Corporation, set out to "revolutionize sword fighting video games" with a crowd-funding campaign to bring CLANG — "a PC arena game based on one-on-one multiplayer dueling" — to life. Over 9,000 backers were intrigued enough by the game's promise and pledged over half-a-million bucks.


Then came September 2013's "pause button" update, in which the CLANG team wrote: "We stretched the Kickstarter money farther than we had expected to, but securing the next round, along with constructing improvised shelters and hoarding beans, has to be our top priority for now. We hope we'll be able to make an announcement on that front soon."

Anytime a crowdfunded game runs out of money, it's an all-but-guaranteed death sentence — and CLANG's case was no different. The project's "Final Update" came a year later, in September 2014. "Last year, Subutai Corporation delivered the CLANG prototype and the other donor rewards as promised," explained Stephenson. "The prototype was technically innovative, but it wasn't very fun to play. This is for various reasons. Some of these were beyond our control. Others are my responsibility in that I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment...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."


At least some people got their money back.

Takedown: Red Sabre

Not every crowdfunded video game fails to see the light of day. Sometimes, they just plain suck — like Takedown: Red Sabre.

In March 2012, game designer Christian Allen launched his Kickstarter for Takedown: Red Sabre, which he pitched as a spiritual successor to the original Rainbow Six and SWAT 4. He only raised 35 percent of his goal, however, before he relaunched his Kickstarter campaign with an aggressive last push — which attracted former Call of Duty Creative Strategist Robert Bowling to both back and promote the project on Twitter. In its final hours, the project met its goal with $221,833 coming in from 5,423 backers. 505 Games stepped in to publish the project, and it debuted worldwide for Windows on September 20, 2013.


Too bad the game is terrible. GameSpot called it "tactical trash," writing: "Takedown: Red Sabre should be taken down from the Steam servers where it is currently being sold for $14.99...This is a game that should not have been released in its current state, and is certainly not one you should waste your time and money on." 

The Stomping Land

Created by Alex "Jig" Fundora, the Kickstarter campaign for The Stomping Land — a "multiplayer survival game about dinosaurs" — was successfully funded shortly after launch, with 4,427 backers pledging $114,060. After all, who doesn't love dinosaurs?


Unfortunately, the game was pronounced dead when modeler Vlad Konstantinov posted a now-deleted explanation on The Stomping Land's official forums. "I'm sad to say this but I have to temporarily freeze all my work for [the] project," he wrote, according to PC Gamer. "More than a month has passed since the day when I received the last reply from Jig. I've sent him five messages and haven't got any single reply...If this silence continues I will stop my participation in TSL and start taking the necessary measures to cover my expenses (sell the models for example)" — which is exactly what he did.

The game was temporarily available via Steam's Early Access program for £18.99, but ultimately removed — and, naturally, backers wanted their money back. Of course, since Fundora had abandoned ship, nobody ever got their refunds. 


Code Hero

Want to learn how to actually make video games, just by playing a video game? Of course you do — and so did the 7,459 backers who pledged $170,954 to Alex Peake's Code Hero, "a game that teaches you how to make games!"


Sadly, Code Hero never taught anybody much of anything — other than to not give Peake your money. The crowdfunded game was supposed to launch at PAX Prime 2012, but the game went dark. For a couple weeks, both Code Hero's and Primer Labs' websites strangely directed fans to a page for Check and Raise Poker. "We ran out of money," Peake later explained to Engadget. "We've been building the website without asking for more and building the game without asking for more because we're getting close to finishing a lot of it and putting out a beta."

But the game never actually saw the light of day. Developers like David Lopez, who left his job at Red Giant Studios after being offered $55,000 a year to join the Code Hero team, ended up working for free. "I never got paid for the majority of my work, which was tons of money," Lopez said, claiming his only compensation came in the form of an $800 personal check from Peake after a $400 check from Primer Labs bounced. Backers also never got their rewards.


Code Hero's last update came on April 4, 2014, when the game's project coordinator announced that he was leaving. "Further updates will be up to Alex to arrange," he wrote. Don't hold your breath.


Peter Molyneaux has a reputation in the gaming industry for being a bit loose with the truth. From Black & White to the Fable series, the developer has a tendency to both overhype his games and fail to deliver in the final products. Still, that didn't stop 17,184 eager backers from pledging £526,563 to his and 22Cans' Godus — what they sold as a "delightful reinvention of the god game" from the self-proclaimed creators of the genre.


When questions arose later during the troubled development of the Kickstarted project, Molyneaux gave a tense and now infamous interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, in which he vehemently defended his questionable decisions — like choosing to sign on with a publisher after marketing the game as a product of just "you and our unbridled dedication (no publishers)." He also took more than half-a-million pound sterling despite knowing full well that it wasn't enough to properly fund the game's development, and still claimed that Godus would be finished on time...even though his games are almost never finished on time. "You know what Peter Molyneux's like," an ex-22Cans employee told Kotaku. "You try to hold onto his words and they slip through your fingers."


The game eventually saw a staggered release across Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android — to less-than-stellar critical reviews

Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes

In 2011 and 2012, an action-RPG called Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes — which claimed to feature "stunning 2D visuals, fast paced gameplay and multiple story lines" — experienced not one but two successful Kickstarter campaigns. So...where's the game?


The TL;DR version of the story came in the game's last update on April 15, 2014. "This project is [temporarily] on hold and we will be offering refunds," Studio Kontrabida's founder Leo Molar wrote. "No, this project is not dead and no we are not bankrupt, however, due to some complications, we're sad to say we can no longer work on this full time."

Simply put, development on Rival Threads: Last Class Heroes ground to a screeching halt when the crowdfunded project ran out of cash. "We tried to raise a significant amount of money to not only work on Rival Threads," Molar explained to Cliqist, "but to execute with the intention of delivering it beyond the scope and quality promised on Kickstarter...We're talking console, mainstream attention worthy quality, instead of just the original mobile game quality we were originally aiming for...A game with the level of quality we were aiming for probably needs at least 10x the amount on Kickstarter [that we raised]."


Hey, at least he offered refunds. The same can't be said for many other projects on this list.

Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians

The unsung story of Unsung Story — "a rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno" — isn't a particularly bright one.

With Final Fantasy Tactics' Matsuno leading the project being developed by Playdek, there was a legitimate reason to be excited, making it easy to understand how 15,824 backers could pledge $660,126. Unfortunately, months of silence were sporadically interrupted by unimportant updates, unimpressive screenshots, and a gameplay video that looked straight-up terrible. Then came the admission everyone was expecting — Playdek was running out of money. "For Unsung Story, we will explore options for outside development help," the company explained in an update, "and will look to see if we are able to bring on an outside team that can assist us in furthering development."


Playdek bailed on the project in August 2017: "Effective immediately, publisher/developer Little Orbit has taken over all the rights and assets to Unsung Story from Playdek, and is now the project creator. They believe strongly the game can be an amazing Tactics RPG, and they are excited to carry on and bring Matsuno's story to life." Never heard of Little Orbit? That's okay. Their most notable projects include Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Investigations, Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends, and Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue — not exactly Final Fantasy Tactics-caliber titles.

Unfortunately, no refunds were given, and nobody knows what really happened to all that Kickstarter money.



Claiming to be "the game you've always wanted," Yogventures was supposed to be "an open world sandbox adventure game featuring characters developed by Simon and Lewis of The Yogscast" — a Bristol-based media production company who found success on YouTube. Instead, it ended up being a case of highway robbery.


"The failure of Yogventures is a matter of deep regret for the Yogscast," the company told Eurogamer. "[We] put a lot of faith in the developer Winterkewl, including allowing them to use our likenesses and brand. However the project was too vast in scope to be realised and despite a huge amount of hard work from Winterkewl they have had to abandon it...The game as it stands it is not capable of being released and certainly wouldn't live up to the expectations of the people that backed the Kickstarter or pre-ordered the game."

So where'd the $567,665 crowdfunded by 13,647 backers go? Good question. Winterkewl Games founder Kris Vale isn't even sure. "The Yogscast maintain that the remaining funds they received were used to pay for the things they did for marketing of the game," Vale explained. "But honestly, we're just as confused as everyone else where the rest of the funds went."


As a means of compensating the burned backers, everyone who pledged money got a copy of TUG, instead — a game representing everything the developers "wanted Yogventures to be." Refunds probably would've been preferred.


"From the developers of the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, comes a new post apocalyptic video game called Areal," West Games' Kickstarter page read. Until the campaign was suspended.

Shortly after raising $64,928 in pledges, West Games sent a message to its 1,090 backers. "A review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke Kickstarter's rules," the crowd-funding platform explained, though they didn't disclose exactly which rules were broken. 


West Games provided its own explanation. "People also need to take into account that Ukrainians and Russians are in an information war right now," the studio told Polygon, "and as a Ukrainian developer, we were subject to constant hostility from Russian Kickstarter accounts...After [VICE News] wrote an article about us, people started contributing every minute, but Kickstarter was afraid of the controversy surrounding our project, so they suspended funding...We were not warned, we do not have a say in the matter, we cannot notify our backers, we cannot message our backers, and we can't post updates anymore. That is how Kickstarter chose to act."

Not to be deterred, the developers — who claim to have been contacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin — launched a new campaign on sketchy (and now offline) crowdfunding website World Wide Funder for the same game, only brazenly renamed STALKER Apocalypse. "We have registered a trademark for Stalker Apocalypse, and have every right to use it as our title," the devs argued. "Stalker by itself is a common word, and anyone can use it." Sorry, guys — not sure that's how it works.


Mighty No. 9

Published by Deep Silver and released in 2016, Mighty No. 9 — a spiritual successor to the famous Mega Man series — was one of the highest profile crowdfunded video games in Kickstarter history. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most disappointing.


Despite receiving $3,845,170 in pledges from 67,226 backers, the game turned out to be a 5 out of 10, at best — a far cry from what Mega Man and Keiji Inafune fans everywhere were expecting. The original Mega Man games are considered master-classes in gameplay and level design. Mighty No. 9 is not. Even worse, the old Mega Man franchise had beautiful, albeit limited, graphics. Mighty No. 9 is just plain ugly, with horrendous voice acting and uninspired cut-scenes. No matter how hard you try, there's just no other way to spin it — Mighty No. 9 stinks.