Glenn Elliott wrote:
That's good to hear! Fingers crossed (oh, so so crossed)!
Vic Wertz wrote:
(...All I can say is that if they didn't think the numbers made sense, they wouldn't have done the deal.)
I'm not saying things won't work out just fine--and I really hope they do for everyone's sake--but let's be real here, a lot of companies do things without fully analyzing, fully understanding, or fully intending to commit to the plan. That same line of thought was applied ND, and we know how that story worked out.
Without knowing what's going on, it seems like ND's play is to leverage what intellectual property they have and sell as much stuff as possible, which I assume is to make them look profitable to an investor. The problem is that it doesn't seem like they have that much intellectual property to leverage, since they were mostly a "middle man." And they owe a lot of money, although it's not "owed" in the same sense as debt, since it was through Kickstarter.
Good points. Also, the question of fraud is going to be governed primarily by federal and state law and not the Kickstarter TOS. In other words, the TOS can't be used as indemnity to fraud.
Ultimately, it is up to the state AGs to decide whether to pursue a fraud case. This is probably fairly small potatoes to them.
Glenn Elliott wrote:
Yes, thank you.
Vic Wertz wrote:
If you had to guess, would you say within a month? Within a quarter?
Vic Wertz wrote:
Having a logo prominent on a product is one thing--I don't know how your licensing agreement reads, but the Kickstarter campaign itself is not a product. If the only Paizo logo present on the campaign site was on a mockup of the packaging for a mini or something like that, I don't think folks would be as justified in complaining. Rather, under the "About Us" section, Paizo is the first entity listed, and it goes beyond your logo. You can see how people would interpret Paizo as being either the primary or a joint partner, right? Or at a minimum, strongly vouching for ND?
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
I have, obviously, as I have posted occasionally over the past 3 months. But, by all means, continue to pour gas.
No, it's this type of trollish behavior from the apologists that doesn't help. You note that it's "still a garbage fire," but you're pouring gasoline on it.
And being mean? Silas thanked Diego Valdez. I would like to thank him, too. I think people have been generally courteous to Sara Marie, too. I appreciate her efforts as well. I don't fault the Customer Service folks; rather, I am sympathetic to them.
At this point leaving this thread up is causing more trouble than it's worth with the same tired points being made over and over and over.
No, I daresay leaving this thread up is a lot less trouble than if the thread were deleted/removed/closed. For many people, that would send a very loud signal. Paizo knows that.
Plus, you can choose not to read it. The ball is ENTIRELY in your court.
The melodrama is reaching a fever pitch and everyone screaming about their lost money are getting out how hand, people aren't even reading the actual facts at hand here and just keep spiraling angrily until someone comes along to rationally defend the Golem... at which point it devolves into hyperbole and personal attacks which get deleted along with any post that the attack quoted.
I would also say that outside of a few moments, the tone of this thread has been pretty appropriate and measured and not outlandish. People have the right to be upset and angry, and everyone is out some amount of money, and for many, it's not an insignificant amount of money. If you'll notice, the flames of this thread tend to get worse right after apologetics are posted (which are almost always baseless). To be fair and clear, it has NOT been Paizo doing that. Customer Service has walked an appropriate and difficult line.
It's a nasty cycle that is only serving to MISinform the poor folks who just want news about the project they backed.
People are sharing information they have gathered from other sources on the internet. Don't act like it's all misinformation. I learned about ND breaking the silence on this thread. And about Archon's plans. There is useful information being conveyed.
If Paizo COULD come out and say anything they would, and temper tantrums being thrown and threatening to stop buy their products or boycott them is ENTIRELY MISSING THE POINT that they are NOT LIABLE for the poor handling, delays, and production issues that ND has. It only makes it HARDER for them to reply to your questions when the whole garden has been salted with bad info, hate, and trollfat.
Maybe, maybe not? I don't know if this is the agreed upon tactic, but a lot of companies get through bad PR by just not saying anything. It's probably the most common tactic. I don't think that's what's going on here since Customer Service has participated in this thread, but none of us can know for sure until the silence is actually broken.
Claiming Paizo is not liable at all is just as disingenuous as saying they are completely liable. Maybe a post or two suggested they are totally liable, but I can't recall any posts like that and the overwhelming majority--if not virtually everyone--who is upset is not claiming that at all. Too many of the apologetics involve forcing completely binary arguments like that one, and THAT is what's not helpful. If (1) Paizo hadn't been so publicly vocal about their confidence in ND and (2) the Kickstarter not had Paizo featured so prominently--and primarily really--as the owner of the Kickstarter, I don't think this situation would be where it was. There is no doubt that this Kickstarter had WAY more participants because of those two issues.
Acting like the ground has salted here is, in itself, a melodramatic statement. Folks have been pretty patient considering it's been a couple months since this thread was re-animated and yet there are still no real developments.
If this is true you cannot really blame a company for being forced to make a decision like this instead of taking a huge tax hit. I'd personally expect them to maybe bulk sell the items on ebay before that point though to at least recoup some of their lost revenue but I'm no business/tax guru so who knows?
I am assuming they cannot sell them, mostly likely per the contract with ND.
While true, just because ND is the last one standing doesn't mean a business arrangement should have been made. Maybe Paizo did exhaust all their options. Maybe their other options were also riskier. Maybe the two big boys on the block legitimately weren't interested. Maybe they weren't given enough time. Maybe the financials of the licensing deal didn't make sense to them. I don't know. But I do know a game can occur without minis and virtually all do. I mean, minis never come out for a while with even Paizo's games. Plus, the cardboard pawns were out fairly quickly if folks really needed something for verisimilitude.
I take as false any overt or implied argument from any party that the minis were "essential" for the success of Starfinder--whether this argument is being used to justify going into a deal with ND or to explain, in hindsight, while a deal the deal was made. As a business you seek out any revenue streams you can get--especially if they are low cost revenue streams--but let's not act like this licensing deal was one of the major revenue streams.
Furthermore, I think this argument is often being used to distract from the real issue for many. Paizo assessed their risk/reward with licensing to ND, but ultimately, the entirety of the immediate financial risk was borne by Kickstarter backers--and that possibility had to be known at the time of entering into a business engagement with ND. So, what was it, that made Paizo comfortable? I don't suspect we'll ever know, but I sure hope--and suspect--the reason is more than "well, we aren't the ones who will bear the financial risk, so let's do it."
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
Just because ND *said* yes doesn't mean they could. Nor does it mean that that simple answer was enough, given their performance history.
And to be clear, it wasn't "ND or nothing," but rather, "[ND delivers OR ND completely wets the bed and severely ticks off some chunk of customers] or nothing." At the time, that was apparent.
We will probably never really know but I wish we could learn what ND said/did/showed to Paizo made the Paizo brass feel comfortable. That may lead to further frustration--or it may lead to some sympathy. I think that's what many people are really upset about--that we can't square how Paizo would go with this company--and let this company use Paizo's reputation as a security net on this Kickstarter--given the company's history and all the warnings from customers. And closure may never occur.
Sara Marie wrote:
Sara Marie, many thanks for posting this. This addresses the question I was most interested in hearing an answer for (of those questions that I thought *could* be answered given whatever is going on behind the scenes).
Sara Marie wrote:
Sara, I appreciate you communicating with us. I understand that there are certain things you can and cannot say as the PR person.
Can you tell us whether someone at Paizo--at the Erik Mona level or higher--will, at some point, address this situation publicly? Will this include any information as to why there was thought that ND could fulfill their obligation given their track record?
Rysky the Dark Solarion wrote:
Companies shouldn't "gamble." They may take risks--and those risks should be calculated--but it isn't gambling (and I take it you're not really a gambler either).
I find it hard to believe that the existence of miniatures was a "necessity" to sell Starfinder. In fact, if you look at Paizo's history, there's always a fairly long lag between release a campaign/AP/supplement and the associated miniatures. Which tells us that it's simply an additional revenue stream but not necessary to release the game.
But let's say that the Paizo thought miniatures had to be released for Starfinder to ultimately be profitable. Is the less than $40,000 in licensing fees really what made the difference? If so, I feel for Paizo's financials. But the more important question is was the less than $40,000 in licensing fees really worth the "very bad gamble" to go with a company with a terrible track record? To engender bad feelings from customers? (Sure, this won't affect the spending of some, but I can tell you my table has frozen its Paizo spending until this is addressed, and we collectively spend much more per year than we invested in this Kickstarter. I don't know how prevalent this thinking is, but I know we're not alone.)
To pile on, I still don't find fulfilling the explanation to go with ND over some other alternative. Reaper supposedly didn't want to compete with their sci-fi line--but that means you actually have existing IP to bring down your initial investment and can be re-purposed, using Starfinder as a revenue booster--score!
WizKids said they didn't have enough time for sculpting. So maybe delay release a bit? Or, hire additional sculpters on a freelance basis, which we know is how this industry often works. Oh, that may drive up the price a bit for Paizo? Do it, because it's better than the risk of total project failure from ND--which HAD to be identified as a possibility--and we know it won't be by much given the prices that freelance artists are paid. More importantly, if scheduling sculpting really was the case, how was ND going to have time to do it?
I obviously don't know the details, and I'm not pretending to, but the answers provided don't make good sense. Maybe those involved in negotiations simply don't have as much business acumen as expected, or maybe Paizo rushed Starfinder's release too much (TBH, the game definitely feels like it was rushed in places).
I called the two numbers here...
The second number, for ISS Solutions, just rings and rings and rings. The website seems pretty amateurish and advertises contracting/renovation services. My guess is that it was the office for a [very] small business unrelated to ND, and that, like others said, the address is for a facility that rents out space.
The first number does not belong to ND or to Christopher Birkenhagen; rather, it belongs to a very established company that sells laboratory and research materials and supplies, called MilliporeSigma. Maybe ND released that number and MilliporeSigma picked it up to have a local number for sales. That's definitely possible.
Another possibility is less comforting, however. One would hope ND didn't knowingly list that phone number on their business filings when it actually belongs to someone else, because, well, that actually would be fraud.
By entering into a licensing agreement with ND and by allowing the use of Paizo's name, Paizo absolutely has skin in this game. It may not be in the narrowest legal sense (which is probably moot, since ND is broke), but to think Paizo has no responsibility here is an overly academic position.
So because an artist failed in their artistic endeavor, that makes them liable to suit from those that patronized them? That seems an unfair precedent to set.
You are making an illogical leap here. You went from saying in the binary designation of "customer-retailer [relationship]" or "patron-artist [relationship]" (the binary designation is debatable, but let's go with it), our relationship to ND is more of a patron to an artist--to that holding an "artist" liable would be an unfair precedent to set. First, if you contracted with an artist for some sum of money to be exchanged for a fairly specific work of art--and the details of that art, as well as mockup, were well documented before the exchange of money--and all that artist produced is a very small part of that work of art, you would have legal standing. That doesn't mean it's prudent to sue, but "doing art" doesn't absolve responsibility of the artist.
Furthermore, ND is not an artist. Backers did not ask them to produce something of some indeterminate or nebulous quality. ND said they would create a very tangible, understandable, generally ordinary product (albeit for a particular piece of intellectual property). Outside of the specific look of Starfinder, we all understand what minatures are, generally how they're made, and we knew exactly how many ND said they would produce--and which ones--based on the money provided. That they asked for money up front to deliver a very explicit, specific product implies an unwritten contractual obligation to the people who provided money. That the commercial transaction did not occur in a more traditional medium does not make it less of a commercial transaction.
We knew upfront that this money was effectively lost the moment we spent it. There's a whole section of every Kickstarter description devoted to potential risks, so we can't say we weren't aware what we signed up for.
This is a pretty acrobatic apology. Yes, we all know there's risk when we engage in a Kickstarter. However, folks that funded it DID expect it was likely they would get a product. To suggest otherwise is silly. Moreover, that Paizo's name was allowed to be used all over this Kickstarter provided additional "reasonable assurance" that the Kickstarter would at least largely be fulfilled. Therein lies the skin in the game.
And again, there is no contractual obligation for ND to provide us a product. Now, if it came out that they defrauded everyone with 0 intention of delivering anything, just to take the money and run, then maybe we'd be able to go after them in court. But that's a really high bar to clear. And the fact that some people did receive miniatures (however few) shows they at least attempted to do what they said they would. They just failed.
The absence of a written contract does not mean there is no contractual obligation, just like the presence of a written contract does not mean that the written contract is full-proof. Again, you're posing a very binary view of things (complete, outright fraud v. earnest but failed management of a project), which is particularly problematic since it's likely neither one of those options encapsulates ND's intentions. Producing a fraction of the product promised does not mean ND earnestly tried to fulfill their obligations as presented in the Kickstarter campaign. I, as many others think, suspect ND was raising funds to pay off moneys owed to others, hoping they would catch lightning in a bottle and make themselves and everyone whole. Those don't equate to earnest intentions of fully fulfilling the Kickstarter campaign.
Suggesting that Paizo is either "completely" or "not at all" responsible is disingenuous. I don't think any of the critics are saying they're completely responsible; we are saying that Paizo has skin in this game, and they know it. Even if no legal action occurs--and I expect no legal action to occur--this is a bad look for Paizo given that they (1) engaged in a license with what is in their business a known bad operator, (2) allowed free and generous use of their name in the solicitation of funds, (3) are profiting from the same product, albeit through a different legal mechanism, by selling the exact, same minis on their website (no one can convince me that the funding ND acquired from Kickstarter and any funding ND acquired from Paizo for developing those same minis can be properly segregated), and (4) didn't address this issue publicly until there was a robust and protracted outcry from customers.
Fully absolve all you want. Many won't, and they are justified in doing so.
I do think that Paizo has the responsibility to explain to some extent how they are selling the miniatures yet the Kickstarter backers are left in the cold. I understand this may be the best way for the Kickstarter to get funded, and there was certainly a different contract for Ninja Division (oh, how the name is so fitting) to deliver product to Paizo than the agreement around the Kickstarter, and blah blah blah--but Paizo's name is ALL OVER the Kickstarter page. Paizo has skin in this game. And Paizo hasn't spoken to this at all.
Maybe instead of allowing their name to be linked to the Kickstarter in such a prominent way, they should have done their due diligence on this company. Clearly, they didn't.
To me, the answer's simple: no Kickstarter fulfillment, no more Paizo purchases.