Indiegogo’s Vega+ Campaign Stole Nearly $700,000 — And They’re Probably Getting Away With It

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The 2-year Vega+ saga is only getting worse — with little sign of a resolution.

After being more than patient with Retro Computer Studios, crowdfunding platform Indiegogo has hired a debt collector to deal with the company.  RCL failed to meet the conditions of Indiegogo’s final ultimatum.

The Vega+ was supposed to be an upgraded version of the original Vega, which itself is a remake console of the 8-bit personal home computer, ZX Spectrum.  The Spectrum was released back in 1982.

After a (seemingly) successful run with the Vega, RCL quickly announced the plans for a Vega+ with a Summer 2016 release date.  However, after two years of missed self-imposed deadlines, boardroom drama, and a shuffling of the corporate deck, the Vega+ has yet to be released.

Sadly, the nearly £513,000 (roughly $663,000) that was raised by nearly 4,780 backers seems to have gone to waste.

Indiegogo initially threatened to send debt collectors after RCL back in May.  But the crowdfunding platform decided to give the company one last ultimatum on June 15th ultimatum.  The demands were:

  • Proof of a Vega+ unit ready to play and ship by June 5th.
  • Refunds for all backers who wanted their money back.
  • Contact information of broadcaster Sky (Sky allegedly is delaying the shipping of the Vega+).

Unsurprisingly, none of the conditions have been met, and it appears that Indiegogo has finally called in the cavalry to put an end to the mess once and for all.

RCL’s actions: Shady at worst, unprofessional at best

It has been nigh impossible to act as Devil’s Advocate in the drama that is the Vega+.  To say that RCL has been handling the situation poorly is an understatement.

Despite the initial success of the original Vega, it became apparent that things were not fine-and-dandy behind the scenes.  Last year, several ZX-Spectrum game rights holders, including Zenobi and Atlantis, revealed that RCL had not paid them royalties for their games for either the Vega or the Vega+.  Both issued the company ultimatums of their own.

Lee Fogarty, a former contract worker for RCL, has made claims that the company has skipped out on paying him £599 worth of invoices. RCL, of course, denied any wrongdoing, but the way current MD Suzanne Martin went about rebuking Fogarty (and everyone else) only heightened suspicion.

Last but not least, RCL promised to pay 10% of their profits from the Vega to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. While RCL acted on their promise for some of these sales, roughly 4,000 units, RCL has yet to pay the hospital for 6,500 unit sales.  This is estimated to be around 20,000 pounds that the hospital will never receive.

According to David Levy, current chairman of RCL, this promise was made by former managing director Paul Andrews.  And the agreement was apparently changed when Andrews left.

It now looks like former employees, gaming studios and now a children’s hospital are getting the short end of the stick.  If RCL’s goal was to vilify themselves, then they achieved that in spades.

How not to use social media: Tone deaf social media presence

The Vega+ saga could be considered a master class as to why a company should never air its dirty laundry in public. This is a case study in how not to use social media to interact with angry customers.

For 2+ years, RCL has been very active on social media, bickering and arguing with their backers, and proclaiming complete innocence whilst shifting all blame on former executives Paul Andrews and Chris Smith.  All the while promising to meet delivery deadlines and failing to meet every single one of them.

People like to give others the benefit of the doubt, but RCL continues to give their backers every reason not to have faith in them.  Many backers have been blocked by the company on Twitter and Facebook, while others report receiving no responses at all.

RCL’s official website has no contact information at all.  And many of RCL’s interactions with backers on social media are rude and unprofessional.  There’s even a closed Facebook group of former backers who air their complaints about the disaster, and RCL labeled the group a ‘hate group’.

A simple show of proof that the Vega+ exists and is functional would go a long way towards easing the apprehension of the console’s backers.

But despite claiming that the Vega+ is ready to ship, RCL continues to tiptoe around actually revealing it.  So if it actually exists and is ready to ship, why can’t you show it?

Making matters worse is RCL’s release of a pre-order for a limited-edition Vega+ on their website.  If you’ve failed for two years to deliver the original product, selling a limited-edition Vega+ for £140 probably isn’t a good idea.  Nor is selling a behind the scenes, ‘Making of the Vega+’ book.  How does the company have time to do this but no time to fulfill their promises?

Many believe that RCL has spent most, if not all the money they received from their backers. One drain on the cash may be the numerous lawsuits involving RCL over the last two years.  But whatever RCL has done with the money, it doesn’t seem like backers will be getting what they paid for.

Where is Sir Clive Sinclair?

A Vega+ backer by the name of Graham Kenny, has set up the website imploring the legendary Sir Clive Sinclair to intervene in the affair and put an end to this disaster.  The website has a refund request form, acting as proof that they have in fact demanded a refund from RCL.   As of today, 274 backers have filled out the form.   The website also contains a timeline of events surrounding the Vega+ as well as every missed deadline.

Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the original ZX Spectrum, supported the Vega project since its inception has yet to respond. Unfortunately, the mishandling of the Vega+ will be an unwarranted stain of his legacy as an innovator and inventor.