How frauds are invading crowdfunding under the banner of indie game developers
Hello there again, this is Russell Davis. You may remember me as the guy who really hates micro-licensing groups. Well, today I want to point out a new issue we have in the indie community. I don't believe it is an issue that has been touched much. I will first get this out of the way. I don't go looking for trouble but the magical curse on me was VERY specific on how I would always run into only the dumbest scenarios in life.
Real life example
I also want to say I love how crowdfunding has provided so awesome indie titles which I sincerely doubt would have been made without crowdfunding. Sometimes, titles have failed because of mismanagement and others didn't quite deliver what was promised and I think any gamer knowledgeable about crowdfunding would be aware of those issues.
Well I hope so...
How about this scenario?: one day you're going through a crowdfunding site because you need to spend money on backing for new prospective video game titles. You scroll through the crowdfunding website and see a game that you've seen cloned a million times over (hint...candy). I clicked on it for whatever reason and visited the page. It was asking for $5K and was about 1/10 of the way in, while only on its 5th day of its campaign. I clicked on the trailer that was on the campaign page and it showed a 30 sec YouTube video showing some gameplay footage. I went directly to the YouTube channel by clicking on the embedded video. I discovered the video had a different company's watermarking on it that wasn't the developer's logo but it was of some other entity altogether.
I was confused. For a trailer for a crowdfunding campaign, it had one link and no other information about the campaign? Also, nothing on the YouTube channel seemed affiliated to the crowdfunding campaign and was under another assumed name. I clicked on the link and where did it take me too?... A damn app reskinning site. What is app reskinning, you ask? It is the process of taking a premade game and removing out the audio (sometimes) and visual assets and replacing them without altering the game's code in a large scale.
So, this group, whoever its members are, was going to sell a game that it didn't own, and it was going to buy it from an app reskin site and sell it after the crowdfunding succeeded. The asking price for the reskinned game was $1.5K and they wanted $5K to "produce a game"? Bull!@$#... what I found was a scam, and I realized now that people were buying premade games and selling them and deceiving customers as if they were their own crafted product. Why is this an issue, you ask? Why should I have even bothered giving this a second glance? Well, if you can tell by my previous article, I don't take @$!# laying down and I may have an addiction to conflict itself.
Would you trust this man? I wouldn't... wait a minut...
This was 100% a fraud, and to me, the issue is this: it steals money and confidence from people when it comes to crowdfunding. It is not the crowdfunding spirit to raise money to buy an off the shelf product (and in this case a game) and sell it as your own (it's also highly against crowdfunding sites' policies). Oh, and who do you think is going to support this game for bugs, issues and customer complaints? Because I'm doubtful the individual buying a reskinned application has the skill to provide such service. Inevitably, the game would be abandoned and screw customers over and backers too. This is a bane for the indie game market. We should strive to report this. It's a complete embarrassment to artists these campaigns even exist at all.
I reported the campaign and eventually got this...
This is a message from [exempt name] Integrity team. We just wanted to reach out to thank you for so proactively educating us about the risks of this project. We will be investigating. We rely on the input of whistleblowers like you to help us maintain the health of our ecosystem. Please keep up the great work, and again, thank you.
[exempt name] Integrity
That was the end of that campaign... but I worry this may become an issue more so down the line. Customers are savvy but sometimes they are not aware of these sort of complex scams and mobile gaming has such a glut of reskinned titles, it's overwhelming and easy to miss. I don't mind if a game has a similar gameplay style in comparison to another one and still has its own twist. How many clones of a certain bird that obviously has flight issues do we need? 5,000? 10,000? Or how about 1,000,000? Ok... a million is excessive but then again...
This isn't just some coincidence of a flood of cheap prebuilt and reskinned mobile games that are pathetically hoping to make a quick buck without being pure to the art form. This is a real issue, and eventually, we will be surrounded by candy and birds themed games because so many will try this scam and they will never relent.
And neither shall we!