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Two high-profile electronics Kickstarters suffer big setbacks

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Two of the most-funded consumer electronics devices ever to succeed on Kickstarter have fallen on hard times recently. The team behind Coolest Cooler have begun selling production units on Amazon ahead of shipping to backers, and the team behind the Zano quadcopter drone have simply given up and filed for bankruptcy. Add to this list the sad story of Ouya, the upstart Android game console which was sold off to Razer earlier this year, and things are not looking up for the future of crowdfunded high-tech goods.

Ars Technica reports that The Torquing Group, the company behind the Zano quadcopter drone, said it would "pursue a creditors' voluntary liquidation" starting this week. Of the 15,000 drones that had been ordered, only 600 shipped. The Verge reports that those who did receive their drones were hugely disappointed in their performance.

Meanwhile the second most-funded campaign in Kickstarter's history, the Coolest Cooler, which earned nearly $13.3 million has so far been unable to manufacture and ship all the units it owes to backers. Instead, The Verge reports, it's turned to direct sales through Amazon in the hope of creating enough cash flow to fulfill its Kickstarter obligations.

In June of this year Ouya, the Android-powered microconsole, sold what it could to Razer in a deal that included the content catalog, software assets, online store and its brand name but conspicuously excluded the hardware itself.

Say what you will about the state of games on the Kickstarter platform, clearly there's a very high risk of failure for high-tech physical products through the service.

In September Kickstarter announced a new corporate charter that makes it a public benefit corporation, joining organizations like Patagonia and This American Life in dedicating itself to act on behalf of the public good. The change to PBC moves the Brooklyn-based company along the spectrum from a regular corporation towards a traditional non-profit, but only slightly. You can read more about that transition in Polygon's in-depth interview with CEO Yancey Strickler.