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Kickstarter-funded JRPG Project Phoenix delayed to 2018, not offering refunds

Troubled crowdfunding success already months late

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Backers of the Japanese role-playing game Project Phoenix, which raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter in 2013, found out today that they won't get the game they funded until at least 2018, according to an update from the game's developer.

Project Phoenix developer Creative Intelligence Arts offered some good news for backers today: The studio has finally hired a full-time programmer to work on the long-delayed game. But the bad news is that that programmer won't start for another couple months.

"Current estimates place dev at about 2.5 years out from completion," the update reads. "This is 2.5 years from the time we get our full-time programmer on board. That means we are expecting early 2018 for a finalized build and 6 months for testing after that."

Project Phoenix's Kickstarter campaign originally estimated that the game would ship on multiple platforms in mid-2015.

The game's development troubles won't come as a surprise to JRPG fans who've been following Project Phoenix's progress over the past few months. In July, the developer offered a backer-only update that said it was having issues with finding programmers. In September, Project Phoenix's creators offered a dire "state of the game" update, in which key components of the RPG — script, textures, Unreal Engine 4 programming and level design — were at zero percent completion.

"Yes, after 2 years there should be more to show..."

"0% is kind of harsh to say on some of those things but I would rather be conservative at this point until we see some results," the developer said in September. "Yes, after 2 years there should be more to show..."

The developer continued, saying that programming was highlighted as a risk factor in the original pitch: "Project Phoenix development was hinging on one major programmer to bring the project to a point where others could begin their in-game work. Obviously, that did not work out. The programmer's involvement got delayed and therefore the game was delayed respectively. Now he has been removed from the project altogether and we are working to get a replacement(s) in as soon as possible."

In light of today's update — the only silver lining being that some music from composer Nobuo Uematsu is nearing completion — Creative Intelligence Arts addressed the possibility of refunds (or lack thereof) for backers.

"To initiate refunds is to give up on the project since there would be no money left to complete it," the developer said. "If we make the decision to call it quits then we will work out some kind of remediation with backers at that time. Until then we are pressing on."

Project Phoenix was originally pitched in August 2013 as "Japan's indie RPG [featuring] AAA talent." The game boasted involvement from Final Fantasy veteran Nobuo Uematsu and other former Final Fantasy developers. Creative Intelligence Arts originally sought $100,000 to fund the game, but wound up bringing in more than $1 million through Kickstarter and PayPal.

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