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The $1.4M Robotech Kickstarter is an absolute disaster

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It failed to produce enough product, now the license itself is expiring

Robotech RPG Tactics
Palladium Books/Harmony Gold

The Kickstarter campaign for Robotech RPG Tactics, a tabletop miniatures game that was successfully funded in 2013, is a failure. Role-playing game maker Palladium Books said this week that it is unable to complete the full range of products promised to backers five years ago. Furthermore, Palladium president Kevin Siembieda announced that, after holding the license for Robotech in the U.S. for more than 30 years, his company is now unable to renew that license with its owner, Harmony Gold.

In short, the campaign has become a complete disaster.

“It is with sadness and tremendous heartbreak that I announce that, despite our best efforts, we are unable to produce the Robotech RPG Tactics Wave Two rewards,” Siembieda wrote to backers on Feb. 27. “Moreover, after proudly carrying the legacy of Robotech in the role-playing games medium for 30 years, our license has expired and is not being renewed.”

Siembieda said that his company burned through the $1.4 million in Kickstarter funds three years ago. Palladium’s current revenues don’t provide enough capital to actually finish making the product line it promised back in 2013.

The original $80 tier included dozens of multi-part, highly detailed plastic miniatures. Each one had to be redesigned by hand after the initial campaign was successful.
Palladium Books

Customers are being offered boxed product from available inventory, and have been told to hurry and make their selections before March 20. Adding insult to injury, there’s simply not enough product to go around and what is available isn’t what was promised.

Shipping will also be an extra charge.

“I have spent the better part of a week trying to find the words to explain what happened and express to you how sorry we are that it has come to this,” Siembieda said. “In the end, we decided it best to keep it simple and share with you the broad strokes of how things unfolded without getting too deep into the weeds or violating any Non-Disclosure Agreements.”

The original Kickstarter campaign successfully raised $1,442,312 with 5,342 backers on May 20, 2013. Siembieda said that Palladium and its manufacturing partner Ninja Division were almost immediately tripped up by complications. The 3D sculpts of the game’s miniatures that it had commissioned at a cost of $35,000 were not compatible with the manufacturing process and had to be recreated from scratch. A game that Siembieda and his team had assumed was “98% done” was far from it.

After years of additional work, backer rewards were divided into two waves. Wave one began shipping in 2014 and early 2015 at a reported cost of $1.58 million. A selection of additional sets were produced as well, with the hope that their sales would help to fund wave two. Those who stumbled upon these sets at Gen Con in 2014 reported that they contained multiple serious manufacturing defects.

Ultimately that second wave of product, which contained the bulk of the rewards for higher-tier pledges to the original campaign, was never completed.

“After the initial release of Wave One products,” Siembieda wrote, “[retail] sales stalled. And with sales stagnating, our ability to produce Wave Two stalled with it. [...] The Kickstarter money was gone with Wave One.”

Tensions have been high among those still waiting for their rewards for some time. Because of those pressures, on Feb. 17, 2017, Siembieda said that one of the game’s designers had attempted suicide.

“Words on this board — cruel, vicious, condemning words — successfully crushed a man’s hopes and dreams and sent him spiraling into despair,” Siembieda wrote at the time. “Those words pushed him to the point of trying to take his own life. I would hate to think anyone may take pride in that.”

For a time, Palladium looked for investors to front them the estimated $625,000 it needed to produce and ship the remainder of the items it promised to its backers, but that was ultimately too high a price.

If you backed this project and are still waiting for rewards, instructions for how to claim something are in this Kickstarter campaign update.