YEAH, NO MORE REFUNDS. EVER.
I am just going to jump right into this one, no preamble, no foreplay, nothing. If you put money into Star Citizen, and you didn’t apply for or get a refund before end of 2017 – congrats you’re now a statistic in a long con scam. The End.
I saw this coming a mile away, over three years ago in 2015. And, like my other warnings, I issued a Red Alert about the implications. Some people listened, got a refund, and got out. Others were riding the wave of the project’s popularity due to repeated lies from Chris Roberts’ camp, and so just kept on giving them money. Hey, it’s their money – and we don’t care.
It’s now 2018, and all what I warned about has all come to pass. CIG has now gone on the record that, as I had accurately predicted, their TOS changes over the years were designed to rip backers off. Here are two official statements recently issued to Motherboard/Vice , Kotaku , Ars Technica , PC Gamer and others.
“Our Terms of Service provides refunds for 14 days after each pledge is made, but company policy is to refund anyone who has second thoughts for up to 30 days after their pledge, no questions asked,” – CIG
“The Terms of Service are not retroactive, but a huge majority of Mr. Lord’s pledges came after the TOS was changed to specify arbitration, and those pledges are under that TOS,” the rep wrote. “His pledges with new money on top of his earlier pledges required him to accept the new Terms of Service.” – CIG
Let me preface everything that comes next with these irrefutable FACTS -:
- Star Citizen was NEVER billed as an Early Access game. Not even once.
- In Oct 2012 Chris Roberts asked for, and raised $2M via initial Kickstarter crowd-funding. He promised to release both multiplayer (Star Citizen) and single-player (Squadron 42) by Nov 2014.
- By Aug 2013, when the first hangar module was released, they had raised $16.7M.
- By Nov 2014, the month he promised it would release, after increasing the game’s scope significantly, they had raised $65M.
- Contrary to what some backers try to promote, there was NEVER a vote of consensus to increase the scope of the game. That scope creep came when Chris Roberts himself created additional stretch goals after the initial Kickstarter goal was met. And then he kept on doing it by making various feature promises, new ship JPEG sales etc.
Right. So now lets discuss why this backer lawsuit and his subsequent court loss is so significant now more than ever. I have covered the fiasco in three (1, 2, 3) Twitter threads since news of this backer’s lawsuit broke. But first, a bit of history for context.
Back in 2012, Chris Roberts launched a crowd-funded campaign to deliver a multiplayer game called Star Citizen, along with a single-player component (which latest became Squadron 42). The original campaign was on their own makeshift website. Due to technical issues, they quickly switched their backend to an official crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, and relocated the campaign there.
Shortly after writing my Interstellar Citizens blog (aka The July Blog) in 2015 in which I raised some alarms about the project, some industry people contacted me about it, as well as to help shed some light about what was really going on behind the scenes. It was through those very sources that I was later made aware of looming company policy changes due to my writing several blogs in which I had indicated that, as per the pre-existing TOS, any backer wanting their money back, was entitled to it. During that period, I even hired attorneys to contact CIG with demands about the project, including financial accountability, refunds for those who requested them, and a dev schedule. You probably know how that turned out. I setup a dedicated forum section, and started tracking the policy changes in their Terms Of Service (TOS).
In August 2013, having raised $16.7M of the $2M they originally asked for, and right before they released the very first playable version of a module in the game, they made some startling material changes to the TOS. Part of that was the addition of an arbitration clause. Between Aug 2013 to Jan 2018, they released five updated versions of the TOS, each one stripping backers of previous rights and protections, while protecting CIG and removing all accountability for the project and it’s finances. Each one was also released to go along with a major build release (Yes, of course I track those too), thus suckering backers into agreeing to it and wiping away previous protections. By the current Jan 2018 version, according to those changes, not only do they NEVER have to issue a refund, but they do NOT even have to deliver a product – of ANY kind. Ever.
“RSI agrees to use its good faith business efforts to deliver to you the Pledge Item(s) as soon as possible. You agree that any unearned portion of your Pledge Funds shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has ceased development and failed to deliver the relevant Pledge Item(s) to you. In consideration of the promises by RSI hereunder, you agree that you irrevocably waive any claim for a refund of your Pledge Funds except as set forth in the preceding sentence.” – CIG
While publications like PC Gamer are only now writing articles about this latest fiasco, while citing the TOS changes, none of it should have come as a surprise because I have been sounding this alarm for years. To the extent that shortly after a blog I wrote about it started making the rounds, the UK edition of Kotaku also chimed in with their own warning. That was in 2016. I guess nobody envisioned that two to three years later, not only would Star Citizen come to be regarded as a full-on scam, but that it wouldn’t even have delivered 18% of the two game promised.
HEROES OF MIGHT AND METTLE
The first time any backer tested my theory that taking CIG to the govt authorities or to court would force them to issue refunds, a backer tested that theory – and won. I wrote a blog about it in July 2016. At the time, he was not only still under the arbitration clause, but also under the most egregious TOS changes since 2012. Read my update of 06-10-2016 on that particularly horrendous TOS change. But this guy just got lucky because when he took his case to the CA authorities, it went public, the media (always late to the party – even if you send up flares) got on the bandwagon – and it became an immediate PR nightmare. Plus I don’t believe that CIG wanted the govt looking into their business. Most especially given that around the time, other crowd-funded campaigns had run afoul of the authorities for failure to deliver, being sued, shutdown, assets seized etc.
So what changed two years later? They are running out of money – fast. Like all Ponzi schemes, the “Rob Peter to pay Paul” game they were playing by refunding old backers with new backer money, was completely unsustainable. I wrote about that many times. So later in 2016 – when they were selectively giving refunds – they put a plan into place whereby they would stop issuing legacy refunds completely. Seeing as all TOS changes had come with major build releases of the game, they tied that decision to the release of the much-touted (as I wrote here, it was DOA) 3.0 release. Once sources alerted me to this, I again issued a warning. As Chris Roberts had gone on stage and blatantly lied that 3.0 was due out at the end of 2016, he kept getting money due to that much hyped build. It didn’t arrive until Dec 23rd, 2017, along with yet another TOS change in Jan 2018. Thereafter anyone who didn’t already have a refund request in the works, immediately lost the ability to get one after 14 days. This meant that ALL legacy backers were screwed. That’s why the official refund sub-Reddit is littered with complaints since Jan 2018.
So it came as no surprise that a backer, having expressed concern about the project and wanting his money back, was rejected under the new TOS rules. So he decided to sue. I reported back in June when it was first made public, that he would lose as there were no getting around the arbitration clause.
As has been reported all over gaming media this week, he lost – and the judge dismissed the case (18SMSC01860) due to the arbitration clause.
But he didn’t lose his bid to get a refund, he lost his bid to have the small claims court hear his case. As I wrote in my thread, there is a distinct difference that many people, even media, keep missing. The arbitration clause in the TOS prevents a group of backers from getting together and filing a devastating class action lawsuit. Unless you can somehow prove that your pledge wasn’t subject to the TOS prior to the Aug 2013 revision, you stand zero chance at a standard lawsuit. Of course nothing is stopping backers from mass filing individual arbitration suits, as that seems to be the current process for getting around that.
So what if you’re not subject to arbitration, or you even decide to go to arbitration to make your case for a refund, then what? Well, you’re going to run into the next egregious part of the TOS. The part that determines how much of a refund you are entitled to. Because of the wording (see excerpt above) in the TOS, that amount is zero because the game is still in development, and you already waived any claims of a refund anyway. BUT even if the game has ceased development, that amount is still zero because :
- You AGREED that they could calculate and allocate your “pledge” – in its entirety – to the development cost. As in “Sorry, we failed, and spent all your money. Thanks for all the fish“
- You AGREED that they were under NO OBLIGATION to deliver a game – of any kind. As in “Sorry, we tried and failed to deliver the dream“
And that my friend, precedent aside, is precisely why CIG did not take him up on his offer of a partial refund. To them, all of his $4,500 has gone into the game’s development. As a result, he’s not entitled to a single Penny back. Yeah.
MY VIDEO DISCUSSION OF THIS ARTICLE
Now you see why I have been advocating since 2015 that backers should get their money and get out because in the event that things started to go South, these TOS changes were going to come back to haunt everyone? Right.
“Three years ago when Star Citizen was at the height of popularity and seemed untouchable, DS repeatedly warned that these TOS changes were done for nefarious reasons. HE KNEW and so he started tracking them separately from everything else. He warned that people should get their money and get out while they still could. He wrote several articles and blogs about that. Some listened, and some did not. Whose fault is that?
And what people didn’t know up until now – three years later – is whether or not he was right, and that CIG would one day use those changes to keep backer money. With the lawsuit, Firefly212 has PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that this was the case and that DEREK SMART WAS RIGHT. Go ahead and cite any other source that has warned about or saw this coming.
But CIG didn’t just cite the arbitration clause and left it at that. They could have, and they would have still won. Instead, they wanted to send a message because they knew this issue would be public. That message was in their response in which they explained why this backer wasn’t entitled to a refund. That message is their precedent going forward in terms of how they are going to respond to arbitration and any lawsuit regarding refunds. They used this backer to send that message. However, from other posts here, they have been saying the same thing in CS replies – which are private until revealed in public by the backer – though without consistency. Now they have it in the PUBLIC record. The message has been sent. There is no taking that back. And to me, THAT is the “success” of this backer’s attempt. He drew them out – and a time when they were continuing to lose in the court of public opinion.” – OldSchoolCmdr on Reddit
The legality of the TOS is up to the court system whereby arbitration is notorious for favoring corporations. The legality of the project’s crowd-funding practices is up to the govt authorities. However, those are battles that backers have to fight on their own. It’s not as if all the warning signs weren’t there all these years. I mean, for example this backer gave CIG money over 61 instances – for a total of $4,500. It wasn’t done in one single instance. So it’s not as if he didn’t know what was going on with the project that whole time. He was even in the private Evocati test community!
ATTACK THE MESSENGER. IGNORE THE MESSAGE
I tend not to focus on my detractors because then it just means that I am validating their existence, their plight, and their drama. That’s why I tend to just incessantly troll them at every opportunity because nothing brings out the troll in me, than to know that something I’ve written or said, is enraging a detractor somewhere on the planet. And there’s practically nothing that they can say or do about it, and which would have any effect. I mean, even as they embarrass themselves with badly written and inflammatory rhetoric, harassment, doxing etc all of which just makes them come off as the unhinged, insane, and rabid people we know them to be, they just end up proving all of that to the world at large. All of which pretty much describes the toxic backers – aka Shitizens – involved in the Star Citizen project. And that’s precisely how the “community” got such a terrible rep in gaming.
That said, I want to point something out that this recent fiasco has again brought to light. That being, I have been the only person who has been keeping track of the Star Citizen project since I wrote that first blog in July 2015. Nobody else has done or is doing it. I write blogs, articles, scoops, social media tweets etc. I also do interviews, appear on streams etc – raising the alarm and explaining why this project was doomed since 2015. Similarly, VirtualPilot who decided to start tracking the actual development goals and releases, is also the only one doing that. The guy who has been tracking the historical funding amounts, is also the only one doing that. As gamers, we tend to focus on things that interest us, and we discuss and share those things at every opportunity. It’s really no different from people who write blogs or news articles about specific things, develop and release free software etc. To each his own. But to the Shitizens, as far as those clowns are concerned, I’m obsessed with Star Citizen. Because, you know, that’s the only plausible explanation they can come up with. But if I was spending my time making flattering videos of the “game”, that would make me a fan and member of the Cult Of Christ Roberts.
You would be hard pressed to find anything about the on-going Star Citizen train-wreck that either I didn’t first write about, or which I haven’t been keeping tabs on. So it comes as no surprise that when news like this breaks, sometimes even without attribution (where sometimes links to my work are used) it can all be traced right back to me. Such is the case that when I first wrote a Twitter thread about this backer lawsuit, it was picked up by a little-known website, which correctly attributed the news to me by linking to my Twitter threads. Shortly after that, it started being picked up by other media around the world. This happens from time to time, as was the case with The July Blog back in 2015, and which caused a major uproar at a time when Chris Roberts could do no wrong, and the Star Citizen project was the latest hype-fueled media obsession.
So it stands to reason that when something as damaging as this breaks – even with clear and irrefutable facts and evidence – Shitizens are quick to start attacking those reporting on it, for citing me as a source. Heck, a few of them even make YT videos raging over it. It’s all so very hilarious to me that I barely contain the excitement that I feel in my loins seeing just how enraged they get. I mean, you could literally tell them “Chris Roberts said this, here’s the quote that Derek Smart cited” and they would – literally – deny it. Even when they go direct to a third-party cited source, they will still call it fake news. To those paid and unpaid Shillizens, facts simply don’t matter. What ultimately matters is that you should attack the messengers, ignore the messages, and if it’s Derek Smart, take it all to the next level because he must be defeated at all costs. I mean seriously, they’re deranged.
I love it.
And for that reason, I’m going to start doing YT videos on my channel because I’ve been told that I need to up my game. I prefer to write, and I’m not a fan of doing audio-visual updates because they come with too much work, preparation etc. If the recent three-way video “dance off” between premier Shillizen (he’s a complete moron) Montoya, SidAlpha, and ex-backer FailureToReport is anything to go by, then I think it’s time for me to throw my hat into the ring. Now we have a party.