The Delta Six is an unusual controller shaped like a gun. Kotkin Enterprises raised nearly $US200,000 on Kickstarter, double the asking price. More than a year after the promised shipping date, the Delta Six is shipping, but there's a catch: backers have to fork over more money to get what they already paid for.
Here was the original pitch for Delta Six from May 2013, which asked for $US100,000:
"We love FPS, but things were getting a little repetitious for us. The thrill of playing was losing its mojo. We have found it again and it's better than ever! We made a FPS controller that is like nothing you have ever experienced before. Our vision is to bridge the gap between motion control and Hardcore First Person Shooters. For the first time, the player will feel more immersed in game-play and have more control over the game than ever before. Unlike motion control of the past, we do the work for you."
Over the next month, enthusiast fans raised $US198,185 and were told Delta Six controllers would ship to backers in December 2013, a little over six months later. The peripheral was delayed several times, but the initial batch of controllers began shipping in May 2014. Kotkin Enterprises was intent on fulfilling orders for its highest backers first, folks who'd paid $US500.
In subsequent updates, backers were becoming understandably restless regarding the lack of communication about the rest of the orders. The controllers seem to exist, so where were they?
An update on July 14, 2014 promised they were "steadily pushing out Kickstarter orders everyday." Remember, these supposedly started shipping out in May. It's three months later.
In the comments, $US500-level backer confirmed his peripheral did show up, but other backers remain frustrated. It probably didn't help the next update was primarily about on a news crew stopping by.
The next update, in late July, revealed a new Instagram account but no updates on shipping.
Following a pattern, an update in early August focused on Delta Six being on Fusion TV. The comments below the update are, quite understandably, wondering where the controllers are.
At this point, the project went completely silent. There were no updates about Delta Six for a whopping seven months. There's zero word on what's happening from August 2014 until February 2015. The latest update didn't have encouraging news for the more than 800 people patiently waiting for their Delta Six controller to show up. In fact, they'd now have to pay more.
If you're a backer in the US, an additional $US30 is required. If you're international, it's $US70.
Apparently, the company running the Delta Six operation is now under new management. The statement admits the project was poorly managed, but it hardly inspires confidence in Delta Six.
It's worth reading the whole thing:
"As you may have heard through multiple reports, Kotkin Enterprises creators of the Delta Six is under all new management. They have done a complete overhaul of all staff, stepped back to let a new team run the company to make it successful and profitable for the years to come.
The owner is very passionate about making his Delta Six dream come true of the most realistic first person shooter product on the market today. He is also very dedicated to finding ways on fulfilling all of the orders that were backed on kickstarter as you are the people who believed in The Delta Six from the beginning.
The new management team has been working tirelessly on every aspect of the business from manufacturing, funding, marketing and most importantly getting feedback from the customers on how to better the product for their gaming experience. In doing this overhaul the management team has found some faults in the Kickstarter fundraising campaign leading to long lists of disgruntled customers and product not being fulfilled.
We the management team want to fix this and give all of our backers the opportunity to enjoy our great product. All in all we have over 800+ backers who were promised a Delta Six for their contributions. In looking at the pledge amounts from the backers and the cost of goods on our end we found HUGE problems in the management of the Kickstarter process. It was very very poorly managed from the start.
Based on this here is our solution to the problem we have of fulfilling thousands of orders in a timely manner. What the Delta Six Team has done is set up a link for all 800+ Kickstarter backers to get their product shipped out.
What you will find on this link is a portal to purchase shipping for your product. USA customers a $US30 charge and International customers a $US70 charge. Once the shipping purchase is done on the backers end we will cross reference it to your pledge number, name, order and ship out the product within 3 days as we have it in stock. Keep in mind if you pledged a higher amount for 2 Delta Six Products you will need to place double the shipping for both products to be sent.
We understand that this is not the most ideal situation for our backers but it is the only way we will be able to fulfil these orders as we are still a start up. We will be eating the cost of the manufacturing of the Delta Six which for this many backers is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Backers must understand that when they back a project, they're helping to create something new which takes a lot of time to develop and bring to market. We hope that you all will understand and work with us on receiving your Delta Six after such a long wait.
We look forward to you joining the Delta Six Team and are excited to finally getting these products shipped out to our loyal backers."
It's one thing for a project to completely fail or even ship and ultimately be a disappointment. Crowdfunding isn't a guarantee of anything, of course. A handful of Delta Six backers did get their controllers, while the rest have their controllers held hostage because a company that's eating "hundreds of thousands of dollars" isn't willing to float the additional shipping fees.
Backers are furious. Some have said they even filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau:
I spoke with Kotkin Enterprises CEO David Kotkin over the phone last night, who admitted the Kickstarter project could have gone smoother and backer communication was lacking.
"I probably could have done it better, but communication is not my skill," said Kotkin.
Case in point, Kotkin used to work with infamous Ocean Marketing president Paul Chrisoforo.
The way Kotkin tells it, the Delta Six suffered from missteps that befall many Kickstarter projects. Producing a Delta Six would cost more to make than projected, it was taking time to work out the kinks, and the peripheral weighed heavier than expected, costing more to ship.
The $US200,000 raised through Kickstarter will apparently not cover the costs of shipping the backers their guns. According to Kotkin, it will be closer to $US600,000. This is why backers are being asked to pay a little more.
Kotkin said the money gap proved problematic enough that Delta Six guns were being sold and shipped to customers on Avenger Controller's website. The backer guns, however, weren't going out.
"I didn't know how to communicate this one [to backers]," he said. "I didn't know how to get this across. To say 'hey, we're selling to other people so it will support the company while we improve the gun.' You understand? There's certain things that wouldn't have gone over well and probably still won't go over well. There's no answer to some of these questions. The only answer was to keep the gun going and make the gun as good as I could."
Delta Six sales were being used to subsidise an updated version of the Delta Six that would eventually ship to backers. Of course, Kotkin never told backers any of this. Instead, six months went by without any word from Kotkin Enterprises. Then, an update asking for more money.
"How do you come out and say some of the issues that were going on?," he said. "I wanted to wait. I also knew I had to bring in a new management team that put things in order and go through the numbers and say what we had to do to survive. [...] It's a can of worms. You say one thing and you spend half your life answering emails, rather than finishing the project and making it as good as I could. I didn't know how to answer it, and any answer might not be good. I didn't know which direction I was going in sometimes."
In our conversation, Kotkin sounded like a man stressed about a delayed project, but one who mistakenly assumed keeping backers in the dark about project delays was the right approach.
If you feel burned by the process, though, there's no refunds. The money's been spent.
"It's an investment," he said. "When you invest in this company, you invest in it. If you did invest in the company, I spent the money on ordering a certain amount of Delta Sixes. So if, all of a sudden, you don't want it, it's [not possible]. It's not like you bought the purchase. You didn't purchase a product. You invested in a company to develop a product in the hope of getting a prize. But I want you to realise I'm honouring the promise. I'm more than honouring the promise, I believe."
When contacted, Kickstarter would not comment on this project specifically, but pointed me towards their Kickstarter 101 page. In short, backers will need to come their own resolution.
Can Kickstarter refund the money if a project is unable to fulfil?
No. Kickstarter doesn't issue refunds as transactions are between backers and creators directly. Creators receive all funds (less fees) soon after their campaign ends.
What is a creator obligated to do once their project is funded?
For the moment, the resolution appears to be paying more for a product that's very, very late.