After multiple delays, backers for a third party portable Switch dock finally got what they helped crowdfund. Unfortunately, backers claim that what they're getting is very different from what they paid for.
Image source: SFans
In June 2017, a company called SFans launched an IndieGoGo campaign for a small, portable Switch dock.
They touted it as being "Oreo-sized", and perfect to just slip in your pocket and go. Priced at $US59 ($73), the first tier of their backer rewards, this portable dock is cheaper than Nintendo's official dock, which costs $129.95. When the campaign ended in August, SFans had raised $129,650 ($160,162), and had told their 1700 backers the product would ship at the end of the month.
In the Risks and Challenges section at the end of their IndieGoGo campaign, SFans said that they had already bought the chips they needed, and had signed contracts with manufacturers, meaning that they would be ready to create shortly after being funded. Like many crowdfunded projects, the SFans dock was delayed.
The creators initially changed their shipping date to the end of September. Then it was delayed again, this time until October 2017. In October they announced a redesign, noting that several similar docks, such as the Nyko dock, had been released in the interim.
"We also have removed the creepy cable from SFans and reduce the size of SFans to make it more portable & multifunctional," they wrote. "The new SFans will be a much better dock and provide a much better gaming experience." The SFans dock was delayed again. The announcement of that delay was the final update to their IndieGoGo as of this writing.
Eleven days ago, backers began comment on the SFans IndieGoGo, reporting that they were finally receiving their docks. They aren't happy with the finished product, which is reportedly not functioning correctly, and appears different from what was originally pitched. SFans did not respond to a request for comment by the time of writing.
When a backer named Keith got his dock yesterday, he said he felt a mixture of amusement and disappointment. After wading through so many delays, he'd already bought a different third party dock that served his needs. To make matters worse, when he tested the dock out, the SFans dock didn't work.
There's a light on the front of the dock indicating that it's on, but the Switch isn't going into docked mode/Image Source: Keith
Another backer, Spencer, got his dock last week, and after some trial and error did get his to work. In a tweet on the subject, he said that it "technically works" after some hassle. The comments on SFans' IndieGoGo page tell a similar story: dozens of people who have only just gotten their docks, and received them either semi or completely broken.
Some of the backers are saying that one or both of the ports don't work. The original design was advertised as a multifunctional device that could connect laptops a television as well, and backers noted that the multiple ports needed for this were missing. Steven, one of the first backers to comment saying that he got his dock, said, "This is not what I wanted, nor what I ordered."
While most comments seem unhappy, there are backers that are happy to have received a product at all, and some content that it works. One even said that it was his travel dock of choice. The majority of backers, however, are actively dissatisfied with that they received.
"Signed up for a refund forever ago. Got my cheap looking dock yesterday. Not at all what I wanted," a backer named Ryan wrote. "Already grabbed a cheaper adaptor off Amazon months ago. I don't even want to look at this thing. Just makes me mad."
Spencer said that looking back, there were some red flags about the campaign, such as a lack of proofreading on the dock's campaign page. So why fund it? "Early on, reviewers DID receive (what I assume were prototype) docks, so I felt like it was tangible."
While SFans did send out functional docks to press, the version the press got appears different than the final product. In Eurogamer's review of the SFans dock, they tested a square prototype, with matte dark and light grey plastic.
The dock Keith and Spencer received was rectangular, with a lip in the centre to hold the Switch as opposed to a visible wire, with shiny light grey plastic. Although SFans did disclose that they were redesigning the dock in their October update, the render showed a dock with matte grey and light grey plastic, similar to original design.
Both Keith and Spencer bought other docks while they were waiting for the SFans dock. "I didn't think it should have been a great undertaking for them to deliver what they have advertised to backers. So many third party docks and 'portable dock solutions' were already being discussed and put onto the market," Spencer said. "I kind of stopped caring if or if not it would ever arrive."
"I want to believe that this team really was just under prepared to deliver a product, but some of the details surrounding it definitely have me suspicious," Spencer said of the crowdfunding campaign. "Either way, I have a physical product in my hand - albeit, one that doesn't work."