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A few days ago a former employee of Japanese development studio Area 35, claimed the company has been using one project’s Kickstarter funds to make a different game. Right now Area 35 is working on finishing Tiny Metal, an Advanced Wars-like strategy game, which was just delayed a month to December 21st of this year. However this isn’t supposed to be Area 35’s only title, in 2013 they launched a Kickstarter for Project Phoenix. Phoenix was sold as a “squad based RPG,” and managed to raise over $1 million with the aim of being released in 2015. Soon though, the title was delayed to 2018 and Tiny Metal was Area 35’s new main squeeze.
Tariq Lacy, the aforementioned former employee, claims that while he worked at Area 35 he was told that Project Phoenix’s funds weren’t funding any development on that title, and that its original development company, Creative Intelligence Arts, was shuttered. The funds were moved to Area 35 and, after a failed Kickstarter of its own, Tiny Metal began development. In response Area 35’s CEO Hiroyuki Yura claims that Lacy was a “toxic employee” and that he “sexually harassed female staff amongst many other problems.” Lacy denies these accusations and even claimed to PC gamer that Creative Intelligence Arts simply changed their name to Area 35 and still use the same offices and computers.
Area 35 claims Project Phoenix is still in development but the scope of the game increased after the successful Kickstarter campaign. However they also admit that while they do have funds set aside for backer rewards, the developmental budget is all gone. They’ve also stated that Tiny Metal’s financial success or failure will determine what kind of funding Area 35 can pump back into Project Phoenix.
Among the back and forth it’s all too clear that on some level Area 35 either mismanaged internal expectations or funding for Project Phoenix. They made a mistake we’ve seen all too often with Kickstarters. When a project grows larger than originally intended, eyes grow wide and developers begin to dream of the games they really want to make. Area 35 is either guilty of the sin of enthusiasm or worse, the sin of fraud.
Managing Editor around here, moderator over at Giant Bomb, writer at prowrestling.cool
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