Less than a month after its last mishap, Golden Bell Studios is back on the subreddit with controversy surrounding the Kickstarter campaign of Peasant Buffet: Bad Moon Rising and backers being charged crazy shipping fees. But before we jump into the drama, let's take a look back at what happened with the Kickstarter of Unbroken.
Case #1: Unbroken
I wrote a full article on this disaster, which you can read here, so we can just go over it briefly. Golden Bell Studios is a publishing company that has licenses for franchises such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Naruto Shippuden, and Spongebob Squarepants. They also publish board games, including a solo survival game Unbroken, developed by Artem Safarov. The Kickstarter campaign has raised over $598,000 through over 16,500 backers and has been a highly anticipated release this year. However, when Golden Bell Studios began distributing copies of the game to backers, they sent them using the United States Postal Service's Media Mail service, which is a "cost effective way to send educational materials," in an effort to cut shipping costs. Because board games are not classified as "educational materials," those who received the game were charged between $7.00-$10.00 for the illegal use of this mailing service.
When dissatisfied backers went to the Kickstarter page to complain, the Golden Bell Studios account started to respond in a shockingly unprofessional manner. One quote that captures some of the essence of the comments was: "Bro stop, I'll send you another package myself you're just an annoying nuisance. Send me your name so I don't need to come here and read your garbage. You're no magic 8 ball, you're just a pest." The situation got worse as comments on both sides became more and more nasty, but Golden Bell Studios did start refunding people who reported these charges. However, they refused to take responsibility, instead blaming "angry backers who vehemently hate us" and "the archaic methods that the USPS has over the past several years." Recent comments on the Kickstarter campaign page still have people reporting not getting their copies yet. There are also comments about the Kickstarter of Peasant Buffet: Bad Moon Rising...
Case #2: Peasant Buffet: Bad Moon Rising
Wargi Studios is "a small game development company based in Virginia Beach, started by three guys with a pretty strange dream: to make fun and exciting games with great art." Peasant Buffet: Bad Moon Rising is a sequel to the successful Kickstarter campaign, Peasant Buffet: The Card Game and describes itself as a "action packed, press-your-luck card game." Golden Bell Studios is publishing and distributing the game. Yup. Grab your popcorn.
Many backers have mentioned in the campaign page's comment section that they were unaware of Golden Bell Studios' involvement in the project until recently, as there is no indication of it until their 11th update (over 5 months after launch) that was signed "from your friends at Wargi Studios and Golden Bell!" Andrew Barton, a superbacker of the game, commented "...folks might have been rightly cautious if we had known at the outset that GBS was involved or would be involved in this project."
So why are people mad? Well, in their 17th update on July 22, the campaign announced that because they are "on a VERY tight budget due to the increases MOQs, costs rising in china, and shipping charge...(they) will be charging roughly $25 for US Shipping and slightly higher for overseas for the game." This update was signed as "Golden Bell Studios." What makes this even more heartbreaking is that in the campaign's second update, they "decided to add a $35 Reward Tier to offer the game with the price of shipping included."
Reddit user "bstbattle" took a look at the cost breakdown according to a comment from the company in an update and it appears that one major reason for these extra charges are the production of corgi plushies that are included as a $50+ pledge tier award which costed the campaign "~$3,000 for the Wargi Plush at MOQ of 500." The campaign pledges indicated that only around 69 plushies were requested, so around 400 are unsold. The reddit post ended with "bstbattle" musing that "there is no way I am paying 70% of the cost of the product on shipping on top of the cost of the product itself, especially with the pledge level stating Free Shipping Within US. I asked for a refund, and they stated they currently do not have the money for a refund." Did I mention that it has been more than a year since the game was fully backed.
Oh Golden Bell
Some people speculate another reason for this insane shipping fee is to help Golden Bell Studios after their losses from the Unbroken Kickstarter campaign, but there is no real way to confirm this. Other past failed or undelivered Kickstarter campaigns that Golden Bell Studios have been involved in were Dungeon Dice: The Lost King (over 2 years late), Out Last: Westbrooke (over 2 years late), Immortal (over 4 years late), The Krilling Fields (which was canceled due to the claim that tariffs tripled the price), and Be a Turtle (1 year late). It is a very unfortunate situation for backers of the campaign and stands as another warning for others to be cautious when deciding whether or not to back a project on Kickstarter. All we can do at this point is hope that Golden Bell Studios somehow learns to effectively manage their money and not take advantage of Kickstarter backers, how to speak to their customers with an ounce of respect, and try our best to avoid anything they are involved in. Unless you want to of course. I can't tell you what to do. Only tell you of a past that can warn you of the future.