It isn’t exactly rare for crowdfunded projects, be it on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, to fall through. Some of those happen quietly, with some amount of dignity and recompense. Other just fail spectacularly. The Sinclair ZX Vega+, which was supposed to be another homage to the old days of gaming, is definitely the latter. Indiegogo has just stopped the project from asking for more funds through the crowdfunding platform, long after the project was successfully funded. As it turns out, there is more to the story behind this rather controversial gaming handheld.
Retro Computers Ltd. (RCL), who is making the Vega+, already had a successful crowdfunding run way back in 2014 that saw a Sinclair ZX Spectrum TV console become reality. Given that success, it was no surprise that the Sinclair ZX Vega+, a PC handheld incarnation, would amass an ever bigger amount of support, along the lines of £513,650, roughly $625,000, which was nearly 400% of what it asked for. That was nearly a year ago.
As the Sinclair ZX Spectrum originated in the UK, British media kept an eye on the development of the Vega+. BBC, in particular, was quite keen on keeping tabs on the project. After the project failed to ship September last year, explained away by some critical changes in design claim to improve the user experience, BBC contacted RCL in December for comments. Instead of the usual “no comment” response, the broadcaster was actually threatened with a lawsuit.
RCL’s lawyers claimed that BBC was part of a malicious campaign to smear the company’s reputation. Not that RCL was doing well on that front, even without BBC’s involvement. By then it was already being threatened by class action lawsuits and backers have already been demanding refunds. Last month, RCL promised they’d finally ship the on 20th February. That date has come and gone without sign of the Vega+. Again, BBC was being forced not to publish anything regarding the matter, as RCL claims it has told the broadcaster that there was an ongoing police investigation. Apparently there have been threats made against the safety and lives of RCL’s employees, though BBC has not been provided evidence of such threats.
Unfortunately for its backers, there is little else Indiegogo itself can do other than prevent the campaign from getting more funds through Indiegogo. As the Vega+ was already funded last year, pledges have already gone to Retro Computers. This isn’t the first time a successful crowdfunding project has been delayed by months, but it is also not a common occurrence either. It’s just RCL’s bad luck that it’s standing on a pretty big UK brand, which has earned it more scrutiny than others.