Monday, 2 February 2015

Dust: Operation Babylon Kickstarter

Short history; Dust Studios used to be partnered with FantasyFlight Games for distribution but eventually switched to Battlefront and together they launched a kickstarter (link) last year with Battlefront taking the money as the distribution arm and paying Dust Studios for the production. However, things seems to have gone south. Updated: 3rd Feb 2015

So the kickstarter was supposed to have delivered in August 2014 and unlike many other Kickstarters, this really was a bit of a glorified pre-order. How do we know? Because at the very same time that the KS was running, Warstore was already accepting preorders for the VERY same items that the KS was offering. And the warstore; being an online discount retailer, was offering them at cheaper prices than what the Kickstarter was offering; so needless to say, people weren't that happy. Including Battlefront, who implied that they would need to have a 'chat' with Warstore about their pricing. Just fyi, Battlefront is the same group that thinks they're like Louis Vuitton and demands retailers only give at most 10% discount when selling any of their stuff. 

And then there's this comment from Battlefront. On the KS page. While the KS was running. Needless to say, Battlefront may have a bit of an attitude, which is funny because they're no GW or even PrivateerPress or Wyrd. Needless to say, not many people were that pleased with that comment, especially the Dust fans. 

Anyway, it's 2015 and the Kickstarter has been split into shipment waves. The first wave has been delivered already but surprisingly, there are a fair number of people who complain they did not receive what they were supposed to receive in wave 1. Instead, they got a packing slip that indicates that what they ordered was 'out of stock' instead so it'll be shipped in wave 2. Yet they complain that online stores seem to have plenty of stock of what was supposedly 'out of stock' for them, implying that Battlefront seems to have chosen to ship to stores first instead of backers. 

However, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Now it has come to light that Dust Studio is getting legal counsel with regards to its contracts with Battlefront. Supposedly Dust Studios; the manufacturers, haven't been paid by Battlefront for the production of the miniatures. 

In fact Battlefront hasn't even let them know just how much to manufacture for wave 2. (archived link) Which is weird because you'd think Battlefront would be trying to rush out wave 2 of the shipping. ( Add to contacts 12:48 AM
To: Hi Jeff,

What is happening is mostly unfortunate. We are truly sorry for that.
Dust Studio is only the manufacturer of the Babylon KS as you might already know.
We are suffering the same stress here, we have been producing all the models but we are not getting paid by Battlefront.
The only thing that we can do to protect our interests is to hold on the products until we get paid.
This of course means that we keep you waiting for them.
At the same time l want to suggest you to check with your Credit Card Company (I assume you paid by CC) .
They should be able to get your money back to you.
l suggest this because we are afraid to be victims of the same attempt of fraud here.
Our lawyers are working on the case, there will be an announcement as soon as they are ready.

Best regards,
Dust Studio"
Someone has also received an email reply from Dust Studios when they emailed to inquire about the situation. Needless to say Paolo Parente; the owner of Dust Studios, has also come out to speak on this matter (link) and the basic gist of it is this.

1. Dust Studios will manufacture all the products except the campaign book, unit cards and packaging. DS will retain all IP ownership of anything created under the DS label during this period of partnership.
2. BF will be the one who receives the money from KS after the KS ends
3. BF; upon receiving the funds, will pay the following debts in order. a) DS for the manufactured goods, b)set aside 25% for shipping, c)pay DS for items number W9.1, W9.2, W9.3; an amount equal to 220,009 (list items are unknown). The remainder of the KS funds will be retained by BF. 

Again, it all seems fairly simple but since there are parts of the contract that haven't been seen, we can't be sure that this is the whole story. Edit #2: As of 3rd Feb 2015, Paolo has uploaded what seems to be the full contract (link) and it doesn't seem to contradict anything stated previously.  
There are two sides to every story, and a significant dispute remains regarding the parties’ obligations. Battlefront has repeatedly sought professional mediation with Dust Studio as a way to resolve this dispute fairly, which is the usual way to resolve contractual disagreements like this. We are still actively pursuing this. 
We still expect a satisfactory outcome, but it will come a lot sooner if Dust Studio stop trying to manipulate backers through social media, with a lot of inaccurate and incomplete statements, and instead sit down and resolve their problems in a professional manner. If you really do stand with Dust Studio, the best thing you can do is to encourage them to agree to neutral professional mediation.
Needless to say Battlefront also came up with their own statement about this whole shitstorm (link). Which sounds like they're disputing certain things in the contract. What they are, nobody knows except Dust Studios and Battlefront. If I had to speculate, I would suggest that it's possibly because the Dust Kickstarter only brought in 469,000 USD and according to the terms of the contract, they're required to pay Dust Studio 220,009 USD of that 469K and then they still have to pay for all the production costs and shipping costs. Seems like Battlefront may be slightly disgruntled with just how 'much' or little money they're receiving. After all, as they so eloquently put before, Dust isn't worth very much to them. As someone who does manufacturing myself, I'd be pissed if someone tried to pull this shit on me. 

Some would say that Battlefront refusing to comment is the classy move, but as we've seen from their previous comments, Battlefront doesn't do 'classy'. 

So in the end, what does this all boil down to? A contract dispute between manufacturer and distributor. On one hand, we have Dust Studio who's pretty much a small fry business with an enthusiastic bunch of fans. On the other, we have Battlefront, who doesn't seem to care much about Dust and who has had a LONG history of issues with its logistics. Like really really long. Hopefully everything gets resolved and people can finally get wave 2 of their pledge. 

Edit#1: So it seems like that the contract dispute IS with regards to the money Battlefront has to pay Dust Studio. Paolo has come out with this statement with regards to the dispute and revealed that there were several mediation attempts before this.