New Zealand game Untamed Isles put on hiatus after crypto crash impacts investors

A screenshot from Untamed Isles
Kickstarter backers are demanding a refund. Photo credit: Supplied / Untamed Isles

A game studio based in Aotearoa which raised over $840,000 on Kickstarter to fund its title is being criticised after putting development on indefinite hiatus after cryptocurrency crashed in value.

Phat Loot Studios was founded in 2020 and according to its website "recruited top talent from both New Zealand and around the world" to work on Untamed Isles, its 'flagship' title.

However, creator Joshua Grant published an update on the MMORPG's status to its website and Kickstarter pages at the end of last week, confirming work had been paused.

That has led to unhappy backers taking to the page and social media to criticise the company and demand refunds.

According to Grant's update, a "myriad of factors" have led to the pause in development, but "what this all comes down to is that we are unable to financially keep up with the demands of what we set out to do".

"We leaned into the crypto market and expanded rapidly off the back of the positive interest. When the crash came, we ended up heavily exposed with too short of a runway," he continued.

Grant told Newshub that no funds raised via Kickstarter of investors was spent on cryptocurrency investing and that everything went on studio developers and infrastructure to build the game.

"Unfortunately the crypto market crash meant that some web3 investors that were lined up earlier this year couldn’t proceed with an investment," Grant continued.

"The game remains game-first, crypto-second in design, but crypto funds have become, and remain, essential in getting us to the release.

"Unlike many of the projects that have floundered in the storm, we actually have a great game design that could stand on its own two feet.

"But until the crypto situation is resolved - and we're confident it will be at some stage - then we have to hibernate development on this project."

Unsurprisingly, the response from those who invested in the project hasn't been positive.

Over 3000 backers pledged between $1 and $12,000 to help the development and a few have already taken to the Kickstart pages demanding a refund.

The site promises that if Untamed Isles doesn’t launch, full refunds will be given to all backers, but amid the current perilous financial situation that seems unlikely.

Grant told Newshub that studio founders and current investors were looking at ways to keep the core of the studio going so that Untamed Isles could be completed and released down the track.

A screenshot from Untamed Isles
Photo credit: Supplied / Untamed Isles

However, the hiatus has seen anger from some commenters too, angry that the monster hunting and taming MMORPG they backed now feels like a scam.

One commenter using the name Kiwi Gamer wrote they were "really disappointed" by the news.

"I put money into funding this game to back a game, not to throw money into the crypto market. Gambling with our money is pretty shady, and now you can't make the game because of it. Refund us," they wrote.

Another also used the word 'shady' to describe how they felt.

"Less than two weeks after announcing pre orders AND a release date. If it really is the crypto side that is the problem and the GAME play is primary then hold off on the crypto link," they wrote.

"As it is all it looks like this was a cash grab when you knew the project was getting flushed down the crapper."

A third pointed out that the company had just made announcements about launch dates and new content.

"Why didn't you say anything sooner?" they demanded.

"More transparency early on, as soon as this became an issue, would've gone a long way in having a more understanding and less angry fan base."

The post ends with Grant saying: "I’m sure you have lots of questions and we will try to answer as many as we can".

"You can find a FAQ in the next message covering some of the things. Please respect the privacy of team members and don’t send DMs."

No questions asked by backers have yet been answered yet and, at the time of publishing, no FAQ has been published.

This story has been updated to reflect Phat Loot Studios' comments that no funds from investors or its Kickstarter campaign was used to invest in cryptocurrency.