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Rotten Figs: What’s the Deal with Fig.co?

I don’t like talking in the first person for these articles, but this needs to be said: I, Andrew Vandersteen, have not donated and will not donate money to the Psychonauts 2 campaign. I cannot speak for my fellow writers of this publication.

There’s something unbelievably fishy going on with Fig.co, the platform of choice for the anticipated Psychonauts 2 crowdfunding campaign. We already looked at why Psychonauts 2 shouldn’t be crowd funded, but there seems to be a lot more to the situation than what we first saw. Fig.co might just be the shadiest form of crowd funding ever, an impressive feat considering the already shady dealings of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Let’s examine what’s going on, and try to get to the core of this rotten fruit.

The site hit mainstream when the campaign for Psychonauts 2 launched on December 4th, during the Video Game Awards. originally it launched with 32 days, meaning an end date of Jan. 5, 2016. As it stands now, the end date is Jan. 12, 2016, a gain of over a week. Kickstarter doesn’t let you change your campaign length after launch, and IndieGoGo lets users make a one-time change from a 30 day campaign to a sixty day one. What’s more distressing is, as of December 16, the Fig campaign has been at “27 days left” for three days. The site isn’t frozen, everything else is working fine, but that count never seems to change.

Could it be that Tim Schafer is actually worried about not getting the money? Yes, the Broken Age Kickstarter took a month to collect it’s $3.3 million, but that was a new IP. Even then it at least had $1 million within 24 hours. 12 days later they had $2 million, much like how Psychonauts 2 has $2.7 million after twelve days. Here’s the kicker though: the vast majority of Broken Age‘s Kickstarter funding was past it’s original goal, and it’s possible Schafer is hoping replicate that. The longer the campaign goes on for, the better the chances to break records and make headlines, never mind more money raised for a game that’s been estimated at $18 million. What’s really weird is that users can’t even comment on the campaign without paying $33USD first, essentially buying the game in order to talk about it.

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Screenshot of Fig.co’s TOS, as of December 16, 2015

There’s more to Fig.co that rubs people the wrong way though, not just the idea of a stuck clock. One of the differences between Fig and other sites is that Fig contributors can become investors in the project, meaning they’d see a return on investment from the game’s profits. This means that anyone, including members of the gaming media can become invested in the success of this game. If a reviewer, streamer, or publication is an investor, then any coverage would be a massive conflict of interests. None of the investors have been named, although doing some math reveals that the funding is around 57% investors rather than backers. That also raises the question of how valid the campaign actually is, or if the whole thing was bait to hook real investors. As a note, several people in the industry have tweeted how they’ve supported the campaign, but again actual investors have not been named.

It’s worth noting that Schafer is on the board of Fig.com, along with Brian Fargo, Feargus Urquhart, Alex Rigopulos, and Aaron Isaksen. This means that these guys get paid a cut of everything that Fig makes, meaning that no matter what campaign is run through Fig, they’ll get a slice. All of this seems to hint at a workaround system to avoid publishers while still making a buck. Why go to Activision or EA directly, when you can ask your friends in the industry to toss you a few thousand each and pocket a hundred of that yourself. All wrapped in the secure blanket of crowdfunding, where the cash is laundered in with that of the average Joe.

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Second screenshot of Fig.co’s TOS, as of December 16, 2015

There’s more to it than that however, according to Fig’s terms of service, all of the money donated to the site is considered a gift, not a purchase. That means the site, and any campaign run through it, are free from the legal obligations of a normal storefront. Obligations, like…delivering the product in a timely manner, if at all. Don’t like it and want your money back? Too bad because there’s no refunds. Fig doesn’t even refer to itself as a funding portal saying, in all caps “… FIG IS NOT A REGISTERED BROKER-DEALER, FINANCIAL ADVISOR OR FUNDING PORTAL…”. When a site is literally telling you that giving it money isn’t a good idea, it might be best to listen.

Between the countdown that keeps resetting, a dollar value on commenting, the possible and probable future conflict of interests, the shady backroom dealings of the site’s board members, and especially the terrible wording of the site’s terms of service, it should be pretty obvious that donating to Fig.co is a terrible idea. The whole operation reeks, and we should probably be suspicious of anyone planning to use it. Maybe it’ll be updated, the wording made less vague and ominous, and the transparency of the back-end made a little more clear. For now though, we should probably stay away from Fig.co.


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