Some sad news came today regarding the campaign to bring the visual novel WAS – The Hourglass of Lepidoptera to the West. Due to a handful of legal issues and some frustration with the developer circle SRL, Sekai Project announced today via a Kickstarter Update that they were cancelling the ongoing campaign to publish WAS and cutting ties with developer SRL. It is sad to see this project die as the campaign started back in October 2014, but the game actually had already released digitally on Steam, albeit with much of the voice acting was missing. Still, it seems in order to keep their reputation for quality publishing intact, Sekai Project has seen fit to begin the process of refunding their Kickstarter backers for physical copies of the game, which were never finished due to the voicework being incomplete. They have also warned that WAS – The Hourglass of Lepidoptera will be taken off the Steam marketplace in the near future, though those who have Steam keys will be able to retain their copies of the game. Additionally, physical rewards that were created will still ship to backers, so not all is totally lost.
The expansion of visual novels into the mainstream has been spearheaded a great deal by companies like Sekai Project, and the community has seen many visual novels released in the past few years that never would have seen Western shores before. It is precisely this expansion that makes this particular casualty sting, especially since the game was so close to completion in its localization.
The details of what exactly happened are scarce as Sekai Project claims in their update:
Due to ongoing legal issues and noncompliance by the circle, SRL, we regret to inform everyone that we must cancel this campaign. While due diligence was made to make sure that all aspects of the Kickstarter campaign were fulfilled, in the end the great financial loss and damage to our reputation was too much.
It was also discovered that SRL engaged in stealth marketing tactics using paid reviews which violates Steam’s Terms of Service. At that point, we had no choice but to terminate our relationship with SRL.
And again later on in the update:
Circumstances beyond our control prevented us from better informing everyone of what was going on as it serves no one any good to speak negatively about the developer. Nevertheless, we at Sekai Project want to extend a sincere apology to everyone affected.
In the updates on Kickstarter, very little is indicated that any foul play was at work aside from the length between updates. For the consumer, nothing is more frustrating than a company they support not being open and crystal clear with them, which Sekai Project clearly was not, as they could potentially have admitted to some of these problems back when they first began. Still, it does not seem that Sekai Project did anything necessarily wrong here and has seemingly everything to do with the developer SRL. Sekai Project additionally responded to a Steam review comment by saying (in addition to offering the user a full refund):
WAS in particular has been a tough project that we cannot offer comments on due to advice from our legal department.
Frustrating as it is, the legal world often keeps everything from seeing the light, and Sekai Project is apparently bound by some contract or NDA to not speak further on this matter. At the very least, it is heartening that there was an explanation given at all, even though the exact details are few.
What do you all think of this situation? Had you been looking forward to WAS – The Hourglass of Lepidoptera? Let us know in the comments below.