The point has probably come when you have to realize that you have probably been scammed. In any case, we can assume that the Jurassic World Miniature Game will no longer be delivered and the money is gone. The signs of this have been there for a while. But most backers (including me) still had hope – or a denial of reality. The bad realization has prevailed and so I now have to write the frustration off my soul.
The year is 2019, the first two films in the Jurassic World triology had been released in 2015 and 2018, with rumors of a big third installment to merge the new triology with the first Jurassic Park triology spilling out. Even though the movies weren’t big draws, it was still a good time for dinosaur fans. So, naturally, when a Jurassic World Miniature Game was announced, I was immediately wide awake. Often franchise games are nothing special or somehow lovelessly made. But it was something to at least check out. I only knew a few dinosaur miniatures until then, didn’t have a 3D printer yet, and thought this would finally be the opportunity to get closer to Jurassic Park on the painting and gaming table.
A game where you can actually move freely around the gaming table and interact with dinos would have been great. If the Jurassic Park IP is on board and you still get miniatures of the beloved characters, so much the better. The interest was definitely there and with a decent implementation, I’d give it a chance. So when the campaign started on June 14, we were as excited as the kids in the jeep in front of the T-Rex enclosure.
Jurassic World Miniature Game – The Project
The project was to be realized by Cimmeria Projects, a small French forge that I did not know and that had not yet managed a project of this size. Nevertheless, the presentation looked quite professional and appealing.
A board game was to be financed, not a tabletop game. Miniatures would be able to move on printed game boards with grid squares. The mechanisms were not quite clear at the beginning, but it was announced that this would be added in the course of the campaign. I didn’t care, because from “board game” on I had no great interest in the game anyway, only in the miniatures. Shown were 3D renders of human figures, dinosaurs, vehicles and accessories. I didn’t like the basic human figures so much. They certainly looked like 3D board game figures, nothing that would make a tabletopper’s heart beat faster.
The dinos looked nice and made me want to buy them – but we only saw renders and didn’t know how the figures would actually look in terms of quality. That’s nothing unusual for Kickstarter, though. The platform is for crowdfunding, after all. Unless it is abused as a pre-order service, most providers can usually only show their ideas at that point. Everything else is expensive and should be financed by the campaign. So far so good.
The campaign itself looked okay, but was nothing that blew me away. However, there were massive Stretch Goals announced, which tickled the nostalgic in me. That’s my open flank, for sure. Miniatures of the Jurassic Park protagonists were shown, models of the two iconic jeeps, all sorts of gimmicks like a goat or a toilet house. I went soft.
The pledge for the core game and all stretch goals cost 55€, which was reasonable for me. Cinematic expansions were available for about 40€ each. In total, you could pledge a good 150€ – I didn’t want to invest that at all. First and foremost I was interested in the Stretch Goals. I wasn’t completely convinced, but the fan in me screamed that I had to risk something.
The course of the campaign
The campaign made a good impression at first. Many updates were posted, which made a committed impression. There was some background information, that they were talking to Universal about this and that point, that some things could not be shown yet for legal reasons, but that they would provide them later. Background information about dinosaurs was always posted – nice, but it didn’t have to be done, but it made the dinosaur fans happy. Of course, updates on the game itself were interesting. That there was a co-op mode, how vehicles worked in the game, etc.
Nevertheless, the campaign weakened financially for quite a long time. I think a Jurassic Park/World Tabletop should be more or less a no-brainer, so it was clear that the campaign was quickly funded (after 4 hours!). However, it was completely unclear if the stretch goals would all be reached, which is quite unusual for such a franchise. My recollection is that many questioned whether the campaign was officially licensed, as proof was lacking. In Update #15 on June 27, 2019, Exod actually addressed this and announced that Universal would make an official statement. Update #23 on July 2 announced delivery in June/July 2020 (so just over a year later). There was still no sign of life from Universal 24 hours before the campaign ended. On July 4, 2019, the campaign ended successfully.
All in all, I had the impression that there are people at work here with commitment, who are really keen to make an exciting game out of the Jurassic World IP. Of course, Exod Studios is not a big company and the project was very ambitious. Whether the amount of pledges would even be enough to finance the promised consideration also seemed questionable to me. In the end, I wasn’t quite sure, but I wanted to be optimistic and joined with a basic pledge. After all, that secured me the Stretch Goals and that was all I wanted.
The torment begins
After the campaign ended, the Exod team seemed eager to provide information on Pledge Managers, Late Pledges, and open questions. There were Q&As and the answers were also posted as updates. A general problem was the language barrier, as the project people are French and English sentences were unfortunately always bumpy and sometimes unclear. They were present on some fairs, so also on the SPIEL 2019 – everything looked like energetic development.
Almost two months after the campaign ended, the Pledge Manager was opened on August 26. There were new add-ons that had not made it into the campaign before (e.g. a much requested miniature of Robert Muldoon). At that time, the updates already apologized for slow communication. Many backers were unsure, because it was unclear whether the newly shown miniatures were already included in the pledges or if they had to be bought separately (Lex&Tim, for example, I also wanted to have).
From today’s perspective, it is interesting to see how shortly after the campaign ended backers wrote in the comments that the Pledge Manager was confusing, that there was too little real information about progress, that this was the one project they were most concerned about, that perhaps too much was promised. Quite a few complained that they were not getting answers.
The Pledge Manager closed on October 5, and the next updates reported on trade show visits and contained little concrete info on developments, although assurances were given that everyone was working very hard.
Updates now became more sparse. Once a month, then every two months. From the fairs they had shown photos with prototypes of the dinosaur models printed at the 3D printer. In Update #39 on 12/31/2019, they had shown a printed model of the Brachiosaurus for the first time. As much as I was happy about the dinos, the size of the various models awakened doubts in me, how this should be packed and shipped at all. According to the campaign, we were supposed to get a lot more. Could that work?
When things went wrong in 2020
Well, we had arrived in the year 2020. You certainly remember. Corona was already on the way, but we all hadn’t noticed it yet. Then came February and March and then everything happened very quickly. The first update in 2020 came in February. There was talk of a visit to Universal and that there would be an expansion to the game that would be available directly in stores – so there was already planning for the future, beyond Kickstarter. Due to Corona in China and the closure of factories, the delivery would have to be postponed by one quarter.
In April, due to the pandemic, it was announced that delivery would be delayed until the end of 2020 for the Core Box, Stretch Goals even later. A solidarity campaign was launched: Special terrain was sold and 30% of the proceeds would go to support partner stores suffering from the effects of the pandemic. To put it bluntly: To this day, it is unclear whether any money went to any partner store. There has simply been no further word on the matter.
With update #46 on June 5, the “final look” was communicated. Graphics were shown that look quite professional and possibly officially licensed. I had no doubts about it. The updates came more frequently and you had the impression that the project, despite the Covid restrictions, had made progress and could go into production. In July, two unboxing videos even followed, showing great Dino models (which again seemed insanely large to me). I can’t embed the video here, so two screenshots. I think it all looks great. Whether it shows what we should actually get? I don’t know. Supposedly it was models produced by the producer Panda GM, which we as backers should have received the same way.
Update #51 on October 6, 2020 announced production problems and a delay in delivery to January 2021. In return, extensive marketing measures in cooperation with Universal were announced. Irritatingly, these new marketing measures also included “regular updates” and “photos of the production process”. So far, so little worth mentioning. From my point of view, however, none of the measures were implemented. Especially not the creation of a community on the website or promo content “with huge guests” (aka actors?).
The rest of the year’s updates were more marketing. Relevant was update #57 on December 3, 2020, which included the links to the rulebooks. I hadn’t looked at them, but according to the comments of others they looked good, but were still bumpily worded or even contained French words in other languages.
The rulebooks are still available (links to Google Drive):
Update #64 of April 1, 2021 announced that Universal had signed off on everything except for minor corrections. The bigger problem was the freight situation (container shortage). We had all already perceived this as a global problem. But this meant that deadlines and delivery times were no longer predictable.
Update #72 and the beginning of the end
Whatever happened or didn’t happen before in this campaign, Update #72 from August 18, 2021 has heralded a clear turnaround from my point of view. I show the main points in screenshots below.
- Universal has changed the design, so all previous products must be revised and re-released.
- Universal has imposed an embargo on any communication about the franchise. From now on, all statements would have to be approved by the marketing team.
Well, it’s quite possible that both points are true. Certainly, it is exhausting to work with such a huge IP. However, the communication of Exod Studios was already characterized by announcements and many promises, most of which were not kept. Even now, in the course of the embargo, it was announced that in the future, icons would be used to indicate the current status of the project.
Also shown were photos of the molds for the figures. That was interesting, because now we could see that something was actually happening. After all, molds had been made. So it was safe to assume that the game was actually in production.
And at the very end there was a remark that probably no one has grasped in its explosive nature. I quote verbatim:
Contract with Universal:
To had to the question that comments that we receive lately, I would like to make a small comment on the contract of Jurassic World MG.
From Sept 2018 to June 2020, the contract was owned by Cimmeria Projects and Exod Studio.
Unfortunately, it was too time-consuming for Cimmeria Project, which is specialized in collectibles. When this contract renewal occurs, he decided to let us handle the entirety of the game and crowdfunding.
Then in July 2020, the contract was renewed for three more years with only Exod Studio.https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jurassicworld/jurassic-worldtm-miniature-game/posts/3277802
Interestingly, the reactions to the update were mostly positive, with most backers expressing their gratitude for the transparency. The most critical comment was that Universal’s intervention had changed everything and that this was no longer the project that backers had supported, and that it was only fair to grant an option to opt out. Apparently, this was not answered.
While I’m writing this text over several days, the Youtuber The King of Average has published a video in which he also deals with the criticism of this Kickstarter. And he points out the above contract change that we all hadn’t really taken note of: Cimmeria Projects is very small (maybe only one person?), Exod Studios is also very small and consists of Helene Barral and Antonin Barral, maybe a few more freelancers. But basically Helene and Antonin are the project – they are also the only ones mentioned by name at all. If the project was too time-consuming for Cimmeria Projects, how are Exod Studios aka Helene and Antonin supposed to handle the thing alone in the future? This announcement reveals a disaster. Check out the video, it is unfortunately very enlightening and also devastating for us backers:
Monthly, delayed updates followed. Notable was the announcement in Update #75 that they had managed to book the shipping containers and could ship as soon as everything was ready. Then exciting was Update #77 on January 3, 2022. There was a photo of the supposedly finished boxes in each language for final release by Universal – so still not a box a backer would actually receive. Then there was the following unboxing video, accompanied by the comment, “We are thrilled that this project has finally come to completion and we are thankful for your patience. We will keep you posted on the next steps and the expansions.”
If anything at all in this project finally came to completion, then at best the core box. There was no talk of anything else at all.
After this update, only 3 more updates followed this year until today (Nov. 2022). The March update announced that they had switched to a Discord server due to the embargo on communication. Somewhere there was also talk that there had been death threats from backers and that they needed to protect themselves. Apparently they were in Cannes presenting the game. It was announced that the containers had left China! You have to read that again: In March, the containers supposedly left China, so the core boxes were supposedly produced (they supposedly existed!) and on their way to Europe.
The plan was for the Europe containers to reach Hamburg in early April and the first wave (the core boxes) to be delivered in early May in time for the theatrical release.
The latest update #80 is dated July 4, 2022 and starts with the usual, completely superfluous apology for the delay. Wordily, it then explains why Wave 1 is still not shipped. However, nothing is explained. They said, that they are a small company, it’s the first Kickstarter, they make mistakes, apologies please. Something unclear about renegotiation of tariffs and customs formalities is written in brackets, but it remains unsaid what the problem is, how it will be solved and above all, when the boxes will finally arrive. We were supposed to believe that Wave 1 was currently (July) in delivery.
Wave 2 and the final Wave 3 were to follow shortly after, so the Kickstarter should have been completely delivered by the end of September 2022. The next update was already at Universal for release, he said, and would include lots of news and photos. Now it’s November and none of that has happened at all. And it screams to the heavens: if the Core Boxes were produced and on their way, where are they now? We’re talking more than 2,000 of them here.
Since the July update, there has been radio silence on all channels. No availability via email, Kickstarter or Discord. Many backers are writing in the Kickstarter comments and in Discord – not a single backer has received anything. The final Jurassic World movie played in theaters in May and has been available for home viewing for weeks now. If Universal did indeed have anything to do with the delays, they have now ripped all marketing-related points. Today, Jurassic World no longer has any attention. Releasing the game today just wouldn’t matter. But at least the fans would get it, who baked it after all.
What does that mean now?
The short answer is: we all don’t know. All backers are clueless, Exod Studios is no longer reachable, the official email address is deactivated – well, if that’s not a bad sign. Kickstarter doesn’t help. Supposedly backers have tried to reach Universal – of course they don’t care either. Is it a big bluff or a scam, as some suspect?
I don’t think we’re talking about fraud. I assume that the small company has made a huge mistake. Maybe in normal times it would have somehow turned out okay. Corona, logistics problems, price increases, and possibly actual intervention from the licensor probably broke the project’s neck. They probably ran out of money at some point. There are various theories, but at the moment we simply don’t know anything.
Will we get our games at some point? I don’t think so. The money is gone, because Kickstarter is an investment, not a pre-order. Every single one of us has taken the risk.
I can’t tell what frustrates me more: The fact that I lost money, the fact that this game will probably never exist or the fact that Helene and Antonin lied at least in the last updates of this year and ignore and block all requests. In any case, it taught me that in the future I will do my homework with such kickstarters and try to weigh the risks. Today we know that with a little research we could have discovered many question marks back then. And then with such a big IP, you should probably leave it alone.
Of course, I’m sorry if this now prevents small studios from realizing big projects in the future, but that’s just the consequence of such experiences. Exod Studios have now destroyed this former confidence. Not by mistakes in project management, which I could have accepted. Also, they undoubtedly had to deal with difficult circumstances due to the world situation and Universal’s embargo. All understandable. But to go off the deep end now, to lie demonstrably towards the end, to write off the project and not provide any response at all, that’s shameful.
Note: All images in this post are screenshots from Kickstarter.