Game Over!

I am still surprised at how slowly some people learn some things that seem really really obvious. For example, when you make products for a small market, you’d better make good products, treat your customers with respect and prove that you are honest and fair. If you don’t, word will get around and you won’t be selling anything to that small market anymore. This story is all about a man who only learned the first of those three things, while the other two completely escape him to this day.

Once upon a time, there was a company called ESP Softworks. It made computer games for the blind, and a lot of them were pretty cool. Now, think about that for a second. Computer games designed for blind users. So, not only does your average player have to be blind, the player has to want to play a game on a computer. Compared to, oh, say, video games for the Playstation, what do you think the market would be?

One of the founders, James North, was not cool at all. He did not think very highly of his customers, and made his feelings very public by bitching about them on a blind gamers list where, ahem, a lot of his clientelle were subscribed. He would also send updates to people who had bought his games complaining about how selfish his customers were. That, in my opinion, is the stupidest idea possible. If there was a small town with 3 dishwasher repairmen in it, your dishwasher broke and the first one was not very nice to you, what would you do? I would think you’d go to dishwasher repairman no. 2 and tell all your friends what a dick dishwasher repairman no. 1 was. Soon, word would get around about dishwasher repairman no. 1 and he wouldn’t have much business at all.

but, somehow, this guy stayed in business, despite all the negative comments he made towards his customers, and despite the fact that there were other game-developers out there. It is true that some of them didn’t make as good a game as he did, but his games weren’t perfect either. I downloaded a demo of a game that was so bad that it caused two copies of a character to appear in the same room and then it would crash itself and die. Not convincing marketing right there.

Then James North decided to go out of business, or so he told us. This, in itself isn’t a shock, since sadly it happens more often than not in this market because it is so small and the amount of work that needs to be done doesn’t often equal the reward the developer gets back. But the thing that surprised me was he went out of business after taking preorder money for a product that never materialized and was handed off to a new company called Adora Entertainment, who were then responsible for all matters relating to this phantom product, including finishing it, handling angry customers who weren’t originally theirs and satisfying those who wanted their money back.

At the time, I thought, “what a prick!” But this was nothing new, since I was the recipient of many complaining emails about customers and their whining and his opinion that we were all lazy demanding complaining losers. Keep in mind that I am not his friend, or a close associate. At the time of receiving these emails, I was one of his customers only. But life went on, and the games came out, thanks to the people who were either nice enough or stupid enough to take them on.

But then…oh then, I got another surprise. I received an email out of the blue from a company I’d never heard of before called Alchemy Game Studios. I thought, “wow, a spam that talks about things I’m interested in.” Then I looked at the bottom, and saw James North’s name. I thought, “hmmm strange.” In the email, he said he was working on one of his old titles that he didn’t turn over to Adora and said he was developing some new ones. I thought “wow, James might be less of a prick after all, although why did he dump the first game?”

A year went by in which all James released was trailers, and a whole lot of email asking for what? Preorder money and patience because we blind people ask for too much for too little money and we have to wait if we want quality games. Sound familiar? Hope so, because the next part sounds really familiar. I quote from his site a piece of news which was worded very similarly to the last email I’ve received from him. It says: “Please be aware that the rights of both Montezuma’s Revenge and Raceway have been transferred to U.S.A. Games/Thomas Ward. Any questions regarding either title in regards to their release, order status, and/or refunds—if they’re offering them—should be directed to them solely by visiting their website at http://www.usagames.us or by contacting them via e-mail at sales@usagames.us.”

So here he goes again, cutting and running with preorder funds and handing over all the dirty work to some other poor fuck who, again, is either nice enough or stupid enough to take the project on. In this case, however, I know it’s the former. You might be thinking, maybe he gave the preorder money to USA Games. Sadly, you would be wrong. Shortly after receiving this email, I got another one from a game newsletter that said James North didn’t give the preorder money to this poor soul and now in order to keep himself from going under before he even begins, he’s having to give disgruntiled customers in-store credit rather than paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. Sit back and process that for a minute. Thousands…of…dollars. USA games was generously offering to bail James North out…again, as one of their first projects. This company hasn’t sold a single game yet, and James North knows this because, wait for it, this is a small community.

I can only come to one conclusion: James North is a huge scumbag and an incredible scammer. What else can I think after seeing all this crap twice. At least I learned to pay attention to history. And there is only one justice for people like him. Say it with me now, everybody who buys accessible games. “You’ll never work in this town again!”

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