Technology

New Spectrum Vega+ promises follow funds threat

Vega+ images Image copyright RCL
Image caption RCL have published new photographs of the Vega+

The team behind a controversial video games console has given a fresh delivery date pledge after the crowdfunding platform it used threatened to recoup backers' funds.

The Sinclair ZX Vega+ handheld was originally scheduled for delivery in September 2016, but has been repeatedly delayed.

Retro Computers Ltd says it now intends to "start shipping units" in April.

Indiegogo told the BBC on Friday that it had set an end-of-May deadline.

The US company intends to appoint a third-party collections agency to obtain and return the £85 to £100 paid by consumers to get one of the machines, if that target is missed.

Indiegogo's trust-and-safety team had also required RCL to post a "significant update" this week to stave off an intervention.

The London-based company had raised £512,790 via Indiegogo for the project before it was blocked from raising further funds last year due to delays and a lack of communication with backers.

The company also offered pre-sales for the device for a time via its own website.

Company director Suzanne Martin said it was unlikely that she could comment further until Tuesday.

'Troll campaign'

In a series of updates posted to Indiegogo, RCL acknowledged that it had "understandably been criticised for extended periods of 'radio silence'".

Image copyright Retro Computers Ltd
Image caption RCL says it will still deliver a promise to include 1,000 games with the device

It said it had been the subject of a "troll campaign" of criticism and blamed a series of issues for the delays, including:

  • a legal dispute with former company director Paul Andrews among others
  • a light bleed into the display of the device caused by problems with the original design of its plastic casing
  • a need to re-engineer the console's buttons, which are now said to be more comfortable

Mr Andrews told the BBC that he disputed allegations made against him in the update.

RCL also published several images of factory equipment and prototype units that had not been shared previously.

Image copyright RCL
Image caption These were among the new images published on the Vega+ campaign's page

However, the company said it was not yet ready to reveal the name of its UK-based production partners because of a need to protect them from harassment.

"We are setting the record straight to allow us to get on with the job in hand without any more erroneous rumours," the update added.

The BBC last reported on the Vega+ campaign in March 2017.

The company requested that the article not be published at the time on the grounds that it might compromise a police investigation.

The BBC did delay publication to give the company time to provide relevant evidence, but it never did so.

Shortly after the report's publication, the company said it expected the first batch of Vega+ consoles to be available "in a few weeks' time".

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Media captionWATCH: One of RCL's directors is involved in another crowdfunding project

Court case

The latest promises are being made a week after a judge at Luton County Court ordered RCL to refund one of the console's backers, as reported by The Register.

That has led other funders to discuss pursuing similar legal action via a Facebook group dedicated to the project.

However, the judge in the case made clear that a specific set of circumstances had been involved, which would not apply to most other backers.

Reaction to the latest update has been mixed.

Some consumers have thanked RCL for its continued efforts, while others have cast doubt as to whether the April target will indeed be met.

"How about inviting a couple of independent backers from the campaign to see for themselves the progress made, see for themselves the tooling and the prototypes you have?" one funder, Courtney Blount, asked.

Update: 8 February 2018

Indiegogo has agreed the BBC can quote the following bullet points, which it had provided, to confirm that it had indeed spoken to us:

  • Indiegogo's Trust & Safety team is in touch with the campaign owners and has required them to post a significant update to backers within the week [which RCL has now done]
  • The campaign owners have continued to express that they are committed to fulfilling the promises they made in the campaign and have expressed that they now expect to do so by May at the latest
  • If the campaign does not fulfil by the end of May, Indiegogo's Trust & Safety team will take additional steps to protect backers by sending the campaign to a third-party collections agency to work on recouping backer funds

Indiegogo later added:

  • The May deadline was set by Indiegogo given the expectations the campaign owners had that they will fulfil by then
  • That was an internal deadline at Indiegogo, which was also shared with the media
  • This week, Indiegogo also communicated the May deadline to the campaign owner given their expectation to deliver by then

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