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Subject: A summary of GBS scandals and questions to be answered rss

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Table of contents:
Summary of scandal
Timeline of events
Geeklist of their projects
Media links and relevant articles
Common red flags
Questions to be asked


A summary of the BGS scandal:
(Please correct me if I get the details wrong or something needs to be added!)
The solo game Unbroken was kickstarted successfully. Late in the campaign, it was announced that Golden Bell Studios was a co-creator. This company had previously been connected with other Kickstarters, similarly brought in late in the day. Unbroken announced after the campaign had finished that there was a miscalculation on shipping and an impolite request was made by GBS to optionally contribute more money to cover the costs. Artem, the designer, followed up later with a more polite request.

In the process of asking for more information and clarification by the backers, GBS and Artem made many replies that muddied the waters further. The shipping error was in turn blamed on Artem’s inexperience, then an error from Backerkit, all the while the GBS website had different issues with shipping too.

In addition, GBS announced the use of Media Mail [], a USPS discount available only to shipping educational materials for which board games are specifically prohibited for inclusion. (As soon as you add a board game, even if there are other allowed materials in the box, it becomes disqualified) Backers queried this as it had been pointed out to GBS on previous KS projects that it was not allowed. GBS responded that they had a ‘special deal’ with their local postmaster.

Becoming more confused and concerned, Unbroken backers continued to ask questions about how/where/when their games would be shipped. As time went on, GBS became more and more aggressive to critics (doxxing them, threatening them with lawsuits, refusing refunds, and in some rarer cases sending refunds or freebies) stating that PR was old hat.

GBS has also been banned from BGG, due to their continued antagonism in the forums. Many of their comments have been moderated out of existence.

More details surfaced, such as GBS being sued by designers who feel they are being taken advantage of, Media Mail packages being received with postage due - which wouldn’t happen if GBS had an actual deal with USPS - and other claims by GBS contradicted themselves.

While Unbroken began to become more and more unruly by both backers and GBS attitude, similar issues started arising in other GBS related kickstarters. In addition to recreating the problematic shipping problems with sudden increases in requested shipping funds, many non-essential items (such as plushie toys) were over-ordered despite claims that GBS is in the red and financially strapped.

The saga continues...

More detailed timeline:
To be added

Geeklist of GBS affiliated projects created by
Amy
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https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/259248/golden-bell-affili...

Media links and relevant articles
1. https://www.linkedin.com/in/marc217
Marc’s Linkedin profile. He has an entrepreneurial history of CEO/start-ups, marketing and sales as employee in two others, and his college degrees.

2. https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/42257/icv2-interview-gol...
Puff piece but Marc’s responses to the interviewer supports my contention that GBS is nothing more than an over-extended small team trying to do too much too soon with limited skills/experience.

Common BGS red flags
* last minute announcement of KS co-creator role
* sudden requests for higher shipping costs
* references to financial losses (despite always having big name companies outsourcing to them and plenty of money to offer signing bonuses, buyouts of IP, etc)
* reference to personal tragedies as distraction from criticism and an attempt to garner sympathy
* references to business acumen and/or size of company and its affiliation with big name companies (despite also referencing small team doing hard unpaid work)
* threats of lawsuits for defamation/slander/libel
* use of personal contact info to make uninvited contact and/or threats
* charm towards supporters and nastiness towards critics
* tactics on chilling speech (freebies, discounts, refunds, and threats)
* attempts at doxxing
* refusal to honour promises of refunds
* overbuying on or prioritising extraneous items (ie plushies)
* math that doesn’t add up
* contracting of new and/or naive designers who are looking for logistics help
* general mismanagement and overextension of communication and PR

Questions to be asked:
This thread is a result of my comments on this thread
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2228573/unbelievable-kickst...

may_of_flames wrote:

I have the time and would volunteer [to look into GBS], but as I’m not American I don’t know where to look for business registration info, etc. If someone pointed me to the right places I would happily do the rest of the digging/updating.

may_of_flames wrote:

Thanks. I will take a look at those after I’ve checked with BGG’s TOS, in case posting that stuff is a no-no. I have quite a few searches and questions, so I might start a new thread on the BGS forum area and post what I find there.

may_of_flames wrote:

Thanks for doing that. I will be posting a new thread in the GBS forums looking more into the business stuff as soon as I have the go-ahead from the mods that I’m not stepping over the line. I’ll add the list to my thread once it’s up.

Octavian responded about my query, re: posting a thread detailing GBS business info. The sum of it is that unless I refer only to their affiliated projects can I post info. Linking to government registration etc would be considered doxxing. I asked how/if I could reference things like the lawsuits, since they’re project affiliated, even though that would come under the heading of things considered doxxing. I also asked if I could simply post a link to somewhere else where the info would be collated, as that technically wouldn’t be on BGG and wouldn’t be constrained by the TOS. On both counts I have heard nothing back since.

Personally I consider posting business info that is publicly available, like the lawsuit links, to be fair game; anything dealing with personal info, like addresses and phone numbers is clear doxxing. Having had my own personal info from the net used for harassment, I know what it’s like and would rather lean on the side of caution and go with what BGG recommends rather than stir up more trouble than it’s worth.

So even though I have the time, I don’t really want to expend the energy on figuring out where the line is and I’d really rather not risk breaking the TOS. Likewise I can’t keep up with all the comments and news in the meantime (and have not read any replies here or in the other threads/geeklist since last posting a week or two ago).

I still think it’s worth looking into however, so instead I’m going to pose some questions that I would personally want answered by both GBS and through independent verification (government websites with free public info, for instance). I personally wouldn’t want to reveal this list because it’s actually fairly easy to delete info from the internet (yes, even despite Archive.org) and I don’t want GBS seeing it and backtracking over any info. Given the circumstances though, I think it’s worth the risk given how likely it is that GBS is a con.

If anyone thinks this list breaks the TOS and/or needs editing down, feel free to report it. If you decide to do your own research, please don’t post it here as requested by Octavian/BGG, and very much DO NOT doxx, harass or stalk anyone. Please also leave game comments in their individual forums, this is meant to be just for discussing the company as a whole.

1. If any of the board games or original creators have websites, was the domain name history and ownership registered by them, or by GBS?
If by GBS, when did they register it? How does this compare to the announcements made by them or the designers on when they became involved?
2. What differences can be found by comparing the information on these websites and their historical versions?
3. Can a reverse domain name registration (searching for more domains owned by a person) reveal any other projects that have not yet been announced?
4. Can any comparisons be made between the list of trademarks by GBS and any game/book/media related copyrights that might be registered (the US has a copyright registry, other countries might not)?
5. If so, how does this compare with the announcements made by them or the designers as to when they became involved and who owns what trademarks/copyrights?
6. Can anyone outside of GBS confirm their business relationships with large well-known companies such as Disney? If so, what does that relationship entail?
7. Can the ISBNs be linked to any legitimate product or registration?
8. Can the use of three different variations of Golden Games, Golden Bell Studios, and Golden Bell be compared with any government business register for GBS? Are they just synonyms for the one company, or are there different companies?
9. If there are different ones, what business are they in and how does it compare with the “work from a live-in environment” statement that GBS has made?
10. What about the LLCs for each game? Are there different ones, who registered them, and when? Can that be compared with the website/trademark registration info queried above?

In addition to the above, but taken care of through the geeklist, BGG threads, or otherwise not allowable: a list of KS projects and/or past and present games published by GBS (and through that, related info on designers, websites, etc); list of GBS comments published by those who have received them, which included threats, use of private info to make unwanted contact, etc; list of related lawsuits and any contracts that have been posted publicly through the courts; links to any other website discussing GBS, such as Reddit, KS, etc; sites where GBS has been banned; links to official USPS regulations on use of Media Mail.

If I have the time and inclination to follow up on any of these I might post an update if it meets the TOS… but I wouldn’t count my chickens.
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Vic R
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A good summary buut I think the double shippin of 500 copies is important enough to be writen down expressly, because in five years time, when people start forgetting things, are posts like yours which will be relevant, and vague reference to things are not enough IMO, specially when this is non controversial (ie GBS admit it is true) mistake on GBS side (not Artem) which put them more in the blame of the supposedly loss. For example they repeat a lot they cant put personal money to pay for mitakes of others(Artem), but then they should at least put their personal money to pay the mistake they did it, which is at least 10000$ worth (500 copies at 20$, not counting shipping cost)
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Erawen Lowhunger
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They ordered 7000 copies of Unbroken for retail, using KS money
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maartend wrote:
They ordered 7000 copies of Unbroken for retail, using KS money

And shipped them with KS money as well.
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Jeff Sylvester
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may_of_flames wrote:
threatening them with lawsuits

Should be mentioned that for a handful of users, this was done through text messages to their cell phones, information gained from backer kit.
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Jeff Sylvester
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maartend wrote:
They ordered 7000 copies of Unbroken for retail, using KS money

On its own, I don't see this as being a big deal, as you'd expect them to buy copies for retail as part of the KS. I realize it's problematic when they haven't delivered to non-US/Canada, that's more the issue.
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Erawen Lowhunger
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MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
maartend wrote:
They ordered 7000 copies of Unbroken for retail, using KS money

On its own, I don't see this as being a big deal, as you'd expect them to buy copies for retail as part of the KS. I realize it's problematic when they haven't delivered to non-US/Canada, that's more the issue.

I must be complete.
They did this before shipping out all the games to the backers.
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Jeff Sylvester
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I get it. I’m just saying I’d expect a normal campaign to order retail copies.
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MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
I get it. I’m just saying I’d expect a normal campaign to order retail copies.

And it would have been fine if there were still enough money to ship the rest of the backers' games who already paid for them.
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kakuuuu wrote:
MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
I get it. I’m just saying I’d expect a normal campaign to order retail copies.

And it would have been fine if there were still enough money to ship the rest of the backers' games who already paid for them.

Hence my original statement:
Quote:
On its own, I don't see this as being a big deal, as you'd expect them to buy copies for retail as part of the KS. I realize it's problematic when they haven't delivered to non-US/Canada, that's more the issue.
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No, the issues are cut from the same cloth : they mismanaged the money that were given to them, and ordered too much of retail copies where they should have orderer less, in order to have sufficient funds to ship our own games.
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Jeff Sylvester
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Ok, let me rephrase.

If someone came to this thread knowing nothing else about this project, the idea that they ordered 7,000 retail copies would not be compelling evidence of misbehavior. That's important because if the goal is to show GBS mismanagement, the additional information needs to be clear and present or else it just looks like backers with unrealistic expectations.
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Erawen Lowhunger
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MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
Ok, let me rephrase.

If someone came to this thread knowing nothing else about this project, the idea that they ordered 7,000 retail copies would not be compelling evidence of misbehavior. That's important because if the goal is to show GBS mismanagement, the additional information needs to be clear and present or else it just looks like backers with unrealistic expectations.

I think your original quote sums it up best.
Odereing 7k copies for retail with the KS money and because of that not able to fulfill te non-Can/US shipments.
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MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
Ok, let me rephrase.

If someone came to this thread knowing nothing else about this project, the idea that they ordered 7,000 retail copies would not be compelling evidence of misbehavior. That's important because if the goal is to show GBS mismanagement, the additional information needs to be clear and present or else it just looks like backers with unrealistic expectations.

I don't get it. Removing one part of the situation doesn't help understanding it. Ordering too many retail boxes is the issue raised here. In order to understand that, you need to know the facts that there's not enough money to ship the original backers' games.
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kakuuuu wrote:
MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
Ok, let me rephrase.

If someone came to this thread knowing nothing else about this project, the idea that they ordered 7,000 retail copies would not be compelling evidence of misbehavior. That's important because if the goal is to show GBS mismanagement, the additional information needs to be clear and present or else it just looks like backers with unrealistic expectations.

I don't get it. Removing one part of the situation doesn't help understanding it. Ordering too many retail boxes is the issue raised here. In order to understand that, you need to know the facts that there's not enough money to ship the original backers' games.

I wasn't suggesting removing a part of the situation. I was suggesting placing it in context so it's clear why it's a problem, as on its own it doesn't sound problematic.
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Michael Steffens
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Living in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to receive my game, but I haven't opened it, and I plan to trade it away unopened. I was *really* looking forward to it, but GBS behaved so monumentally badly, I no longer have any interest in it. I know they have my money, so it's no skin off their back, but I don't even want it in my collection.

Aside from their deplorable communications and holding games for hostage, I was truly appalled by the use of media mail. I'm sure they think printing a (probably stolen) piece of music on the back of the insert meets the requirements, but it does not. I've reported them, and I'm sure many others have as well. Some backers reported receiving packages with postage due, when post offices realized that the packages were ineligible for media mail.
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MostlyHarmlesss wrote:
Ok, let me rephrase.

If someone came to this thread knowing nothing else about this project, the idea that they ordered 7,000 retail copies would not be compelling evidence of misbehavior. That's important because if the goal is to show GBS mismanagement, the additional information needs to be clear and present or else it just looks like backers with unrealistic expectations.

I'm assuming someone coming into this thread would read the top post first, which explains that GB demanded KS backers give them more money in order to receive their games.
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Joshua Wolf
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kakuuuu wrote:
No, the issues are cut from the same cloth : they mismanaged the money that were given to them, and ordered too much of retail copies where they should have orderer less, in order to have sufficient funds to ship our own games.

I think there's a plausible idea that GB is/was planning on using revenue from the retail sales to fund shipping for the remaining KS copies.
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Greg Wilson
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Ha, I just noticed the description on the publisher page:

Quote:
Golden Bell Games is a badly run Ponzi scheme.
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MKUltra wrote:
kakuuuu wrote:
No, the issues are cut from the same cloth : they mismanaged the money that were given to them, and ordered too much of retail copies where they should have orderer less, in order to have sufficient funds to ship our own games.

I think there's a plausible idea that GB is/was planning on using revenue from the retail sales to fund shipping for the remaining KS copies.

If that's the case, then it would be perfect, but I saw no information about this in the last update, where it was implied that we would have to pay up more money for shipping.
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maartend wrote:
They ordered 7000 copies of Unbroken for retail, using KS money

Marc ordered 7,500 extra copies then gave out 500 for free before sending vaguely threatening emails demanding money for them.
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Christopher Hassall
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kakuuuu wrote:
MKUltra wrote:
kakuuuu wrote:
No, the issues are cut from the same cloth : they mismanaged the money that were given to them, and ordered too much of retail copies where they should have orderer less, in order to have sufficient funds to ship our own games.

I think there's a plausible idea that GB is/was planning on using revenue from the retail sales to fund shipping for the remaining KS copies.

If that's the case, then it would be perfect, but I saw no information about this in the last update, where it was implied that we would have to pay up more money for shipping.

There was a small section after the regional parts that 'detailed' this phrase.

"As the restock order for North America comes in the next 6 weeks and retail sales will start, Golden Bell will contribute the majority of funds generated through these sales to the shipping solution, covering the project’s shortfall."
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Thanks, I quite missed that. Though if they will only use that, I guess it won't be enough. In case the numbers they gave us is right, that is.
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michael c
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Not all US backers have received their copies. In their most recent update, US shipping was supposedly completed on July 23rd, but there are still quite a few shipments outstanding, mine included. I live in Indiana and received a shipping notice on July 2nd saying that a label had been printed. It still shows that the game hasn't been delivered to USPS for shipment. I emailed GBS on Aug. 3rd asking about my game. I received a reply from Marc saying that it was, "otw." On Aug. 7th, I received an email from Andrew Levy who referred to me as "Unbroken Backer," so I presume that this same email was sent to multiple people. In it, he says that my game has either been shipped or will be shipping in a few days (so clearly US shipping was not completed by July 23rd). A week later, and I still haven't received my game, nor has there been any change in the tracking information. The email that I received also included a request for more money.
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Added media article from earlier in the year which contains interesting backstory info on GBS; mostly puff though. Added Marc’s linkedin which makes for interesting reading. Of note, his degree was centred on learning how to be an investor and commercialising technology; and that he is head of a bunch of start ups (not clear if they are still in business).

Will respond to comments shortly.
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