Developer claims ‘Project Phoenix’ creator stole from Kickstarter

Project Phoenix, a Japanese role-playing game with real-time strategy elements created by Area 35 and director Hiroaki Yura, raised more than $1 million on Kickstarter more than four years ago and promised to set a “new standard of excellence for the Japanese gaming industry.” It was originally scheduled to launch in 2015 and updates have been sporadic since then, and a former developer’s accusations against Yura suggest the delays haven’t just been because the team is running behind schedule.

Former Area 35 developer Tariq Lacy posted on the official Project Phoenix Facebook page late last week, saying that Yura had diverted the $1 million received for the game from Kickstarter in order to fund the strategy game Tiny Metal, which is scheduled to release in December. Lacy said that much of the funds were used to establish Area 35 and pay for staff and equipment for Tiny Metal, and that Yura only began seeking help from outside investors after this Kickstarter money had run low.

“You will notice progress reports on the Project Phoenix Kickstarter blog, as well as their official Project Phoenix blog,” Lacy continued. “These were written periodically by Hiroaki Yura himself in order to assuage fears that the project was dead. The nature of these blog entries, through their infrequency and intentional ambiguity, reveals to us that the project was never meant to be released.”

The official Facebook page for the game responded to a question about the original post, saying that it was from a “disgruntled staff [member] who [had] been asked to leave because he was not doing his job and not expressing the views of Project Phoenix.”

The official Project Phoenix response also claimed there were “factual inconsistencies” in Lacy’s post and that the team would be “taking action” and prove its innocence through “official records.”

Speaking to Kotaku, Yura alleged Lacy sexually harassed Area 35’s female staff in addition to “many other problems.” He added that funding for Tiny Metal initially came from a group of investors in Australia and the studio partnered with Sony’s new label Unties in order to complete development. Lacy denied the sexual harassment allegations, calling them “libel.”

We likely haven’t heard the end of this story — Tiny Metal was scheduled to launch on Tuesday, November 21, but has been delayed to December 21. The game will be available on PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC.

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