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Kickstarter Gameband Game Watch Is Officially Dead, No Refunds in Sight

The Gameband, a smartwatch packed with retro mini-games that hit its $75,000 Kickstarter goal in less than a day early last year, is officially dead, the project creator tells Variety.

Feargal Mac Conuladh said that those involved in the Kickstarter, which went on to receive $500,000 in support, will not be “going forward” with the smartwatch’s development, citing numerous issues including the complexity of the project, time, and cost.

“Ultimately the time, cost, and complexity have turned out to be far more challenging than we expected, and as a startup we simply do not have the finances or resources to continue to forge ahead,” he wrote on the Kickstarter page. “We have looked at it from many angles, met with new potential partners, and tried to find additional funding to keep going, however we have not been able to make progress.”

The company, he said, will continue to move forward with an eye on offering refunds sometime in the future.

“We will do our utmost to do so, and in fact we are determined to do so if and when we can,” he wrote. “For now that is not the case. Our costs have far exceeded the $500k to date as we have dealt with the delays and technical challenges.”

Company FMTwo Games, lead by the person who created the successful Minecraft Gameband, has been silent more than a year prior to this update and was almost as much behind on its promised ship date. The company ignored the increasingly angry requests for updates from its more than 1,700 backers.

Early last year, Conuladh said the idea for the Gameband was inspired by his work on the Minecraft device and his love of old ’70s and ’80s watch games. He said he worked hard to build up relationships with both Atari and Re-Logic and was in talks with other game developers. He said the combination of the company’s tech and its relationship with developers would allow them to kickstart a brand new movement in gaming.

This time around the company’s efforts are for a much more complicated device. It was to feature a 1.6-inch AMOLED display powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of ROM. There’s also a slew of sensors, 802.11 b/g/n wifi and 4.2 Bluetooth. The watch was to be powered by a 400 mAh battery, which is slightly larger than the battery in the Samsung Gear S3 and include a Micro SD slot and a USB C connector. The whole thing was to run on Android Marshmallow 6.0.01, which will support a collection of apps like a calendar, contacts, phone dialer, weather, music player and alarm, and will have some other neat little surprises, like Alexa voice controls and its own online store called PixelFurnace, which was envisions as a sort of iTunes for watch games.

In March, the company announced it was upgrading the watch to be IPX7 compliant. That means it could fall into a bit of water and not break. They also added the option to upgrade the face of the watch to Gorilla Glass.

Over the following months things seem to progress nicely, with upbeat updates about trips to China and work on the boards that power the watch and its basic design. November saw the first major hiccup in the design. The watch’s promised USB-C port was causing issues with the design. Size constraints meant they needed to either make the watch bigger or use an adapter instead of a built-in port. In the January update the team mentioned “difficult weeks” and taking “much needed downtime,” without noting what the issues were. The following updates trimmed down from massive details on where things stood to essentially short apologies for the lack of updates. The March update noted the team was continuing to work on the schedule and development plans, but didn’t update either.

Then came word that Atari ended its licensing agreement with the company. Re-Logic, the developers behind “Terraria,” said they too were concerned about the watch after lending the name of the game to one of the designs.

In July, Conuladh told Variety that the Gameband passed Electrical Validation Testing, which means the electrical design is solid. He said both the operating system and software were are also on track. But added that the team still isn’t ready to tell its community what the new ETA is for the device.

“As soon as we resolve the issues we have been working through, and have clear re-commitments from partners, we will issue a new ETA, and will keep the community updated every step of the way,” he said at the time.

In Friday’s update canceling the project, Conuladh said the company is “bitterly disappointed,” about the outcome.

“Even when our communication was not at its finest, the team has worked incredible hours, and for most months without salary. We believed in this more than we can possibly say. Some of you will understand the challenges and empathise, some of you will not, and you will rightly be angry with us. Regardless of how you feel today, you backed us, we have not delivered, and for that we are truly truly sorry.

“We came on here to build a dream product, and like with any dream there were nay-sayers, however if you backed us you also believed in us, and for that we are incredibly grateful. It makes the decision we have come to today all the more difficult, as we are letting you down.”

He added that the company will share more about the future as soon as it can.

Editor’s note: The writer of this story did back the watch at the basic level.

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