Indie Stone Stop Selling Zomboid. But!

By Alec Meer on May 24th, 2011 at 3:58 pm.

The Indie Stone, creators of upcoming apocalypse RPG Project Zomboid, have been barred from selling Project Zomboid by Google Checkout. This seems egregiously unfair, but part of the big G’s reason for this smackdown is that they’re asking money for something that doesn’t yet exist. Indie Stone, for whom this is now the second time they’ve been denied a big pile of money which they claim to desperately need to fund Zomboid’s development, have devised a possible way around this.

Now, they’re asking you to buy games that do exist – which will be accompanied by a ‘free’ copy of Zomboid once it is available. Proceeds from this trio of games will fund Zomboid’s development, presuming that cash doesn’t also get locked away from them. What are these games? Ah, that’s the thing…

How does ‘Stand On Top Of The Other Guy But Be Bigger’ sound to you? Or ‘Droids’? Or text-based grammar-abusing vignette ‘Rock Paper Scizzorz?’

I cannot attest to the quality of these titles, but note that £5, £10 or £15 seems rather a high price for each of them. It’s probably a fair price for Project Zomboid though. What a shame you can’t pre-order that for £10, eh? There’s just no way to do that. All you can do is buy one of these other games for between £5 and £15 and get a free copy of the Zomboid alpha (plus all future updates) down the line. Which, you’ll agree, is nothing at all like paying between £5 and £15 to pre-order Project Zomboid. If only there was a way to do that.

There isn’t. But you can buy the other games, with a free copy of Project Zomboid, from here. Advise The Indie Stone, “just remember that Project Zomboid will only be a cut-down alpha when first released, and expanded upon in subsequent updates.”

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84 Comments »

  1. Baka says:

    Wont google just close this loophole as soon as they spot it?
    They demonstrated before that they pretty much shut down whatever they want without explanation, just like PayPal.

    • Ricc says:

      PayPal… more like Nay, Pal!

      Alright, alright… I’ll stand in the corner over there.

    • westyfield says:

      Their problem before was that pre-ordering PZ was essentially buying nothing, and Google didn’t like people giving Indie Stone money for nothing. With this, you are buying an existing game, so hopefully Google won’t take issue with this.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      It’s not really a loophole. They’re just charging grossly overinflated prices for their games, with Zomboid tacked on for free when it’s released.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @westy: Weren’t they calling it a “donation” earlier? I thought that specific language was got them in trouble with google checkout.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I dunno. If I were working at Google Checkout and sniffing around for potential fraud/money laundering/etc, what they’re doing here would set alarm bells ringing. It smells fake, and the jokey tone doesn’t help. If you’re not aware of the context, it’s very “WTF?”

      Given that their account has been flagged in the past (for misuse of “donation”), they’re not doing much to contribute to the Definitely-Not-A-Scam image they need to maintain for the benefit of payment processors.

    • Maktaka says:

      There is nothing they can do at this point to not seem like a scam. Google has decided they are liars and cheats and will interpret any and all evidence in such a way as to support that thesis. Google has quite clearly demonstrated they have no interest in supporting an endeavor such as theirs and will do everything they can to shut it down in case it’s used for scaaaary money laundering or whatever else they can come up with. They absolutely do not want to have to have people decide on the account’s validity and instead just want to automate the hell out of everything, and this situation CANNOT be automated, therefore it must be terminated.

    • Chufty says:

      By providing a financial service, Google have to jump through a hell of a lot of hoops; particularly around money laundering. I work in the industry myself, and I can quite easily be personally liable for prosecution if I fail to report some even remotely suspicious activity.

      I’m not saying Google are getting this stuff perfect, but they’re erring on the side of caution and they shouldn’t be blamed for that.

  2. Wilson says:

    That’s pretty funny. Does it actually get round the problems though? Surely they still won’t like them including something that doesn’t yet exist in the sale?

  3. McDan says:

    Not allowed to buy things that don’t exist yet… we have those things already, they’re called a pre-order Google checkout,

  4. Premium User Badge jezcentral says:

    Maybe they should get in contact with Mode 7 (the Frozen Synapse guys) and ask them how they did it? When you’ve been bamging your head against a wall, there comes a time when you consider a different approach. I can’t believe every dev in the UK has suffered this problem.

    • Heliosicle says:

      Fairly sure there was a playable alpha when they started allowing people to pre order. Wonder how Grim Dawn have done it.

    • Ian Roberts says:

      When we did pre-orders for Fate of the World we used BMT Micro (on cliffski’s advice) and they have been great. It’s easy to fall into traps as an indie, so I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the troubles they are going through. Hopefully the coverage will make up for it :)

    • Mattressi says:

      I hope the coverage makes up for it too. The problem is, people will generally see something in the news and decide to buy then and there or they’ll forget about it; which is a problem when the reason Indie Stone are in the news is because they can’t take any pre-orders. At least this time the news is that they’ve finally got it working (hopefully)!

  5. Zaboomafoozarg says:

    Indeed.
    A game that you buy and get another game instead?
    Not a game for me,
    indeed.

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    Remember back when we wanted a game, and could simply buy it?

    Good times.

    • bob_d says:

      Those days appear to be over. It’s the “era of the indies” now (i.e. the industry is too messed up these days to support many companies between micro-indies and mega-studios).

  7. NikRichards says:

    If this was clearly being sold as a preorder then I don’t understand why it’s an issue.

    Isn’t it just the same as using google checkout to preorder games on Amazon etc?

    • Premium User Badge Kirrus says:

      Yes. But amazon are huge, and theindiestone team is tiny. Google is scared of people money laundering.

    • mike2R says:

      As well as money laundering and fraud concerns, what happens if they never delivery their product?

      I wonder if Google are worried that some of those who have pre-ordered will do a chargeback. I dunno quite how it works for a case like this, but credit card issuers are normally extremely lenient on their chargeback terms.

      I could imagine that if you called up your card issuer, and said you’d paid for a game months ago and the company have told you that they weren’t going to deliver it, and were not giving a refund (they are planning to use the money for development costs as I understand it), you would get your money back without any fuss.

      This means that Google Checkout has to pony up the cash, and reclaim it from Indie Stone. If Indie Stone are no longer trading, and their directors can’t cover the deficiency (limited company means crap all when you are dealing with merchant accounts as a small business), then Google are out a fair chunk of cash.

      I can think of many reasons why a payment processor may not want to deal with a particular business (or business model). Remember they make their money by processing very large sums of money, and charging a small percentage. This means that even a fairly low chance of a problem which could leave them liable for the full amount will make them very very nervous.

      Someone suggested Kickstart, which would seem to be a more sensible way to go about it.

  8. Howling Techie says:

    Don’t forget that paypal still have loads of their money.

  9. HeavyStorm says:

    Couldn’t they have used Kickstart instead? I don’t know the details of that site, but it seems more of a fit…

  10. somini says:

    The last paragraph looks like The Incredibles…

  11. ChainsawHands says:

    It’s not £10 for each game – it’s £5 for Droids, £10 for Stand On Top Of The Other Guy But Be Bigger, and £15 for Rock, Paper, SCIZZORZ.

  12. Matt says:

    You’d think they would stop playing games and just set up an account with BMT Micro already.

  13. Meat Circus says:

    What is going on with The Indie Stone?
    That’s now, what, three companies refusing to handle online payments for them.
    Are they cursed, or are their “irregularities”?

    • Nick Ahlhelm says:

      I will say it again. I just have doubts that this one little indie developer is being smacked around by “the big guys” with their product.

      This all seems very shady.

      And if they really wanted to do a $10 and you get the game when it comes out system, Kickstarter is just sitting there and waiting for their money.

    • Mike says:

      If you live in the US. Which they don’t.

    • Bhazor says:

      My thoughts exactly.
      What is attracting so much attention to them? Why is a tiny indie getting smacked down by Google and Paypal and all these other mega sites when so many other teams are doing the exact same thing (paying for preorders)? If thats the problem why not use Kickstarter or ask for “donations” on their website?
      To me this has the distinct smell of PR around it. Certainly I don’t think the game in it’s current state deserves the amount of attention these stories are attracting to them.

      Edit:
      Yeah Kickstarter is only available to US based teams. But there are international alternatives like IndieGoGo which is available in 130 countries.
      http://www.indiegogo.com/about/faqs

    • StevoIRL says:

      Iv played the game through testing. It does exit. It isn’t a scam.

      The problem they face is this.

      They have x grand sitting in their bank balance from money given to them for a product which at this stage the consumer cannot buy.

      Some *insert your favorite nasty word here* spoilt gamer got impatient in lack of said game and filed a complaint.

      Paypal im sure do a check when they do a test purchase and see what they received which is in fact nothing because no playable version of the game has been made available.

      They then whip out the ban hammer and have some fun.

      Why would you want PR on how you can’t make money of your game? In fact this is anti PR because for the time being they can’t advertise their game they have to advertise “drones” and “RPS” etc.

    • DrGonzo says:

      As was previously mentioned, they cannot use KickStarter.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Yeah, this is all very suspicious.

      I’m still keeping my eye on this Natch fellow… Paypal froze all his money last year in the same way they’re doing with indie stone. I hear his game is STILL in beta. Paid beta for more a year? Suspicious indeed.

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/09/10/paypal-freezes-minecraft-devs-600k-euros/

    • Mattressi says:

      Yep, I’ve also tested the game for them and can confirm that it’s real and that they’ve definitely been working their butts off to get so much in the game in such little time.

      The issue, it seems, is that when they first started taking pre-orders they included a spiel about how they currently have nothing to show at all, but that they’re opening up pre orders just in case anyone has the heart to give them money so that they can work on it. Because of the use of the word ‘donation’, and likely because of their comments about having nothing to show, someone at Paypal checked their site and decided that they were scamming people. Then, Google Checkout went down for similar reasons. After that, it seems that because people were trying to cancel their payments through Paypal or Google (for fear of never getting their money back and their money never getting to Indie Stone), Paypal and Google briefly let them have their money again, before these reports of payment cancellations hit the desk of whoever at Paypal and Google decides to lock accounts.

      I think it’s a case of Indie Stone not really knowing the procedure for payments (which they’ve admitted to) and shear bad luck. I mean, they had a bloody car bomb go off outside their office recently, how much worse luck can you get than that string of events! (it was in the news and has been confirmed to be in the street where they work, to all you conspiracy theorists out there who think they’d lie about it…and no, they didn’t make the car bomb themselves to scam people)

      If you still think it’s shady, wait a week or so until they release the demo to the public so that you can be sure they’re legit.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      There’s nothing suspicious or shady about them. Honestly. Daft as muppets at times? Yeah, probably. Naive? By their own admission.

      But Chris, Andy, Nick and Mash are lovely and I don’t think they’d *know* how to scam people without wanting to string themselves up through the guilt that’d bring. If you’re going to scam people you don’t spend pretty much every moment when something goes tits up trying to unshit things.

      Do they panic? Yeah. I’d panic if I’d had as harsh an introduction into the life of an indie as they have.

      I know we live in times where everyone is out for everyone else and scams are abound everywhere but really, they’re good people trying their best. It’s just y’know, they’ve never done this before and they’re winging it totally and making mistakes. It’s just they’re kinda a bit more public about these mistakes than some people.

      Yeah, Matt & Cliff are right and right now a payment provider to do all this stuff is needed and that’ll help into the future. It won’t unshit the Paypal stuff and it certainly won’t unshit Google Checkout *now*

      And no, they can’t use Kickstarter. It’s US only at the moment and shouldn’t be seen as something to fall back on or as something reliable anyway. Remember, even if they do move to the US, even if they do open a US bank account and even if they do open a Kickstarter project – they still have to reach fully funded before they see a penny and if they don’t, there’s nothing there.

    • Stupot815 says:

      I suggested IndieGoGo on their forums but was ignored :-(
      It would make perfect sense, and you only need a bank account, plus it’s a bit of extra indie publicity, and I think they take like 4% of the amount raised if you’re successful, which is nothing.

      I’m glad theyve found a [temporary?] workaround, but it’s a bit confusing and alienating a lot of people who don’t have the right credit cards and stuff.

  14. Fazer says:

    This is some serious bullcrap. How come Steam and other online shops offer preordering things while a small company isn’t allowed to do it? How PayPal and Google can get away with such behaviour without taking responsibility? I wish there was some way to solve this issue.

    Yes, I registered just to say this.

    • Megagun says:

      Because Steam has a proven track record: there have been millions of succesful transactions from Steam. Anyone interested in a business partnership with Steam knows that IF things go wrong, and people demand refunds, they can knock on Valve’s door and ask for the money from them.

      Indie Stone? Not so much. In other words, if people complain to PayPal or Google and want their money back, and Indie Stone has taken it all off their account, PayPal and Google have nowhere to go. For all they know, Indie Stone is a scam.

      Google and PayPal are often used by scammers, and they operate with this in mind. If they smell a possible scam (and a preorder by an indie developer that hasn’t proven themselves yet and aren’t actually GIVING customers anything except for a ‘promise’ surely smells like a scap or potential scam) they’ll freeze the account. Normal scammers will usually ignore the account freeze and create a new one (too much hassle, usually). Non-scammers will push on and get their accounts unfrozen. This is what Google and PayPal rely on. It’s annoying if it happens to you, yes, but it would be far more annoying for everyone if they added a 10% markup on all transactions just to cover returns from scams.

  15. mbp says:

    Part of me wishes you hadn’t cleared this up. I was looking at Rock, Paper, SCISSORZ trying to figure out what sort of secret sauce such a basic text game had to justify charging £15 and I had pretty much convinced myself it must be a fully Turing compliant AI.

  16. Kato says:

    Are there any updates on the PayPal situation? That’s just atrocious.

  17. Jeremy says:

    It’s time for someone to set up an indie development focused “PayPal”. Enough of this foolishness.

  18. juandemarco says:

    What’s not clear to me is: are PayPal and Google ultimately keeping the money they froze? Or are they giving it back to the original buyers? Because if they keep it they can hide behind their TOS and disclaimers all they want, but that’s plain old theft…

  19. Sheng-ji says:

    Why don’t they just bite the bullet and talk to steam or D2D or Impulse or GOG or any of the others who sell games? Seems like the only solution left to them, unless their willing to set up a VISA/Mastercard/Any of the others checkout on thier own website and take the money directly!

    • Megagun says:

      I don’t think Steam or Impulse or other parties would allow preorders for a game that doesn’t exist yet, either. If I recall correctly, Steam doesn’t. There is a reason for this: too much risk. Imagine all the whiners on the Steam forums when the game takes ages to get released….

  20. salejemaster says:

    okay, now that we can finally “buy” the game how about some more details on the game itself, would be nice :)

  21. rocketman71 says:

    Google Checkout sucks. Pay Pal sucks.

    How does the market allow such ineptitude without offering a good company as an option?. It’s not like there aren’t loads of money to be made.

  22. I LIKE FOOD says:

    I´m not questioning the sincerity of the developer, however I do understand why paypal and google blocks them. It´s not right to ask customers to fund their development of a product, you´re supposed to sell them a product. At least have an alpha out when you charge people money.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      How on earth is it “not right”?

      If you explain to people what they’re paying for, it’s entirely their business if they decide to give you the money or not. It’s not like they’re claming to have a product ready for you to buy now then admitting they don’t after they have your money – they’ve been open about it from the beginning.

    • Agnocrat says:

      Yeah, I’ve always considered those damn construction companies thieves as well. I didn’t pay for your damn drawing, give me my house or you don’t get a dime!

  23. Gundato says:

    I think the issue is more that this, like most indie pre-orders, doesn’t necessarily mean that we are getting the game. If they died out/got arrested/gave up, a lot of people would be out money.

    It is a small distinction, and I am sure there are ways to get around it (like this). Hell, once the alpha is officially “out”, I am sure they’ll have no issues.

  24. beatbox32 says:

    This is seriously ridiculous on the part of the developer. Why do they insist on banging their heads against the wall and expecting different results? Why don’t they try something like Lending Club or Zopa?

    • lemmy101 says:

      Your assumption being, of course, we haven’t looked for viable alternatives in the repeated issues we’ve had?

  25. pupsikaso says:

    What the hell? Big companies can sell pre-orders, but regular folk can’t? Way to go, America.

  26. lemmy101 says:

    Crazy PayPal update.
    Just got this in my mail out of the blue.
    Is there a logic to any of this? Or did they get complaints about shutting us down? Or see the press stuff on it? Who knows.
    We withdrew the funds in there. Either way, let’s just say we’re hesitant to put the buttons back up. ;)

    • Assaf says:

      that’s great news man! congratulations and good luck in the future!

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      Excellent news.

      Also saves me from the confusion of whether I’d given you lovely chaps money or not! I’m at least 60% certain I have now (but that doesn’t mean you cna fob me off with 60% of game, no siree, I’m watching you and your shady character friends!).

    • Premium User Badge yhancik says:

      Fantastic news :D

    • Premium User Badge JB says:

      Huzzah!

  27. Curvespace says:

    We Fund looks like a UK service similar to Kickstart: http://www.wefund.co.uk/about-us

  28. Atic Atac says:

    The solution is very simple…Kickstarter

    • lemmy101 says:

      Yup if we were in the US and therefore eligable the solution would be simple. :) Trust us when we say we’ve spent a great deal of time following up leads of alternatives, and have been suggested Kickstarter no less than about 500 times since we announced the game. (About 5 times in these comments, or there abouts)

    • Atic Atac says:

      Ah ok :/ …Well I hope my google payment will eventually arrive to you guys

  29. satsui says:

    I don’t know, I am with Google on this. They’re promising a product that doesn’t exist yet. What if they fail to deliver that promise?

  30. Vandalbarg says:

    That’s actually an amusingly clever solution to the problem. I have a feeling the same cleverness is being put into the game itself, too. Best of luck lads.

  31. tungstenHead says:

    They are going to get slapped by George Lucas for using “Droids”.

    • zaqr says:

      clearly these won’t be the droids that lucas will be looking for

      now that I’ve said it, I feel bad for registering just to say it

  32. bill says:

    This development model seems to be taking off, but it’s gonna run into huge trouble with payment companies because it’s so open to abuse, scamming and money laundering.

    But then, kickstarter seems to be doing ok. there’s not a lot of difference there, right?

    How about making it a donation which includes a free game? AFAIK donations are ok, or is that only charities?

  33. Kael says:

    Look, I hate to be THAT guy, but the problem was quite clear.

    It’s Project Zomboid’s usage of the word “donation”. In lawyer speak, that sets the money up to be tax exempt/deductible by various parties, and Google Checkout will only allow donations if they are an actual organisation set up to take non-profit donations, which they are not. It’s not simply Google trying to be a dick and not allow money to go to the programmers, but it’s unlawful for Google to supply a potentially tax loopholed income to a for-profit business that is trying to use non-profit “donation” model.

    Fucking financial liability, how does it work?

    • patricij says:

      as a conservative libertarian I’ll say you this: “Fuck taxes” :)

  34. BloodPukeSalvation says:

    how did natural selection handle their pre-orders? i purchased one but cant recall how it all worked out as they didnt seem to have any problems and there was no playable game until a certain date, by which many players had already payed for the beta access.

    or is my memory so jaded that this and that were two totally different scenarios?

  35. Premium User Badge Kirrus says:

    If you read their Google Checkout post, they did say they made a mistake with the T’s and Cs, but that google were particually unhelpful.

    They’ve not actually broken any of PayPal’s T’s and Cs.