Slowing Down For An Internet Car Crash

How could a pretty blue site causes such grinding of teeth? Well, easily, it seems. GiveWhatYouWant.Com seems to be following the million-plus success of the Humble Bundle offering indie games Aztaka, Bob Came in Pieces, Kingdom Elemental Tactics, Gravitron 2, Bridge Construction Set and PutUp in a pay what you want package, with the money being split between the developers and charity. Except… well, it’s a mess. Start with the 150+ thread over at Indie Games, with initial people not getting their games exploding into stories of a complete lack of contracts, the runner of the site launching it on his wedding day, questions about wher the money is actually going and two developers (Bob Came in Pieces and Gravitron 2) withdrawing their support from the bundle (though nicely say they’ll send a copy of their games to anyone who paid for the pack and didn’t get the game after paying). More stuff over on the GoG forum too. After the enormous success of the Humble Bundle, this is a sad spectacle.

EDIT: PC Gamer have an interview with the gentleman behind the deal.

85 Comments

  1. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    More about the snkeay money?

  2. user@example.com says:

    Things like this make me hate. No-one can do anything good without some scammer taking advantage of the publicity to set up their own version, screwing over players and developers. I’m really glad I didn’t buy this one right away – I was planning to eventually, for the Bridge Construction Set <3, but decided it could wait a while, and then saw Lewie's post about it on SavyGamer and was very glad I was patient for once.

  3. Sulkdodds says:

    Looking at this ‘Jochen’ guy’s posts on Indiegames.com, I’m highly suspicious of his eighteenth-century style capitalisation. Not to mention his…strangely constructed website.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Read the stuff on the GOG.com website, that’s even more juicy, hornedry2K is Jochen.

    • stahlwerk says:

      While I’m tempted to say that it’s his german way of not only capitalizing proper nouns but all nouns, looking at his posts on gog.com it seems he just didn’t care or sink about eet.

      Boy, those are some fine examples of scammar.

  4. Magic H8 Ball says:

    I wouldn’t trust them based on that artwork alone.

    • Bhazor says:

      That dog is up to something and that girl is carrying a shooter.

  5. Shrewsbury says:

    According to the GOG thread the guy behind this ‘bundle’ has done porridge for buying CD keys with fraudulent cards.

    AVOID.

  6. Sulkdodds says:

    Also, foreign language or not, “We forgot to change them after we moved the Site to the Folder” sounds like the internet equivalent of Treknobabble. “Data, tech the tech up and reroute the auxillary tech to the tech”.

  7. Jayt says:

    Ugh, I really hope the devs pull out ASAP

  8. Auspex says:

    Was wondering when you’d get round to posting about this.

    I bought it :(
    But I did get my download instantly, though it was a rather a slow download.
    As far as I can tell all the games work, I have not tried them all though.

    However I contributed all of my payment to Child’s Play who have now been removed from the list.
    I have received an email from Jochen (The “CEO” of this operation) asking me to choose another of their charities.
    I’m waiting to find out via indiegames.com if any of the other charities are actually on board.

    • Auspex says:

      I should add that I feel kinda bad if it turns out the developers are not getting any of the money but there’s no way of knowing if that’s the case.
      If it turns out the developers get paid, charities get money and gamers get games then this won’t be such a bad thing.
      It’s just a shame it’s become such a drama.

  9. eoin says:

    It’s painful to watch… yet strangely compelling.

    The level of vitriol in the indiegames thread is fascinating. When you get a dodgy offer like this it makes anyone else doing the same thing just a little suspicious in the eyes of the general public.

    Anyone willing to be that the paypal account will be emptied/locked rather speedily?

    • MWoody says:

      From a relative who works in the nonprofit sector, it’s one of the great frustrations of their field that they can’t (or, at least, really really shouldn’t) publicly call out bad local charities for their shenanigans. Badmouthing another organization for poor accounting processes, giving too small a percentage to their cause, or just generally being crooked only has the effect of turning the public away from giving altogether at an alarming, immediately evident rate.

  10. HexagonalBolts says:

    You can see me in a lot of the discussions –

    Basically, the guy who was running it (Jochen) had a massive history of fraud, and allegedly spent 4 years in jail for it. He was doing “secret marketing” by pretending to be other people and pointing to his site. When people picked him up for this there was a big flame war and a lot of questions were raised.

    If there is an actually fraudulent element to the deal, it’s not yet been revealed. What has been revealed is Jochen’s mass incompetence, the games are all uploaded together in one giant zip to just one public link, many of the delivery emails (including my own) were not sent to people who had paid, and Jochen was being particularly unclear about how money was divided.

    Jochen’s appalling english, slippery replies, and threats to make his lawyer “sue” people who criticised him only exacerbated the matter.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Also, nobody truly knows if the developers or charities will receive the money or not yet, he may give it to them, he may not. I very, very, very much doubt it will be a substantial amount given the amount of bad press he has acquired.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      The fact that he included Gravitron 2 while they hadn’t even agreed to the whole thing is just another one of those things.

  11. oceanclub says:

    Wow. Why on earth did the developers trust this guy? Surely you don’t arrange to have a third-party resell them for charity unles you are sure they are 100% legit?

    P.

    • sana says:

      I’d say because all of these games look a bit rubbish. They perhaps accepted that deal out of pure desperation to get some copies out there?

    • RobF says:

      Gravitron 2 is superb.

  12. jph wacheski says:

    I was also approched to participate in this ‘offer’;

    “Dear Sir or Madam,

    did you ever heard about the Humbe Indie Bundle? Some Indie Game
    Publishers presents some Games to buy for a Price that Customers want.
    Many, Many Websites reported about this Project but i miss there some Games.

    Many other Studios that have great Games had not the Chance to support
    this Charity Project and i want make a Project like this, too.”

    That is just the first couple lines, the rest is just a well writen,. I simply ignored these emails. Glad I did.

    • Bhazor says:

      “That is just the first couple lines, the rest is just a well writen,. ”
      Teehee, teehee.

    • Alex May says:

      Same here, I just thought “who in their right mind would go for this”, oh well.

  13. Tei says:

    Lame.

    But I also want this to be real. Please more of these bundles, and as possible, avoid repeating titles (we all have WoG by now, thanks).

    Also, the lame-page crash my browser.

  14. Magic H8 Ball says:

    oceanclub said:
    Wow. Why on earth did the developers trust this guy?

    Because their games don’t exactly top the Indie charts?

    • oceanclub says:

      “Because their games don’t exactly top the Indie charts?”

      To be fair, some of them are decent games. I was going to definitely pick up Bob Goes to Pieces at some point. And even if you aren’t selling many games, your reputation is at stake. Did they not know about this guy’s dodgy past, or knew it and ignored it?

      P.

    • Tei says:

      I loved bridge builder games, also Elementals is like AAA or something. No? All are Gems of different styles.

    • Stromko says:

      “Kingdom Elemental Tactics” I’ve never heard of, actually, but the name is confusingly close to an AAA strategy game coming out from Stardock.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Humble bundles becoming a new platform for internet scam. I hate myself for finding that funny.

    It was good while it lasted. I’m back to personal donations.

  16. Sinomatic says:

    I imagine there was just an inverse phase shift in the primary inducers or something….

  17. Ricc says:

    Let this be a lesson for future projects of this kind. With the amount of bad word of mouth, this can’t be profitable for scammers, I hope. And legit bundles better be rock solid.

  18. Sinomatic says:

    That was @ Sulkdodds btw (I swear this commenting system hates me)

  19. Sobric says:

    does this Jochen guy also claim to know a Nigerian prince that is in need to financial aid to get him and his ENORMOUS PILE OF GOLD BARS out of the country?

  20. cliffski says:

    Call me mr fuddy-duddy, but I’m stikcing with the good old fashioned ‘set a price and charge people’ approach to selling games.
    The beauty of the humble bundle was it was the devs themselves who did it. Adding a middle man defeats the whole object.

    • Jimbo says:

      Capitalism lives to fight another day it seems.

    • subedii says:

      Yeah but with the Humble Indie Bundle it wasn’t so much the “pay what you want” thing that made them money, it was all the marketing surrounding it, the hype pretty much spread on its own. I guess I just considered it like another package deal or sale. It would appear that if what you’re offering is enough to generate hype on its own, then that’s what brings in the customers.

      You’re right though, I don’t think this idea works as well with a middle man. That seems a bizarre thing to have in this situation.

  21. mbp says:

    Somebody has a good idea involving the internet and somebody else tried to copy them and made a cock up of it either through incompetence or possible even through malice. This is not news.It is a story as old as the world wide web.

    It is perhaps a wake up call though for those of us who got carried away with warm fuzzy feelings about the pay what your want, don’t need drm, indie games are great, everybody is honest really phenomenon.

    There was a certain cold hearted logic about the old way of doing business. If you thought the offering was worth the price you handed over your money otherwise you kept it in your pocket. People tend to behave quite rationally* when their own hard earned cash is at stake and this in turn filters out the worst excesses. Once the price goes to free or near free then rational decision making seems to be put aside and sadly somebody somewhere will try to exploit this. Just look at the scams and dodgy dealings that grew up around facebook’s free games.

    * I do realise that the millions of punters who shelled out $60 for MW2 could be held up as proof of irrational purchaser behaviour but there are always exceptions. I am prepared to accept that those million had their own reasons for spending that amount on a four hour game even if you or I can’t understand it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Cooper says:

      Re: “The Rational Consumer”

      The rational consumer is a mythical creature, long proven non-existent and widely accepted as inexistent even by the most hard-nosed old school economists.

      People make livings and construct whole businesses around our irrational purchasing habits.

    • Bioptic says:

      I just preordered Alpha Protocol from Amazon for £18, in the absence of any reviews and flying in the face of Obsidian’s development history of PC titles, because it comes with an exclusive 24-page booklet.

      Where’s your precious rationality now, eh?

    • Sulkdodds says:

      @cooper – yeah, I was gonna say, how are people acting irrationally in response to these deals? It was perfectly reasonable to propose or buy into the Humble Indie Bundle. And people are acting pretty rationally about this suspicious one too: they’re all discussing it and assessing it and being cautious of it based on report. Indeed, many are reserving their judgement more than might be expected.

      Meanwhile, people regularly spend quite LARGE amounts of money on obvious nonsense, and there are plenty of scammers who A) rely on the traditional deal-making model and B) charge a lot of money (see: anti-EM necklaces).

    • Wilson says:

      @mbp – You cite people buying MW2 as having “their own reasons” for buying it even though it might not seem like the best deal for a ‘rational consumer’, but that’s exactly the problem. Every consumer has their own habits, biases and skewed logic. People aren’t perfectly rational, so I don’t think you’ll ever find a properly ‘rational consumer’.

      It’s a fair point though about people thinking more about purchases when they’re putting more on the line so to speak. Which I think was your main point really, but arguing about ‘rational consumers’ seems to be more interesting…

  22. Dawngreeter says:

    As Hanlon’s razor goes – never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. I’m not ruling out that it’s a scam but, really, what scammer is this incompetent? We know who he is, he’s flaming people on message boards… if it was planned as a scam, it’s a surreal attempt to say the least.

    That said, it is very unfortunate if this act of stupidity manages to undermine the wonderful and enthusiastic indie support that Humble Bundle had built. Or maybe not built, but at the very least managed to bring together in a spectacular display.

  23. qwertylicious says:

    Considering the possibility this is not fully above board, might it be better to remove the link to the site in question?

  24. abhishek says:

    Is this the wrong time to point out that Caster is also having a pay what you want sale on their site?

    link to elecorn.com

  25. Unaco says:

    I went to the site, it started speaking at me without my consent, I closed the site. A little off topic, but I really hate sites that automatically play media etc… With modern browsers, people use Tabs. I open pages but look at another page. For that alone I’m not going to give his ‘Bundle’ consideration… regardless of the other ‘salacious’ surroundings of the situation.

    • Cynic says:

      @Unaco
      My reaction exactly. Websites that play music, speech or video automatically don’t stay open in my browser very long.

  26. Trelowsaurus says:

    Waiting on download link…

    Figured it’d be worth a buck to see, I’ve already got Aztaka & Gravitron 2, so it’s more for curiosity’s sake than anything.

  27. haircute says:

    @Auspex:

    Hey, buddy. Just kind of wondering how you know all the games work if you haven’t tried them all. Get back to me if you can! Thanks!

    • Auspex says:

      Apologies. The first “all” in the sentence:

      “As far as I can tell all the games work, I have not tried them all though.”

      was put in by accident. I had installed and played 3 of the games and they had worked. It did not seem a huge assumption to assume they all would.
      (Though it should be noted that Bridge Construction appears to require a registration key that did not come with the games)

      Of course I retract my apology if you were just being a nitpicking prat.

    • Joseph says:

      “Of course I retract my apology if you were just being a nitpicking prat.”

      LOL. He’s not your buddy, guy! ;)

  28. Uhm says:

    So we can all donate less than the transaction cost and make him lose money? Or ignore it.

  29. Vinraith says:

    Yikes, what an ugly mess. I’m glad I didn’t find out about this until after the problems came to light, or I might very well have bought into it.

  30. Will Tomas says:

    Someone on the PCG forum commented that Sleep is Death is in some way associated with the guy running the site. Does anyone know anything about that?

    • Auspex says:

      As far as I can work out when the “gentleman” behind this project was trying to whip up enthusiasm for this bundle he suggested that Sleep is Death was going to be part of the bundle. (as well as some other games)

      It was never included in the bundle so we can only assume Rohrer either ignored Jochen’s emails or just refused.

      link to gog.com

      I believe hornedry2k is Jochen, though he does refer to it as “Sleep in death” so it might be a completely different game!

  31. Grunt says:

    Poor show. Damned fraudsters. Can’t we have anything nice??

    I’m a bit bummed I missed out on the Humble Bundle. I really fancied Gish and Aquaria, and having non-Steam copies of the Penultima games would have been nice. Oh well.

  32. Kid A says:

    I’ve just emailed him myself trying to see if a “freelance journalist” can get a bit more out of him. Will post results here soon.

  33. Thingus says:

    Judicious application of Hanlon’s Razor may be needed here;
    ‘Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.’

  34. Kid A says:

    I’ve forwarded the email with Jochen’s answers to the RPS folks at the contact address – if anyone’s particularly interested, I’ll put them up here?

    • Will Tomas says:

      If RPS aren’t going to do anything with them, and they’re different to the one’s for PCG, then I’d be interested, as long as it isn’t just a self-justification rant.

    • Kid A says:

      I appear to have persuaded him to forward me all correspondence between himself and the developers and charities that have pulled out – I’m waiting for a reply now, and I’ll probably bundle the whole thing up somewhere and email them to RPS/post them on my own site somewhere.

  35. Kid A says:

    link to sixtyfpsorbust.tumblr.com

    Forgive the awful formatting, I’ve had to knock this up in a rather short time.

    The fact both emails he sent me were in different formats hasn’t helped: but there it all is.

    • lhzr says:

      seems like there’s no way for the devs to check how much cash the bundle made, so they’d have to rely on jochen telling the truth about the final amount. which is kinda stupid.

    • Auspex says:

      Good work Kid A.

      I just, this very minute, got the following message from Paypal.

      “This email confirms that Jennifer Kolbe has accepted the $1.00 USD you sent.”

  36. manintheshack says:

    @ Kid A

    That makes for interesting reading. The guy’s a fraudster, no doubt, but he seems to have stumbled into that way of life through sheer idiocy. Even after reading through the emails I see no reason why the developers took it much past the first point of contact.

  37. BarneyL says:

    The site now reads:
    “The Site has technical Problems. We are back as soon as possible! When all resolved tomorrow! “

  38. god says:

    Arggg..that guy needs a crash course in english. Horrible communication skills…At least he made his name known internationally now so people can be aware of his bad business practices…

  39. iLag says:

    Kolbe didn’t just remove the site (temporarily? I don’t think so), he also removed his twitter account. Looks like the small furry animals are leaving the sinking ship.

  40. oceanclub says:

    There’s also now an interview with him over at PC Gamer UK, where he continues to shoot himself in the head with one hand, while digging a hole with the other and putting his foot in his mouth. It’s like he thinks he’s running for an Asshole of the Year award:
    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=248403&site=pcg

    Childs Play contacts me yesterday to be not anymore in this Project so i think they dont need more Money. When i see someone would help , i would say: Thank you. Its a shame for all Organisations that really need Money, that they dont want it. Nothing is so hard as man’s ingratitude.

    P.

  41. oceanclub says:

    By the way, here’s the man himself on Youtube (in the context of a video where he defends re-selling CD keys):



    P.

  42. Daniel Kaplan says:

    Nice job Kid A. Thanks for letting people know about the whole situation!

    Just want to make a comment on the post you have on sixtyfps. As you may see in the mail conversation we didnt have any written contract with Jochen… Stupid as we were, we trusted this guy and really wanted to benefit the charity. As you may see he mentioned some other bigger titles in the offer for us, but now we know better.

  43. Kirklan Cameron says:

    Just so you all know,

    When the money is supposed to be going to the devs and to charity and none of that money gets to either of those parties then IT IS A SCAM!

    None of the money made thus far has gone to ANY charity! None of it! There was an option to make offer your entire payment up for one of the “Participating” charities, AND NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM HAS RECEIVED. None of them have received any of the amounts that were to be distributed to their respective sites.

    Furthermore, if you did buy this bundle and made out the entire payment to any of the Charities your payment was not filed under any of these Charities in any manner! In other words, all of the money has gone into one account and the Host / CEO / Organizer of this “Haughty Indie Bundle” has no record of where any of the money was supposed to be distributed since none of the payments actually got divided into separate accounts or even separate records, filing systems, etc. etc. etc. It only leads the average, intelligent, and common sense minded individual to believe that the person in charge of this bundle had no intention of paying out to anyone. Especially since NONE of the Charities were involved with the Bundle (and have clearly stated such over the past 2 days now).

    All the profit has been made into a lump sum with no way of knowing who gets what!

    So, just to inform those who perhaps don’t speak English as a first language or do not know the definition of the word, here’s the definition of “Scam”:

    To victimize and deprive of by deceit

    So it is obviously a Scam!

  44. Kid A says:

    I’m now being threatened by Jochen that he is reporting my blog to tumblr (where I host it, as I currently don’t have the spare funds for webspace) due to my publishing of his emails. Given that I made it clear they were being requested for the article, I find this ludicrous.

  45. Rock Paper fan says:

    This is not a mess. It’s a total disaster -surreal, unimaginable, funny, tragic. It’s all that and more. Also, you forgot to mention that he seems to be in his honey moon while all of this happens. T.T heh

  46. Bufko says:

    And here I was, thinking about creating some kind of promotion for indie games on my little site. Then this happened, I’m german, too, and there goes the neighborhood. Thank you, Kolbe, for ruining our reputation forever.

  47. oceanclub says:

    Does anyone know if claiming to be affiliated with a charity when you aren’t is considered a crime? What he’s done is pretty much the same as walking along the street collecting with a jar with a charity’s logo on it. You might claim that you had the intention of giving the money to the charity, but I imagine you’d still be in trouble.

    P.

  48. Tantrix says:

    GoGer here,
    this dude wants to complain me to the police because I was clarifying some stuff he lied about on the German board and called him a scammer.
    There was even a post where Jochen stated that a user reported some developers and they forced him to take their games out. I can’t really say if it’s true or not, but the post is till on the anythingforfree board, in case you can German:
    link to anything4free.de

    At any rate, I informed Kinderkrebsstiftung and WWF about this. They were really shocked and didn’t know that their logos were used for charity without their agreement.

    I really don’t want to see more of it, it just pains me. I spended like 40 bucks on wolfire and seing my donations could turn such a bad route is really depressing.
    I bought Aztaka for that reason because I don’t want the developers to go down financially. I will also do this with the guys of Graviton and BoB.

  49. Marc says:

    following his typical whining, as it seems, after he crashed against a wall again, leaving many people without money or paid goods, like in former business projekts. the creditors are put off with the next greatfull projekt, that will be the money making machine for sure. it is a neverending story.

    the best joke is his “give me a second chance”, after the most people gave him like 10 times the “second chance” and he messed with it over and over.

    this text seems to be a helpless attempt to keep the charity organisations from sueing him, after he threatend the developers, customers and critics with legal actions.

    this apology is formated and published so unprofessional, it cant be serious and honest :(

    “Dear Customers,
    i dont want disturb but i must send you this Mail because i cant sleep good without to apologise.
    I never want scam with this Site. I never planned this. It was a bad mistake and very amateurish to start the Website one day before my wedding. this was amateurish and stupid. So i cant support
    the PRoblems or help when the Link dont work. The Site has many technical issues. I was too impatient. I wanted go online asap. A big mistake. I am very Sorry and must apologise by all of you.
    I dont want apologise to hint my Story 12 Years ago. I think its not interesting for all because all People has earned a second Chance. Everyone. And i has established. So dont judge about me too early
    and give me a second Chance.
    Some mailed me to know if the site come back. The ANswer: I really dont know. I want but i am afraid that is not work anymore. I dont want scam with the Site. You can believe me.
    I will say Sorry to the Organisations, too. I am sorry that i use the Logos without asking. I only want help and never take the Money for me. The Charity-Money was from the beginning of the idea 100 % planned
    for them. I am very Sorry.
    And i will say Sorry to the Developers that all happened like this now.
    I’m really sorry. Please forgive me.
    Sincerely yours,
    Jochen Kolbe”