Poor old Indie Stone. In their attempts to self-fund the development of their new game, Project Zomboid, they aren't having much luck. A couple of months back Paypal froze their account, leading to their adding in a Google Checkout button. Paypal eventually fixed the error and gave them their money, but a lot of people chose to pre-order and donate to the project via Google's alternative in the meantime. About 80% of their funds, in fact. Which have now been frozen without explanation by Google, and without any obvious way to get at their money. Which puts the team in a very difficult place.
This is a real issue for the various ways online projects can bring in the funds. Small print can put them in very dangerous places. And when it's your business relying on that money, it can be devastating.
After the hiccup with PayPal, Google Checkout proved to be a much more popular option for people wanting to donate to the Zomboid project, bringing in a surge of new donations, and enough money to fund the project for a few months. But then today Indie Stone received an email from Google informing them that they must remove the Google widget from their front page. They said they took issue with the word "donations". Zomboid had set up a system where people could get a Project Zomboid pre-order for £5, and choose if they wanted to donate £5, £10 or £15 on top, since Google didn't offer the "donate what you want" model the team would have preferred. But there were no further details, and offered no specific means of getting in touch with Google to resolve the situation. And most of all, no information at all on what would happen to the two month's worth of money that was in their account, but had not been transferred to their bank.
Indie Stone sent them an urgent email asking what to do, and received this astonishing reply (our emphasis):
"We advise buyers to contact sellers directly to resolve any order-related issues."
The Indie Stone promise that anyone who has paid, and doesn't receive their money back from Google, will have their pre-order honoured. But they're in a pretty frightening place, with 80% of the funds AWOL, and no clear idea what happens next.
And Google - could you get in touch with The Indie Stone and sort this out?
(If you're an indie team in a similar predicament, get in touch with us too.)