Violinist, game dev, and Area 35 chief Hiroaki Yura has been accused by a one-time colleague of taking the ~$1 million he helped raise in the Kickstarter campaign for one game (the JRPG Project Phoenix) and secretly spending it to make another: Area 35's upcoming tactical war game Tiny Metal.
The accusation comes from game maker Tariq Lacy, who took recently to the Project Phoenix Facebook and Kickstarter accounts to post a claim that he'd been hired on two months ago to help out with marketing and PR, only to learn that the game was being made using funds that had been raised in the 2013 Kickstarter campaign for Project Phoenix.
Kotaku reportedly caught wind of these posts, which have since mostly disappeared, and reproduced them in an article today. According to these reproductions, Lacy claims that after learning where some of the money for Tiny Metal came from, he was directly told by Yura to "deflect any accusations that this money was from anyone other than private investors."
"In actuality, Hiroaki only dipped into his own funds and asked for money from private investors after the funding that he had secured for Tiny Metal was running low," wrote Lacy. "I refused this request to fabricate and minimize the truth for the purpose of misleading others, then told Hiroaki to remove me from all matters regarding Project Phoenix so that I would not be implicated in this affair."
Lacy then went on to hypothesize that Project Phoenix -- which completed its funding in 2013 and was initially scheduled for release in 2015 -- was "never meant to be released" and that it was a ruse to raise funds.
In response, Yura reportedly told Kotaku that Lacy's posts were "posted by a staff whose contract has been bought out due to him being a toxic employee who has sexually harassed our female staff amongst many other problems."
“The post is factually incorrect and thus was deleted from our account," continued the Area 35 chief. "That’s all we have to say for now, we’re looking into releasing legal documents and other proofs after discussing this with our lawyer."
Yura went on to state that the money from Project Phoenix's Kickstarter was used (in conjunction with his own money and other investment) to create a prototype build that was shown to the public in 2014. He went on to tell Kotaku that "Tiny Metal[‘s] initial investment came from a group of investors from Australia. This wasn’t enough however, to finish the development so the rest came through a deal with Sony Music Entertainment."
After hearing about Yura's claims regarding his conduct at work, Lacy reportedly told Kotaku in an email that the allegations of him being "toxic" and sexually harassing Area 35 staffers were false, adding that "[Yura] is reacting to my statement with libel."
Area 35 formed up to begin working on Tiny Metal in 2015, and ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for the game in 2016. It was expected to release on PS4, PC and Switch tomorrow, but this morning Area 35 announced that the release would be delayed until December 21st.