Fidget Cube : a Kickstarter… Fidgetively Speaking [1]

Before even starting one thing leads to be made completely clear:  Kickstarter projects are not an investment. You are supporting the development of an item by making a contribution. It is not an investment, and there is no guarantee of return or profit. The item you may receive is a reward for that support and not a purchase. You only get a “reward” when and if :

  1. The project is funded beyond the level set out in the offering
  2. Development is successful
  3. Sufficient production is practical
  4. Distribution can be arranged

Any time line suggested is tentative at best. Few Kickstarters are ever concluded and shipped within the devs original hopes.

There is a lot of curiosity, and controversy all over the web now concerning a new Kickstarter funded toy called a “Fidget Cube”. Back in late summer 2016, Antsy Labs, [brothers Mark and Matthew McLachlan] opened a Kickstarter for the Fidget Cube; something they called a “vinyl desk toy’. It was offered as a reward for supporting the development with a contribution $19 and a hoped-for shipping date of December ’17. It took off like a rocket. They were hoping for $15,000 as an initial pledge. Within a few days it had raised several million dollars, and when the campaign closed they had topped $6,000,000!

[for an over view, here is a good link that was posted soon after the campaign opened >> https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2016/9/9/fidget-cube-a-low-tech-creativity-tool-makes-it-big-on-kickstarter ]

So now we arrive at the threshold of controversies. The project had grown overnight to a size, and complexity of execution that they had never anticipated. In one of their early updates the brothers admitted that they had intended to handle shipping by asking some friends over for pizza and beer. 300,000 units was going to make that very impractical. They were in possession of a huge amount of money since Kickstarter releases the funds as soon as the offering period is over.

I do not believe that anyone who backed the project doubted the brothers good intentions. However, something got fouled up and this is the first time I have been aware of a Kickstarter where pirated clones reached the market before any of the genuine units had become available… And these clones reached the market in almost unlimited quantities. Just search “fidget cube” and you will find them for sale on everything from Amazon to eBay and WalMart, and from storefront Hong Kong discounters to mom-and-pop sites.

There are now [Feb. 14th] nearly 20,000 comments on the Kickstarter page for the genuine item concerning everyone’s frustration. Mostly these revolve around the fact that the cubes that they “purchased” have not yet been delivered by the date “promised”, and that they could have “spent” less money, and already have a toy in hand. Unfortunately, far too many of these folks simply have no realization, or understanding [set out above] of how Kickstarter projects operate. That said, the gang at AntsyLabs haven’t done themselves any favors with the sporadic nature of their updates, and those update’s sparsity of any real facts. I suspect that those comments would’ve been reduced by two thirds if Antsy had simply put somebody in charge of responding in real time right there on the comments page. [that they could’ve gotten somebody for $15 dollars an hour]. 

My observation is that people who get involved with a Kickstarter would like to be kept in the process loop. Give them the fact that “the original material did not have the texture that we wanted”… “the frim-fram did not fit inside the widget-tater correctly”… “the overall quality of the prototype was not high enough”… That’s all they want. Keep them up-to-date, and give them some actual information. DON’T try to parcel them off with vague, unfulfilled promises, and cutesy gifs. AntsyLabs failed on this and the 20K comments show it. Worse, the unanswered suppositions and unfounded rumors simply fuel those few real trolls to keep everyone upset.

I doubt that anyone will ever find out exactly why so many pirated/cloned units came to market so quickly. It is entirely possible that the developers naïvely trusted their design to a number of manufacturers on a bid basis to determine a “Goldilocks factor”. One or more of those partners may have proved to be less trustworthy than the brothers hoped, and all too eager to sell those prototypes in the secondary market. It does seem that the brothers have still failed to acquire a patent, or even patent pending status for their cubes. I am not sure they have even copyrighted the FidgetCube name.  This may be due to the fact that the “FidgetCube” is actually only an assembly of pre-existing parts that are widely available, and widely used in other items.

Whatever their source, the clones are pretty obviously nearly identical to the prototypes represented in Antsy Labs original offering on Kickstarter. There are several versions of them that I have seen offered for sale and each differs slightly.

  • There are differences in the size and shape of the joystick. Some of those include a click feature, and others don’t. [one of them seems to have a casting bump in the center]
  • The ball bearing seems to vary in size on different units
  • The little click-wheel luggage locks may or may not actually have tactile feedback
  • The “Domino” buttons may or may not click… all or singularly
  • The circular spinning wheel seems to have a lot of “freedom of motion” issues [this is being recorded even by those who have received the genuine FidgetCubes that are finally shipping]
  • People have reported a difference in the cube materials.
  • Some of those domino buttons are rubberized, and some are hard plastic

In additions to the differences many of those who have tried the clones have also reported that there is a far more subjective difference in the cubes. Some people might want the click wheels to “click” and others might prefer they didn’t. It is pretty obvious that no matter the success of the Kickstarter campaign, not every backer is going to be satisfied in the final production item. Unfortunately, this is the nature of participation in a Kickstarter. You get what you get, when you get it.

[I will plan on updating this post once I get my own cube, and, perhaps, have a chance to compare it to some of the “clones”]

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