Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [2]… Conspiracy Theories

Because I had a lot of fun writing yesterday’s post, I thought I would continue to diverge from my usual offerings on here and indulge in some of the internet’s favorite claptrap…. Conspiracy theories. Those evil possibilities and perhapsifications about why you could get such cheap knockoffs before even the most optimistic Antsy Labs shipping guesstimates… and why you haven’t gotten your cube yet.

This is, of course, mostly for the benefit of those deeply disturbed people with too much time on their hands [like me] over on the Fidget Cube Kickstarter “comments” page who want to hash over every info-bit and nuance concerning “their Precious”, and obsess over their “backer numbers”. The rest of the world doesn’t give a rats ass.

So, conspiracy fans and Fidget Cube fanatics… what if :

  • Maybe Antsy Labs had already finished their R&D and had prototypes all ready for production in hand before they established the Kickstarter. “Hey, guys! I just realized we could set up a Kickstarter and sell a whole bunch of these for three or four times what we were thinking of wholesale! We are ready to go, so why not make some quick buckaroos off of a bunch of naïve patsies? We get all that money before we even go into production. Hookers and hot cars, here we come!”

I don’t think this one has legs. I truly feel that the boys at Antsy Labs, Mark and Matthew McLachlan, had completely good intentions. If they were actually this greedy, I don’t think their initial goal would’ve been a measly $15,000. “You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” as my old social studies teacher once told us. Do the math. At $20 each, they were only looking to produce 750 cubes total. This just ain’t your classic “fuck-you money”. I think that they hoped they would make enough of an nut to get into production, and then move on to ordinary sales at whatever price the market would bear. A number of folks would get their Fidget Cube early on, and hopefully talk it up… Just like every other Kickstarter. Instead, their campaign got picked up by every geek blog on the Internet and ballooned to $6 million almost overnight. I believe the simple truth is that there was no possible way that they could foresee that the project would be so overwhelmingly received and they were quickly overwhelmed by the logistics they faced.

  • $6,000,000 + KS buckaroonies in hand, maybe Mark and Matthew sent their prototypes out for bids to the Chinese manufacturers, or set up small production runs to look at QC and any possible changes that might be needed. The manufacturers, seeing a good thing right under their greedy little fingers, did the fairly commonplace Chinese piracy thing and slid a mess of these out the side-door into the secondary market. Clones on the march… and on the market before Antsy Labs had even determined their final design.

I’m pretty much okay with this one. It covers why there are visible design changes in the clones that people have posted, the Chinese manufacturer’s willingness to indulge in fakes, product piracy, trademark violations, etc. is an established fact, and it fits with what the self-admitted Chinese pirate “Jack” related in his interview.

  • Holding that second theory in hand, and returning to real conspiracy, a corollary possibility is that Antsy was culpable in the release of these “seconds” to the open market. They had made their bundle once their Kickstarter campaign had concluded. Our money was already in their hands. Anything beyond that could be viewed as gravy. “Why not make a little extra dough? It’s not like the supporters won’t get their reward…eventually. Heck, some of them might even buy one of our “fakes” out of curiosity before they get their genuine cube… especially if we slow down our shipping to the poor schmucks. Even a wholesale price is real money at this volume.”

Again, this is a little bit more Machiavellian than I think these guys really are.

  • Finally, there is the perfectly plausible answer that the guys at Antsy Labs got had. They didn’t apparently patent their design before moving toward production [if that was even possible given that the Fidget Cube is merely an assemblage of standard, existing parts, and not something entirely unique]. As already mentioned, Chi-clones of everything from video games to handbags is an established fact. Probably “Jack” and the rest of the guys in Shenzhen just plain, out-and-out, stole their design, rushed it to market [without AntsyLabs desire to refine the features to the n-th detail], and made a bundle.

I suspect that most of us can fairly easily believe that this is the most likely possibility. With the ridiculously low cost of Chinese manufacturing, even meager wholesale profits amount to crazy money over there. That guy “Jack”, scum bag though he may seem to us, is a very wealthy man by local standards.

Any of these may, or may not be, why you can get a cheap clone and you haven’t had your Cube show up in the mailbox yet. Regardless of anything concerning piracy, clones, conspiracy and the like, the job that Antsy Labs faces in delivering something around 300,000 fidget cubes to all the legitimate backers is pretty daunting.

Now… “Why you haven’t gotten your cube yet”:

You are an impatient bugger who has not read the updates, and/or has failed to realize that this whole process is now entirely out of both Antsy Labs and BackerKit’s bloody hands and has been outsourced to a number of localized distribution centers peopled by minimum wage minions who don’t give a rats-ass whether the cubes are stuck to the goddamn sticky pads or whether your precious plastic box is cracked. Your holy “backer number” doesn’t mean shit to them. Count yourself lucky if-and-when your cube comes that it is in the color you ask for. You will get it when you get it… if you’re really lucky you might even get a shipping notice. The clones and the genuine units that have already shipped have at least proved that the Fidget Cube is worth waiting for. The fact that some ripoff artists made something available for cheaper doesn’t change the fact that each and everyone of us bought into paying $19 plus shipping for our cubes when we subscribed. Chill out.

[BTW: I won’t be doing/taking any “comments” here on this Fidget Cube posts… Take those back to the KS page]

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 >> ]

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”]