Driving ambition: pCARS, crowdfunding and the FSAFull story
Slightly Mad Studios' initiative was meant to redefine the player-developer relationship, but now Britain's City watchdog is on its case. Tristan Donovan investigates.
Today a dark cloud hangs over the future of Project CARS and the cash that's been ploughed into it. In December 2012 the Financial Services Authority, the government watchdog that polices British financial firms and banks, launched an investigation into Slightly Mad's crowdfunding activities, and told the company to stop taking people's money in the meantime.
The investigation is ongoing. Some of those who put their money into Project CARS are questioning the lack of clarity about how much they can expect to get back. What happens next could transform crowdfunding in the UK - or leave thousands of people out of pocket.
Not much tends to happen in that lazy gap between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. Most of the country is too busy dreaming up ways to eradicate surplus turkey for anything important to happen. But while the nation slept off its festive hangover, the Financial Services Authority was busy.
Somewhere within the City regulator's 15-floor glass and steel Canary Wharf tower block sat a file on Slightly Mad Studios. The watchdog had got wind of Project CARS, and didn't like the sound of it.
Aside from regulating banks the FSA keeps financial schemes in check, with the goal of protecting the public from financial wrongdoing. It looked over Slightly Mad's crowdfunding revolution, with all the talk of people making big money. The FSA decided to investigate and asked the studio to stop taking people's money while it did so.
On 27 December 2012 Slightly Mad complied, announcing the immediate suspension of further financial contributions. By then the studio had received €2.328m from people who wanted to be part of the WMD dream. Hopefully, Slightly Mad said, everything would soon be cleared up...
That's my modest 'investment' in the game as good as gone, then...