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World of Spectrum
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Will the ZX Spectrum Vega Plus Ever Materialise?
This article was originally posted by Holly Brockwell on the website Gizmodo on Thursday 9th of March 2017. Within hours of it going up, it was taken down (without explanation), and it turns out that Retro Computers Ltd threatened the website for publishing it. The article was "being reviewed" and never came back online. Less than a day later, the BBC opened the floodgates by reporting their own version of events in a piece called Sinclair ZX Vega+ funding campaign halted by Indiegogo.
Back in 2015, a Clive Sinclair-endorsed reboot of the much-loved ZX Spectrum called Vega was successfully crowdfunded, produced and delivered. Its makers, a UK company called Retro Computers Limited (RCL), then announced a sequel called Vega Plus. Thanks to the success of the first one, and no doubt a healthy dollop of nostalgia, the new console was backed to the tune of £500,000 on Indiegogo.
And that was the last time there was anything positive to say about the Vega Plus.
Since then, Retro Computers has had problem after problem, including legal disputes, withdrawn games, repeatedly missed ship dates and a whole lot of angry backers. This has not been helped by their apparently automated Twitter and Facebook accounts continuing to pump out saccharine nostalgia, met with incredulous responses from frustrated customers wanting to know where their money and their console is.
@sinclairzxvega you are incompetent- keep your backers up to date or you'll be wound up
— Andy Marsden (@Macpano) March 7, 2017
— PaulyC (@PaulyCartwright) March 7, 2017
@sinclairzxvega Why are you ignoring your backers? Why are you afraid to be honest about what is really going on with the Vega+?
— Roy Morris (@Roy_in_IT) March 7, 2017
— Scott Fleming (@badboybubby69) March 6, 2017
The Indiegogo comments section is full of people demanding refunds, and a 500-strong Facebook group has sprung up to discuss what to do next. The group contains details of potential legal action being orchestrated by people who backed the project, usually at a cost of £105 each.
So why, after the first project was delivered successfully, have Retro Computers apparently dropped the ball so badly? It's a complex tale, but the most significant twist is that two of the company's three directors – Chris Smith and Paul Andrews – resigned, and a PR war has broken out between them and the remaining Chairman, Dr David Levy.
The two sides have been flinging statements back and forth, with Smith and Andrews publicly distancing themselves from Retro Computers as well as setting up a rival company. Levy is now embroiled in legal battles with both Andrews and its former distributor.
Despite holding a Vega Plus launch party in October, in November the product was held up by a "brief delay" for an apparent button redesign, followed by an announcement in December that the product would finally ship in February 2017, a full year after the crowdfunding campaign began.
February, of course, has been and gone and no Vega Plus. While all this has been going on, Retro Computers has posted a string of legal statements on its website (like this one) announcing that various developers have pulled their games from the console.
Given that the promised ship date has been missed again, you'd think the company would be at pains to reassure backers that production is happening and they'll receive their goods. Instead, RCL posted one update towards the end of February – blithely wittering about the use of an emulator called FUSE in the console.
The team behind FUSE almost immediately distanced themselves from the Vega Plus.
Indiegogo, too, is backing away from the project, disabling the campaign page as the company's MD blamed the delay on game developers withdrawing support.
Unsurprisingly, a request for comment to Retro Computers Limited went unanswered. Meanwhile, the backers are mobilising to take action against the company. Where is the five hundred grand? Are there any game devs left? What does Clive Sinclair think about all this? Never mind a videogame, we want a movie of this particular saga.
Main image: Retro Computers via Indiegogo
Added 11/03/2017: The original article still appears in an online archive cache at http://archive.is/d5tC7
Latest Funky Spectrum RCL Video
Finally Lee bites the hand that feeds him with a sensational series of online tirades against his former masters.
"Our Indiegogo campaign is to raise funds to manufacture the first 2,500 or more units of the Vega+ in the UK, and to prepare us for the second production run."
— RCL (15/02/2016)
- All refunds processed: ✘
- Roll of honour email: ✘
- Address confirmation: ✘
- Battery specification: ✘
- PEGI certification: ✘
- Final specs released: ✘
- Games list released: ✘
- Finished box design: ✘
- Manual released: ✘
- Working website: ✘
- Final devices made: 0 ✘
- Prototypes made: 20-30 ✔