‘Several hundred’ developers affected by closure and non-payment from digital platform, BrightLocker

UPDATE March 4th, 2019: Rogério Pacini, founder and lead developer at Bravery Software, has also reached out to MCV to corroborate Justin French’s accounts. While Pacini confirms he was finally paid last Friday, he said the delay had a lasting impact on his work.

"Imagine the impact of that for a small team like ours," Pacini said. "Freelancers were never hired, Artwork got delayed, expectations… Never met."

The Untold Legacy developer, Matt Vile, also reached out to MCV to give his experience with Brightlocker.com.

"Shortly after launching our Kickstarter campaign we had a surge of interest and among that interest was Brightlocker. I was contacted by a representative via linkedin.

"We got the page setup and things were really slow to start. Then around January/February of 2018 I got a string of emails and messages from Brightlocker staff as the website had unexpectedly taken off and they were struggling to keep the website up and the demand for keys that were being purchased on the site. They didn’t know what was going on but they had a massive surge of traffic to the site and people were snatching up keys faster then (sic) we could produce them. I was being asked to provide keys in quantities upwards of 10k as they were getting snatched up so quickly."

Feeling "incredibly overwhelmed", Vile could see "the amount of money generated from 11am-2pm everyday".

"I could see upwards of 32k in earnings which was a massive game changer for my small team," he added. "Looking at my games page you could see that I was getting multiple purchases a second. It eventually slowed down but I was optimistic and incredibly hopeful."

"At the end of January I asked about my payment and they informed me that it was on its way and would be sent on the designated payment date. That day came and went with no payment so I contacted the staff in my discord to hear that they would look into it."

After several weeks of delays and multiple emails and promises, Vile finally got payment – but it was significantly lower than expected. "I was out 20k + in keys, let my team know money was coming and I kept getting the run around […] I was sent quite a bit less then (sic) what was expecting. As I recall it was around 13,800 but that’s a pretty big gap from the 32k I was expecting."

At the time of writing, Vile has still not received his full payment, but former CEO Ruben Cortez has confirmed he will "look into it".

While Brightlocker has not responded to our request for a formal statement, former CEO Ruben Cortez emailed MCV on Friday with the following statement:

"Yes, BrightLocker is in the process of being dissolved. "Gone bust" is also accurate, and a bit more colorful.

"We never had "hundreds of developers" on the platform. We signed 92 developers and had about 78 games active at our peak. The claim that we have withheld payment from "hundreds of developers" is simply impossible. (I would LOVED to have been able to say we had "hundreds of developers" on the platform, but that was not the reality).

"I have three developers who’s (sic) payments are in the process of being paid. Those will be paid. (Dream Harvest is not one of them. They were paid because the funds were owed to them, not because of any threat of legal action. I can confirm that their funds were paid to them later than when the payments should have happened (I take responsibility for that), but payment was made in it’s entirety within a few weeks of Justin notifying me.) Other than that, I am not aware of any other developers that have outstanding funds due, but I welcome them to contact me and I will look into it and take care of it personally should there be any outstanding amounts due.

"On the claim that we (or I) didn’t communicate well with developers the last half of 2018 is true. And I take personal responsibility for that. On hindsight, I would have handled that differently."

Original story follows:

"Several hundred" developers have lost game sales after being told online company Brightlocker – a platform designed to "blend elements of Patreon and IndiGogo/Kickstarter to allow developers to sell in game items, keys and other merch as well as get subscriptions to their content" – has gone bust.

In correspondence seen by MCV, several developers report that despite many months of attempted reconciliation, the company consistently failed to issue payments – which, in some instances, equates to "thousands in revenue" – or respond to queries.

"Over the last year things have been incredibly rocky at Brightlocker with them failing to pay-out, a total lack of communication regarding what is going on with the platform and the issues we, as developers have been having," said Justin French, who runs independent studio Dream Harvest. "Today, speaking to a number of the other developers, we found out that an email was sent out only to a select number of developers."

The email – signed by "Mark" from BL HoldCo 1, LLC – states this new company "has acquired all the assets of BrightLocker.com" and is not liable for outstanding payments.

"At this time, BL HoldCo 1, LLC. is now the operator of Brightlocker.com. BL HoldCo 1 LLC makes no warranty or guarantee of previous agreements or payments promised by BrightLocker, INC.," the email says (emphasis ours). "We hope you continue to operate your game on the Brightlocker.com site, however, we must notify you of one critical change in the agreement you signed with Brightlocker, INC. The agreement you signed with BrightLocker, INC. is now void. If you choose to continue operations on the site, you are now agreeing to the same terms and conditions with BL HoldCo 1, LLC, with some modifications."

On further reading, it’s clear that "all other conditions, including the terms related to the sale of items for USD, will remain in force" – the only change is the removal of BrightLocker’s virtual currency, ‘Gold’ – and the Brightlocker.com website makes no mention of the takeover, still listing Ruben Cortez – who has given no statement despite reportedly "promising" to address the developer community – as CEO.

"We were luckily one of the few that got a payout from Brightlocker after I threatened legal action with Ruben [Cortez], but there are a lot of angry developers who haven’t seen a penny or any communication from him and his team," French told MCV.

"Brightlocker, INC. is no longer in business," wrote Info HoldCo representative, Mark, in an email to a developer on February 28th. "The assets have been acquired by another company who were owed debt for past development obligations. While I am familiar with the Brightlocker.com site and systems, I am not as knoweldeable (sic) of the issues you are referring.

"I do have access to Mr. Cortez and can ask questions related to your claims, but I am not in a position to settle them as I am operating as an agent with the new entity who purchased the assets of brightlocker, INC."

In further email exchanges with a developer yesterday, Cortez declared he had no knowledge of the missing payments. Furthermore, when Cortez was asked to directly address the queries of development partners in the BrightLocker Discord channel, developers woke up this morning to discover the channel has been deleted overnight.

While the representative was unwilling to prepare a public statement, he said the new company "are working hard to find a path to allow the concepts and benefits of Brightlocker.com to continue" and said their "understanding from speaking to Mr. Cortez was that most payments were made or would be made in the next week or so".

We’ve reached out to Brightlocker, INC and Info HoldCo for comment.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

Check Also

[From the industry] Celebrating a Decade of Gaming Excellence: Pocket Gamer Connects Turns 10

Pocket Gamer Connects will celebrate its 10th anniversary this upcoming January at Pocket Gamer Connects London