RETRO COMPUTERS LIMITED (RCL) has confirmed that there is to be a further delay to the ZX Spectrum Vega+, the handheld version of last year’s ZX Spectrum Vega, a recreation of the iconic 8-bit computer.
The problem was revealed on Friday night on the project’s Indiegogo page. The team explained that playtesters had identified a problem with one of the buttons in the small production run that had already taken place, which led to the decision to pause the full-scale production, pending a change to the component. RCL will also retroactively fit the new button to consoles already manufactured.
The statement said: "Assembling and playing with these first units we identified an improvement we believed was essential to the Vega+ gaming experience. An improvement that would make the feel of the product far better, including a correction in the design of one of the buttons making it more robust and able to withstand the rigours of extended game-play.
"This change has caused a brief delay while we improved the product and we have now completed the necessary revisions. We have also produced the first batch of custom made modified buttons and will be spending the next few days manufacturing units, using the already completed electronics and the newly modified buttons. As soon as we have completed the necessary tests to ensure that the revised Vega+ is now perfect, we will be able to announce our delivery schedule."
This latest delay has caused understandable disquiet amongst backers, fuelled by an ongoing campaign of "extremist" social media activity including Twitter and Facebook attacks making claims that the project is in trouble, including personal attacks on members of staff and allegations of bad business practice strenuously denied by RCL and its staff.
Whilst the INQUIRER is keen not to give this sort of thing oxygen, we are keen to make sure that the facts as we understand them are crystal clear. Some commenters have implicated us, suggesting that we "lied" because we quoted RCL as being able to offer a delivery date of "days not weeks", which was true at the time that we attributed the quote, but for various reasons has now slipped.
We were also accused of reviewing a prototype, not a production model. Both these claims have been fanned by a small group of Twitter users whose accounts seem in most cases only to be used for anti-RCL Tweets.
We'd also point out that we described it as a "hands-on", which is a term that the INQ has used for the past fifteen years to differentiate between an initial review in situ (such as the launch) as opposed to a full review.
We spoke to Suzanne Martin, Managing Director of RCL and asked her to clarify some of the burning questions from backers.
Firstly, that version of the console we reviewed. Do you still say that was a production model?
"It was a short, initial production run. Some of the units were given to testers, and a group of young gamers, it was them who pointed out the problem with the component."
Why didn’t the INQUIRER spot this problem?
"You only had the console for an hour to review. The problem is to do with extended use and long-term durability and so it was those playing for hours at a time that picked it up".
What happened to the rest of the production models in that first batch?
"They are being adapted with the new buttons too."
And is the full production run in progress?
"No, we have paused for further testing. It won’t restart until we are happy with the product. It’s frustrating, for us too, but we’d rather it went out to backers as the best product it can be."
So does that mean Christmas delivery is off the table?
"We still hope to get some units out before Christmas, but being completely honest, we can’t promise that until we get the test results back this week.
"This was a completely unforeseen incident at the last possible moment. This is the nature of a start-up business in the consumer electronics arena, and given some of the things that have happened between the Vega and the Vega+, it’s a credit to the team that it’s nearly ready at all, though we’re very sorry to the backers that we’ve slipped from our original projected delivery date.
"Even big companies like Apple and Nintendo have delays – the difference with crowd-funding the delays are public”
What sort of "things?"
"We can’t talk about a lot of it as there are legal proceedings in progress. But much of the story is documented already and more will come to light later. Our advice is that 'post-truth' applies to the Vega+ story. Don’t assume everything you hear about us is true.
"We’re still determined to bring you the product and make it the best it can be. Unfortunately, we are being actively hampered by an orchestrated internet hate campaign, legal red tape, and we are in the process of recovering a sum of money which is unaccounted for in relation to sales of the original Vega – this relates to the period before I took over as Managing Director."
Eeek! But what about customer money?
"It’s safe. It was ringfenced from the beginning and anything you hear otherwise is completely untrue. The disputes are about the proceeds from the original Spectrum Vega. Retail of the Vega+ will happen after all the backers have their machines.
"In the meantime, the £20,000 donation we made to Great Ormond Street Hospital was made from profits from the original machine. We intend to honour our pledge to continue donating part of RCL profits in relation to the sales of the Vega to them.”
One other matter of concern is that when there have been problems, comments have been deleted from your Indiegogo page. Generally, that’s not the done thing.
"True. It’s not something we do lightly. Much of what has been deleted is rude, multiple posts (sometimes over 100), attacks on other backers and offensive. Some of it comes from elements that are not only known to us, but to Indiegogo as trollers and spammers.
"We’ve worked closely with Indiegogo over what we should do and are only deleting posts that break their community guidelines, after confirming with Indiegogo that it was the right course of action.
"Anyone who leaves constructive criticism, questions or concerns will be respected, but we can't promise to respond directly to them all individually. We also get bucket loads of supportive messages telling us that people want the product to be right and not rushed."
The main complaint is the lack of communication over a delivery date. What do you say to those people?
"The delivery date was set pre-resignation of the original management team. Because of this we had to start from scratch as none of the previous work was handed over.
"We have been cautiously optimistic throughout the production period. Imagine if we’d given a delivery date of this week and then found the button issue? People would be understandably angry about that instead.
"We've opted to stop giving delivery dates until we are 110 per cent certain that we are going to meet them.
"What we do want to make clear is that we’re all working harder than you can ever know to get you the console in a form that’s worthy of your investment as soon as possible and thank those who have kept the faith despite understandable frustration.
"We’re genuinely as sorry as anyone for the delay. We’re also sorry on behalf of all those spreading the misinformation that is floating around, and we’re sorry that we can’t currently explain why in more detail.
"We will deliver. It will be brilliant. In the meantime, don’t believe everything you read elsewhere on the internet. This remains a labour of love for all involved and we are passionate about exceeding your expectations."
Retro Computers Limited (RCL) has asked us to point out that two former directors of the company have publicly distanced themselves from the Spectrum Vega project and are now trading as Retro Games Limited (RGL), a separate business with no connection. As such they do not speak for RCL or the Vega or Vega+ brand. µ
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