Another high-profile crowdfunding project appears to have imploded, and supporters are paying the price. An Engadget reader and others who backed Master Replicas Group’s functional HAL 9000 prop on Indiegogo has receive a notice from the company indicating that it converted its Chapter 11 bankruptcy (filed in July) to Chapter 7 on October 16th — that is, from reorganization to liquidation. Master Replicas is shutting down, and supporters likely won’t get their voice-activated 2001 speaker.
It may be difficult to get answers from the company. Its site still has a placeholder for a store that’s “coming soon,” while it hasn’t updated its Indiegogo page since the Chapter 11 message in July. We’ve asked the company for comment via Twitter, but it hasn’t posted on its social feed since May. Our reader hasn’t received a response, either.
Master Replicas had been in trouble for a while, however. The HAL 9000 replica was originally meant to ship by March 2019 but faced a string of delays. And yes, the COVID-19 pandemic had a direct impact. The virus stalled production early in 2020, and the company warned that its operations had been “very limited” in the following months.
This sort of incident sadly isn’t unique, particularly during the pandemic — it’s been difficult to start and maintain projects when teams can’t coordinate in person or ensure reliable supplies. Still, this is a reminder that backing a crowdfunding project doesn’t guarantee a shipping product. You’re helping to finance the development, not making a pre-order, and there’s always a possibility that unexpected factors (including forces of nature) will leave you empty-handed.