Why, why, why.
Why must I feel the need to come out and once again write another article about this company? I mentioned before, that I really don’t like making articles on dramatic/bad things going on, since not only do they draw traffic that I don’t exactly like to have, (when it could be going to reviews and other, fun stuff I work on here) but it just further proves the point I made in my last article, and a troubling trend.
So yes, to recap for newcomers, the general gist is that for two years now, starting in July, Dispatch Games will have owed customers a whopping five games that they’ve put up for preorder, with no word on shipping them out. They’ve gone and ghosted customers for periods of two months off and on over the past few years, and I documented their trend in my last article.
To the point, these guys have an awful lot of backlogged stuff to deliver on, and instead of actually working to deliver said stuff, they brag about being better than Warned Collectors, (an infamous limited game publisher that went MIA with people’s money and closed down quietly, even screwing the devs over) get upset at someone who pointed out low quality localization, and literally after doing so, vanish off the face of the entire goddamn planet. To my knowledge, this nearly four month period is the longest Dispatch has gone MIA without anyone being able to find out where they are, and with no updates on the five missing games in sight.
I did extensive digging, although amateurish, to try and find some sort of answer and hope spot in all this. I gave the company numerous benefits of the doubt each and every time: they are localizing hyper niche games after all, in a super packed market. But nothing excuses this sort of ghosting. After listening to people in the switch production industry, reaching out to many, many customers, and even getting a long, in-depth email tip from someone on the matter, I’ve finally established what I feel is a definitive conclusion.
This company is going under.
Here’s the full list of games Dispatch Games now owe, along with the rough estimation on how long it’s been since they were available to buy: a lot is from my memory since they scrubbed the website of all not-in-stock games back in January, so feel free to correct and add the proper info in the comments or on my twitter if needbe, to give a better timeline:
GAME TENGOKU PARADISE: Switch port announced around July 2019, shortly after Limited Run’s PS4 version shipped out. Standard edition listed, along with a CE that includes most of LRG’s stuff except with a Vinyl Record. This aspect is important, and I’ll touch on that later. Was slated for late 2019, then early 2020, then digital release came and went, and then it was slated for March 2021 before being MIA. It was PEGI rated in May, but that’s the last we’ve heard of it. Of all the games in this saga, I feel this one may survive, but barely, due to it already existing on the eShop.
It should also be noted that Limited Run’s PS4 release had a misprint where the DLC for the playable characters was missing on the standard edition (Degica/CC mandated the CE had all DLC, the standard had just some characters), and they were planning to do replacement discs: no further word on said discs has come since then besides the fact they’re out of Limited Run’s hands, indicating a rights related issue. I feel that Dispatch may have been too happy to boast that the standard version included all the DLC on cart, and with them being the newest licensor for City Connection, this saga may have impacted LRG/Degica as well, making the lack of them delivering this particular game even worse as it’s impacting everyone else who has worked on this game in the past. Considering how switch games take around 3-7 months to make for a standard edition, the fact this has still not shipped despite a may 2020 eShop release is extremely troubling and I feel if it happens at all it’ll be a miracle.
Radirgy Swag: This localization was planned to be done by Dispatch, announced in August 2019, of a quirky shooter from Milestone. Bits of the translation was shown over the past few years, and then the home menu icon was shown in a tweet a few months back… And then nothing. This also was planned to have a CE with a Vinyl record, but it’s MIA. Considering their final tweet is literally about this game in response to someone pointing out a bad translation error, I seriously doubt this localization is close to done and thus, will probably never come out, especially the CE. Not to mention the wait time on the switch carts after said game is finished, and yeah, this ain’t happening, save for MAYBE a digital only release if a miracle happens. Not even the original Japanese developer knows what’s going on with this translation, so take that as you will.
Japanese Rail Sim: Gotta admit, this is out of my league. Rail sims aren’t really something i’m too into, but I know they have a big fanbase, which is why when this project was announced in September 2019 for a spring 2020 release, it had a lot of hype: Only a few mild teases and images of the localization were shown, but then again, nothing. This just seemed to have a standard edition, but with how nightmarish these games are to localize for anyone in general and the little updates we’ve seen on this particular game, I absolutely do not believe this game will ever see the light of day. This sorta adds to an issue I’ll mention later…
NINJA JAJAMARU KUN PS4 Import Utage Set: Right away, this one item was literally the catalyst for my article. Why is that? Because of all things listed here, this is fully completed. The Switch version shipped out super quickly when it went up in December 2019, and the PS4 version was put up around the same time, but didn’t ship because CC delayed that version to a TBA slot. Said version finally launched in May in Japan… Along with the CE. So, seeing how it’s literally an import, Dispatch should have shipped this out by now. The fact they haven’t, nor indicated they even got these from City Connection, speaks very, very troubling volumes to me. Especially when they had no issue doing so in Dec 2019, but do now, after certain things have happened.
SOLDAM PS4: This is another I mentioned last time as being a super easy game: just a standard edition, of a game they already localized, on PS4, that’s already out in Japan: PS4 discs aren’t nearly as long to produce as Switch stuff, so this should have been done eons ago, yet it’s still MIA from the PSN and retail. Was put up in late 2019, for a Jan 2020 date, and then after missing it it’s been gone ever since and not even really mentioned in their status updates. Again, super concerning that not even the most basic of their upcoming games got finished.
So, with those five overdue games out of the way… Where are they? Well, as I noted, Jajamaru should have already shipped since it’s 100% done and is just an import: the fact it isn’t is the biggest red flag right there. Soldam PS4 is just reusing the Switch translation on the already finished Japanese PS4 port, so that’s a non-issue too, yet it’s also MIA and not even commented on… Game Tengoku is fully out and should have at least had a standard edition out, but that’s MIA, with the CE having a troublesome component that’ll make that absolutely never see the light of day. Radirgy Swag is a localization that isn’t even close to done, also with an ambitious CE, and Rail Sim is a game that feels like they bit off more than they could chew.
Which is the biggest problem with this company: they focus on too much stuff. Literally, most of this stems from a very blatantly obvious observation in that this company is super ambitious, wanting to get all this super huge stuff done but with little to show. And when you learn that this company is made as a passion project, then it fully clicks. Let me explain more…
The Origin & Passion
Dispatch Games was founded in March 2016 by one Brian Schorr. He’s the CEO of Dispatch, and even once fully admitted on twitter to the absurd delays Psyvariar and Penguin Wars suffered, promising not to do such a thing again without transparency. (which he didn’t, hence why I am here) Now, normally I really want to refrain from finding personal info out about people, let alone full names not fully disclosed, but I feel I have no choice but to point out who the CEO is to establish his background: This guy worked for both Namco Bandai and Sega, and not just for a few months, but we’re talking years, a decade in the case of Bamco! Grab a PS2/GCN Namco game and play the credits, you’ll probably see him in said credits along with the co-founder of Dispatch. (who I am not naming here out of respect, since it doesn’t seem like he had nearly as much to do with this at all) I found him in Xenosaga, Namco Museums, and several Pac-Man games, to name a few. Point is, the dude really loves retro games, and it’s very clear from the amount of good work he did on some of these cherished products.
So when Dispatch Games first started publishing games in 2017, it definitely felt like a small scale passion project, not unlike Limited Run or other such companies: Brian and the Co-Founder seem to be one of the few members at the company. (if not the only members, seeing how I don’t see much people in the credits for their games) Seeing how they didn’t even hesitate to get me a review code for Soldam despite importing that on Switch’s Launch day, and being promotive of people enjoying their games or hearing out ideas, it definitely seems like the company was made with a passion to bring obscure games westward, not unlike the likes of Working Designs, MonkeyPaw Games, UFO Interactive, or GaijinWorks. I do not believe these people started the company to scam people. I truly feel from what I’ve gathered that it was a big passion project, and it seems City Connection was willing to work with them to bring more of their games westward to have a retail space. They’d eventually announce work on localizing Penguin Wars and Psyvariar Delta, two very excellent games, before eventually becoming CC’s USA branch outright. But then we get to the messy spots…
In 2018 you see, Penguin Wars saw a Switch retail release, with no issues or anything of the sort. The games shipped out, everything seemed fine save for some DLC quirks that would later be fixed up. But Psyvariar Delta was in a weird spot. The JPN imports shipped out around the same time, but the ESRB version of the game was nowhere in sight by the end of the summer, physically or digitally. Penguin Wars on download stores also didn’t seem to exist, which makes things especially weird. Naturally, a lot of people were nervous and rightfully upset, which is what led to some clarification and communication for a while, before they started their traditional vanishing act, before returning in 2019 with that aforementioned tweet from Brian.
This is where I feel things got off the rails, and it’s mostly just a theory from me for this bit: I feel that, expecting things to go as smoothly as it did for Soldam, they pushed Penguin Wars out to market expecting similar decent sales, with a digital version soon to be approved. But uh-oh, Soldam started getting absurd pricecuts (seriously, the physical drops to 10 bucks at points!), and Penguin Wars would hit the bargain bin before the digital version even came to light! Low sales tend to equal low funds, so I believe that this caused them to get stuck in a bind: if they did one game at a time, they could at least lessen the blow and only sign games more likely to succeed, but with them signing two games that were hyper niche, mostly as a passion deal, it probably added a lot of risk they were not expecting. Since they can’t back out of the deal now (honoring preorders and their relationships with CC), they’re stuck and have to find some way to raise money for releases. Game Tengoku opened for preorder in June 2019, just a bit before Penguin Wars hit the digital stores and Psyvariar finally shipped and completed: See where I’m getting at?
Yes, once those two were done, it feels like that was just a one-off bump in the road. This along with misc merch like Jaleco Tees and Pocket Players meant they’d probably have some flow going to help at least get GT out… Except for one problem: they now had to manufacture both standards, AND super ambitious CEs. Said CEs including a lot of stuff that are super pricey and tough to make, most notably, the Vinyl Record. While a lot of sales would no doubt fund such a project, lower sales would make a CE like this be produced at a huge loss. City Connection may be able to help with the posters and assets for the game and OST, but the actual manufacturing would have to be done by Dispatch, which leads to the biggest issue…
They just kept doing this. Announcing and acquiring new games with big CEs or names to fund previous ones, with Radirgy also having a big CE: it seems to me, from an observation, that they were definitely trying to cash in on the crazy Switch Collector market, which loves all sorts of niche limited run, physicals, collectors editions and knick knacks. It’s why companies like Strictly Limited and LRG are so popular. The only problem, is that eventually that money is gonna run out, and you can’t just keep announcing stuff without shipping older things. That’s why one aspect I noticed in 2019 that everyone else seems to overlook might just be the key behind all this trouble…
In August 2019, after I covered Penguin Wars and Psyvariar and loved both of them, I noticed Dispatch were publishing another interesting game: Switchy Road. It appeared to be part of a new indie line, which PR told me was Dispatch Minis: “Snack-Size games at a Snack-Sized price”, in a way. Naturally I asked for a review copy, got it, and reviewed it, to pretty middling results. At the end of the day though, publishing indie games is pretty typical and hey, helping small devs out was literally why I made this site seven years ago to begin with, so it should be natural, right?
Well, here in 2021, not a single mini remains. In fact, oddly enough, they all have one thing in common: They are now published and owned by Digital Game Group, who seems to be the developer for the games. Not only is Switchy Road gone, but so are the sequels Dispatch published, along with a slot game and a snowman game. It seems sticking to one indie dev that wasn’t putting out the greatest stuff didn’t really lead to any benefits, so they quietly discontinued the program. Yet the fact I was only able to even hear about one of the games when they came out, before PR stopped responding or even sending out notifications about the other releases, sorta indicates that not even Dispatch had much faith in these games either and that they bombed terribly. Why they broke apart is still a mystery I couldn’t solve, but it’s clear this was yet another case of an ambitious experiment being a bust. The fact they’ve never commented on this change is equally troubling, too.
Delistings and Vanishings
By far another huge blow to Dispatch, and arguably a sign of their current status, is the fact that all of their PSN titles were wiped from the NA store in August 2020. Both Penguin Wars and Psyvariar are no longer on the NA or EU PSN, and don’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. In fact, it’s speculated that since both of dispatch’s titles vanished from the PSN at the same time, that they might have outright lost publishing rights on PS4 entirely, though this can’t be verified. That being said, Soldam, Penguin Wars, and Psyvariar plus the DLC for both PW and Psy are all available on Switch still, which might add a bit more credence over a traditional contract lapse with CC (which seems super unlikely, seeing how the games were only sold for a single year on PSN! This also means PS4 Penguin Wars can never get the Ufouria DLC for it, which also sucks.) Dispatch have never commented on this particular instance either, as they were in the middle of a vanishing act at that time and continued to push preorders for their undelivered games instead.
So that begs the question: Why would such a thing happen? Considering how devs on PSN and other storefronts have their games retained long after going defunct, it’s baffling that Dispatch somehow had to delist both their big PS4 releases a mere year after release, with no indication on if they can return, nor the status of their other planned PS4 titles like Jajamaru or Soldam. All the meanwhile, CC is still selling all four games on Japanese PSN perfectly fine, meaning it isn’t a licensing issue with any of the IPS associated with said titles. Even abysmal sales don’t cause a game to get pulled from PSN. So what’s the deal? It makes me wonder if Delisted Games’ theory about them losing their publishing license for PSN is true, and at this point I’m leaning just a tad more towards that. Which brings us to the finale…
I’ve Got to RUN (with a last breath)!
Since early 2020, I’ve been on Dispatch Games’ case, despite loving the same games they published and enjoying their niche stuff. The reason I did that, from the beginning despite not having any personal preorders save for Jajamaru Switch, (which got resolved due to me getting my coin a month after the first article) is mainly for the sake of my friends in the collector community who have spent hundreds of dollars two years ago only to get zilch in return, not even a proper status update besides theater. Not to mention as someone who’s a fan of Game Tengoku and Soldam, getting those physicals was my plan down the road, but that’s absolutely not happening at this state.
Say what you will about the slower Limited publishers like Strictly Limited or First Press, but one huge advantage they have is clear cut transparency upon being asked for something, and the final products always being worth the wait in the end. Dispatch doesn’t have or do that. All my questions to PR about anything they’ve done with their MIAness have gone unanswered: in fact, their PR email pretty much has never been used since last year, only sending out PRs whenever they do one of their (disastrous) update posts. It never replies to anyone, and neither does their customer service, despite the mountains, and mountains of emails sent from people demanding a refund. Seriously, since I started following this saga, I have barely seen anyone get a requested refund from these guys even when Dispatch makes a post saying as such, unless they make a gargantuan amount of fuss about it: much less when they’re in their “Vanishing” state like they are now. That being said, there have been some very mild activity in the past few months during this state, that I was able to fully verify and present to you. The first was the aforementioned PEGI rating, and the next… is them shipping something.
Don’t get excited though: it was just a Penguin Wars order from their site, since the games are still live there. A customer had ordered it in late may, it shipped mere days later… Only to arrive in a pretty awful shape, slapped in a manilla envelope that was damaged in shipping. Requests for a replacement or refund were of course, unanswered. Said customer reached out to me on twitter and I have his history below proving they shipped this product. (redacting personal info for obvious safety)
While the customer sadly didn’t keep the damaged envelope, I was still able to verify this happened and thus felt it was noteworthy to include here. But the fact dispatch has gone from fairly good quality packaging to off brand manilla envelopes seems to be adding to the biggest finding I’ve had the entire time. Hell, the fact they’re still shipping stuff yet not the Jajamaru PS4 they should have gotten in from Japan is honestly even more surprising, but makes me feel more confident in my final judgement. The ultimate, if predictable, reason why this is all happening, and if this will possibly end:
Dispatch Games are out of money. Considering how they barely managed to get Penguin Wars and Psyvariar out the door, only to then open up 3 games with 2 big CEs, then announce Xbox/PS4 ports of their games that never came to be, then try to push said preorders for all of 2020 when the pandemic struck everyone hard, including no doubt themselves? I’m very confident, more like 70%, that the cause of all the woes is the fact that they bit off way more than they could chew. By jumping for the Switch collector’s market with an already damaged rep, plus localizing two complex games, plus skipping retail, (likely due to their prior games all bombing there and being bargain binned) it’s very blatant to me that these preorders were just meant as funding exercises:
That plus the Dispatch Minis seem to indicate they were trying desperately to maintain a profit, but nothing would ever stick: these games, while amazing, are very niche and pretty much die at traditional retail for a reason, hence why the limited print market was so desirable. But when your track record was damaged by Psyvariar taking eons to ship and you plan to localize two full games that other companies avoid with a ten foot pole, then you’re pretty much in deep shit if they don’t sell. Dispatch seems to very well be self aware of this too, with them beginning to hide or delete critical comments on their twitter/facebook in late 2019, shutting off responses on twitter entirely in 2019, ignoring all sorts of contact from the press or customers, and only coming back when they get heat turned up on them like with my prior articles or those from Nintendo Life. Getting called out for using the Texas winter storms as a fake excuse for why a California company can’t suddenly work on games also didn’t help. Them closing preorders in 2021, but still doing a waiting list was them likely seeing the writing on the wall: that their time is up and if they can’t ship the remaining games, then they’re done for and can’t escape this ordeal. The fact that both Milestone and City Connection can’t even contact them, as evidenced by a Milestone dev’s statement and City Connection being unable to assist or learn what’s going on with them, proves they’ve done what you’ve all feared:
They took the (lack of) money and bailed. Maybe they still want to get these games out by any last means, even if it’s their final push ever, but with the lack of communication I can’t say I have sympathy for these guys anymore. The biggest tip-off for me, sent in by Tee Kay to my email, was some of the info you see above, along with the biggest revelation: the company business location was listed for sale in March, and was just sold last week. Yes, their business office this whole time, listed on the back of their game boxes and other places, was a super rich fancy house, that’s now gone. Maybe they’ll use the money from the sale to try and finish things up? But if money was the ultimate issue, they could have just said so, or partnered with someone like Limited Run to distribute the games. The fact they’re deliberately dragging their feet on this is very telling, and doesn’t lead to a happy ending for anyone. Not to mention with the great Vinyl Shortage/delay fest of 2020/2021, those CEs will also be nigh impossible to make and ship out this year, especially with everyone and their mom fighting over the plants. They’re pretty much backed into a corner they can’t escape from, and it’s time to come clean. But the fact they’re avoiding social media seems to indicate to me that they know people will demand refunds en masse, and with them not being able to do refunds, they’re basically in a checkmate situation.
So Dispatch, or Brian, if you read this, Pleas, Give your customers the games they bought, or just let someone else handle them all: City Connection themselves, Limited Run, Nighthawk, anyone else with experience could do this at this point: and especially, come fully clean on your socials and cut the crap and the endless delays with no communication.
This also proves and goes to show that ultimately, being super ambitious and promising a bunch of stuff just leads to big risks: big risks that ultimately blow up in your face if they fail. There’s a reason why companies like Limited Run and Strictly Limited started off very simple, and kept it simple for a while, because rushing in with a bunch of big niche games is a recipe for disaster, and pretty much the reasoning why people don’t always do what they think would be cool ideas.
I wish I had a happier ending to all this, and while a lot of this is theorized, some of it was pretty much backed up by the email I had gotten with info and the research done for this article, along with their general history and timing.
The TLDR: Ultimately, Dispatch Games were a group of two people that started in hopes of bringing great niche games, but massively overestimated the workload involved and bit off more than they could chew, getting into an endless cycle of funding and running out of money, with Covid-19 likely dealing a deathblow to the company. They know they can’t escape, which is why they’ve disabled comments and facebook messages, (but they stopped deleting their facebook messages lately, indicating they don’t even look at facebook anymore) and vanished off the face of the earth after selling the HQ. If they come back and actually ship any of these, let alone all five, I’ll be surprised, impressed, and relieved, but still will likely never ever buy from these guys ever again, nor do any reviews for their products. This is by far, the worst example of customer service I’ve seen from any physical publisher on Switch… And with Warned Collectors and Nicalis being equally terrible, that’s saying a lot.