Tentacle Bento and Kickstarter Fiasco

TastyWhale May 17, 2012 2

So, I’ve been on a Kickstarter binge for a couple of weeks. Find something awesome, put some cash backing behind it, try to get others to support it as well (at least give it some free advertising). Recently I was browsing the “near you” section and noticed something from Seattle. Bright colors, anime characters, bold text! I looked inside, liked the game, and put down some cash.

Why did I like it? What was it? Well, the name is Tentacle Bento. I originally hoped it was a delivery food truck. But it was better: it was a card game built for 2-4 people, based around the adult-anime trope of tentacles and college-girls, aimed at the teen+ market (a little fan service, but they admit it is “emulating the dating-sim style” and do say it is intended for audiences over the age of 18), and the semi-plot to it sounded fun. Multiplayer-fast-action-dating-sim-ish-cardgame. Unique, from my perspective.

And it looked like this wasn’t just an idea. The guys behind it had released two other games and ran a nerd-centric shop. They were partnering with an art studio, and a figure making studio, and had snagged Marie-Claude (a bit NSFW) into helping with the demo-tape. How could this fail? I think they had hit the goal and were still gaining steam when I backed it.

But it did fail. It suddenly closed shop and people were getting emails from Kickstarter saying it had been canceled. I noticed a couple of “Tentacle Bento” update messages, and saw the outcry on the Facebook fan page. But what had happened?

It looks like a couple of well-known gaming sites (Kotaku and Insert Credit) had heavily criticized it and wrote that it was about raping women, to put it bluntly. I read the articles. Then I read the comments from users…. Lots of back-lash on the authors. Some common themes are saying that it was satire, how could Kotaku be used as an endorsement for “Tentacle Grape Soda” but find this appalling, how is a tongue-in-cheek cardgame about an alien monster potentially molesting women worse then playing a war game and firebombing cities?

Not an advertisement, but if TentacleGrape wants to send us some product to review… 🙂

I’m not here to address these comments, I’m here to allow the guys at Soda Pop Miniatures to explain their side. Below is the back and forth between SPM’s John Cadice and myself:

Were you emailed complaints or a warning from Kickstarter? An explanation of why it was suspended? Did you voluntarily cancel the Kickstarter, or was it taken down to your surprise? Did you receive any complaints from individuals?
As for the timeline, we started losing organic navigation to our Kickstarter the day the first blogs went up about our product. No warning or communication. I sent a mail to see what was going on. then another, then another. then we were cancelled. There was efforts to drive complaints from a few high reach blogs. Fostering outrage with some seriously horrid analysis of our product.

What was your intent with the game? What was your inspiration? How long were you all working on this before it was launched on Kickstarter?
Tentacle Bento is as described, we intended, as with all our products, to poke and explore the fun and in some cases bizarre facets of Japanese culture that we have all grown up with in video games, comics etc.. and sometimes something really odd springs up (i.e. tentacles) and we couldn’t resist not making a party game, being careful in its creation to NOT create any porn, or images of victimized women, that’s not what we are about, but we thought everyone could be adult about some cliche’ references to a well known taboo anime trope. Oh well.

Care to mention how much time/money you invested? Do you plan on utilizing Kickstarter in the future (tamer projects) or swearing it off?
Investment in a published grade card game with 100+ professional illustrations, development time, design, testing and prototyping is not for the weak of heart. I knew it would do well with our target audience (as evident by the velocity of our campaign) – lets just say costs were significant. As for Kickstarter, they have a great service, excuse me for being a little nonplussed with them at the moment.

Are there any projects currently on or off Kickstarter you backed, or think need additional advertising?
Our publishers Coolminiornot just successfully funded Zombicide, which for board games, is super hot!
[editor’s note: this game is what got me into Kickstarter]

How long has this delayed production?
Production didn’t take a hit, we have been working on this a while, and thanks to some deft maneuvering, will not have a problem getting funded on time, in fact, we are almost at 65% of where we were at before being cut off, so we are officially fully funded… with more coming all the time.
[editor’s note: at this time they are at 80%]

Anything else you want to say to set the record straight? Closing comments?
Our audience wants our product, and for all the outrage, there was equal outrage at the perceived censorship and harsh treatment by some poorly worded media outlets. As for final comments, I can’t [force] crazy people to back off the idea that we are somehow promulgating some kind of rape simulator.. we know what the cliche’ is, and we don’t go there. If you do, it’s your fault. I think they are outraged because they didn’t have a place to stop.. they just kept going down to a very dark place without even looking at the product.

Damn authentic cosplay. Also, who knew I wasn't the only Frost-Fan?

Bonus Question: I’m personally curious on how/why you thought to contact Marie-Claude. (I’m unsure I could link this in the write up, but it might work.)
Marie-Claude has been working with us for a while, she does great work in the cosplay and event scene, she is an AMAZING costume fabricator, thermal plastics, lighting, leather, props… she is a savant, and we are lucky to have her help. We have some more stuff in that vein to show everyone in the coming months as we gear up for more product launches.

Thanks, expect a followup for clarifications. I’ll make sure to send you a link as soon as it gets posted. Thanks for your time.
-Billy Wellen

Thanks sir, appreciate the chance to talk our side. -John Cadice Creative Director – Owner Soda Pop Miniatures “Pop-the-Top on your first Soda Pop!”

I’d like to say that Kickstarter does have the right to pull projects from their site. A friend of mine will go out and buy banned books (truely horrible stuff; that is coming from a child of the internet) just to endorse and exercise their and the book authors’ Freedom of Speech. I don’t think this warrants that type of action. I feel like some people voiced their opinion on a taboo topic. Good for them!

However I will say that I won’t PC out and renig on my pledge. They’ll get my pledge money.

Oh, if you are wondering about the origins of tentacle/sex related artwork, you know this by Katsushika Hokusai?

Image taken from Wikipedia.

Same guy did this:
Image borrowed from Wikipedia


  1. Billy Wellen May 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm -

    Indeed we’ll have a party. I plan on serving calamari in schoolgirl panties, potentially Tentacle Grape soda too!

  2. Derek Diel May 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm -

    Great article! A Tentacle Bento party will be planned soon after launch I assume?

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