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PC builder that drew fury of small Twitch streamers shuts down indefinitely

Inside the Artesian Builds office.
(Image credit: Artesian Builds)
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Update (March 10, 2022): Gamers Nexus has published a detailed breakdown of the events surrounding the apparent demise of Artesian Builds, including emails with CEO Noah Katz and employee messages on the company Slack channels. Jump to the latest info here.

Custom PC builder Artesian Builds got demolished on Twitter last week after a small streamer complained that the company denied her a sweepstakes prize based on the size of her Twitch following. Giveaway sponsor Intel was displeased with Artesian, as was a considerable portion of the internet: The streamer's complaint was retweeted over 8,000 times. Artesian's CEO later apologized, but for that reason or others, the company may have sold its last PC.

A few days ago, Artesian said it was looking into a "potential employee-led buy-out of the company." Now it's shutting down indefinitely.

"We are sad to announce that, effective now, we are freezing/suspending all activities," Artesian wrote on Twitter. "Ongoing is analysis by outside counsel for reorg. to ensure fair treatment of clients, creditors, and employees. We expect more info by month's end. We are open to assistance/investment."

Artesian Builds is based in San Francisco, and reportedly has an eastern US office which deals with the bulk of its PC building activity. It employed between 40 and 50 people before they were laid off last night, according to Gamers Nexus. 

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Gamers Nexus video breakdown

Gamers Nexus had been privately attempting to set up an interview with Katz since the initial controversy, and has also been in contact with different, now-former employees of the company. 

One thing that becomes clear from Gamers Nexus' report is that the public furor over the giveaway is seemingly not what has ultimately killed the company, with GN's editor-in-chief, Steve Burke, claiming Artesian's business license was "suspended by the State of California for some kind of tax issue."

"Obviously there were much deeper problems," says Burke, "because a company doing enough builds to support 50 employees isn't going to get torpedoed by a bad series of giveaways. As long as they can address it properly. Which they didn't do that either."

There are still questions about the legality of the actual giveaways, and the way they were handled, as there are quite strict laws which govern such competitions or lotteries. But, according to Slack messages sent to GN, access to the company's bank accounts was frozen on March 7 and Katz authorized employees to stop giving refunds.

At the end of GN's video breakdown, a former Artesian employee says about their work with the company that they're "disheartened that it has been tarnished by an unserious person who made it clear they respect neither their community nor their employees." 

The original controversy

We don't yet know exactly what has caused Artesian's shuttering, but the controversy that put the spotlight on it bears recapping. Artesian has stood out from other custom PC builders for its commitment to building every order live on Twitch. The company also runs an "ambassador" program which pays streamers for referrals and grants them entry into ambassador-only PC giveaways, which also take place live on Twitch. It was one of those giveaways that seemingly drove one of the nails into the Artesian coffin last week.

As he streamed a drawing on Twitch, Artesian CEO Noah Katz warned that not every member of the ambassador program would be eligible to win, saying that the winner would have to meet "strict" criteria.

"This is an ambassador giveaway," he said. "This is not for people that aren't taking streaming seriously. We need you to be promoting, frankly, yourself and us, if we're giving you a free computer."

Katz said that he would look for a streaming and social media following in the "multiple thousands," and also consider how much business the ambassador was sending Artesian's way. Streamers whose Artesian links weren't at least being clicked weren't fulfilling their "part of the bargain," and would not be eligible to win the PC, he said.

The first name that came up was streamer Kiapiaa, and Katz immediately went to work vetting her based on the criteria he'd just laid out. Because she had fewer than 5,000 followers and hadn't generated any clicks in her three months as an ambassador, Katz denied her the prize.

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Kiapiaa said that she had not previously been aware of any results-based eligibility criteria for ambassadors selected in prize drawings. She was a legitimate member of the program, and said she felt "belittled" by Katz's live investigation into her social media following.

Intel, which sponsored the giveaway, sided with Kiapiaa, as did most of those reacting to her tweets. Katz issued an apology, but has since deleted it. Kiapiaa says she was offered the prize in the end, but turned it down.

It isn't immediately clear what the reorganization of Artesian will entail, or whether it will continue under new ownership. I've attempted to contact the business and will update this article if I learn more.

If you're associated with Artesian Builds and have information to share, you can contact us at tips@pcgamer.com.

Tyler Wilde
Tyler Wilde

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.

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