Controversy engulfed the turn-based tactics game Tiny Metal ahead of his release last year when Tariq Lacy, a former marketer and PR manager on the project, claimed that funding for the project was actually drawn from money raised for another game called Project Phoenix. Tiny Metal failed to achieve its 2016 Kickstarter goal, but Project Phoenix pulled in more than ten times its $100,000 target—and so, according to Lacy, Creative Intelligence Arts, the company behind Project Phoenix, effectively closed its doors and restarted as Area 35 to work on Tiny Metal, which was the game that director and producer Hiroaki Yura actually wanted to make.
Yura denied any shenanigans, saying that Area 35 and CIA were created as separate entities to provide "corporate clarity and identity." He further claimed that Lacy's accusations were "factually incorrect" and "libel," and also accused him of personal misconduct, saying that his contract with the company was bought out "due to him being a toxic employee who has sexually harassed our female staff amongst many other problems."
As we noted at the time, neither side had provided proof of their allegations and so it was entirely a matter of one word against another. That's no longer the case, however, as Lacy has now acknowledged that he was not telling the truth, and—as mandated by a Japanese court of arbitration—issued an extensive public apology for his actions.
"The counterparty admits that the post/article/comment written on the 20th of November 2017 on the 'Project Phoenix' Facebook Page, managed by the complainant company, is contrary to the truth and to apologize to the complainant company," the translated mediation ruling states. "As a concrete form of apology, the counterparty is to publicly post sentences as written on pages 5-6 of this document on his personal Facebook page."
That apology, in English and Japanese (but only reproduced in English) is as follows:
On November 20, 2017 (Heisei 29) I posted the entry 'Comments' to the Area 35 Co., Ltd. (Representative Director Yura Hiroaki) operated Facebook page entitled 'Project Phoenix', at a point in time after my own departure from that same company. In regard to this entry, and with the exception of the fact that I was employed by the company until two months prior to the posting, I now admit that everything it stated was contrary to the truth, and I offer a deep and profound apology to AREA 35 Co., Ltd.
Furthermore, I also apologize for significant damage caused to AREA 35 Co., Ltd., and damage caused to the good name and reputation of Mr. Yura Hiroaki, due to such occurrences as the falsehoods that I posted being picked up and reported by media organizations within the United States of America. I am fully aware that my actions also relate to the trust placed in the videogame industry, and that they must have been very shocking for everyone involved in said industry. Please allow me to apologize again for my actions.
It's not a complete bust for Lacy: Area 35 acknowledged in the mediation that it owes him ¥600,000 ($5400), although that win is tempered somewhat by Lacy's agreement to repay ¥410,661 ($3697) that he owes to Area 35 vice president Masamichi Eguchi, who guaranteed Lacy's rental agreement.
Tiny Metal was released in December 2017 to decidedly "okay" reviews: It's got a 68/100 on Metacritic and "mostly positive" user reviews on Steam, although for what it's worth that seems to be trending downward in recent weeks. Unfortunately, there's still no update on the fate of Project Phoenix beyond what came out in the wake of Lacy's initial claim, when Area 35 business development manager Gian Carlo Peirce said that the project had run out of money. An August 2017 Kickstarter update indicated that further funding for Project Phoenix could be forthcoming if Tiny Metal was a success.