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The ZX Spectrum Next - Kickstarter Now Live! : Now Funded!


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I suppose it's not having what seems to be any commercial pressure to get the product released, instead it seems they're engineers spending endless hours perfecting it. 

 

But like you've said before, the Next actually being a spiritual successor to the Spectrum is long gone now. The irony is that Amstrad, with their total focus on how to make as much profit as possible from the Sinclair brand, managed to make the Spectrum more reliable and easier to mass manufacture with the +2, +2A and +2B and although those models are probably the best ones to go for now if you're buying an old Spectrum (because they're much more reliable), they seem to be derided because they're not true "Sinclair" models. 

 

And another irony is that the Sinclair Loki (aka the Super Spectrum), which was rumoured to be in development at Sinclair just before Amstrad bought them, looked nothing like the Spectrum 128k or Plus and instead looked more or less exactly like an... Amstrad CPC... (Rick Dickinson left Sinclair in 1986 after the 128k was released, maybe he would have designed the "Super Spectrum", but who knows).

 

loki.jpg.df656a95a6010fc79b2309161734403b.jpg

 

I'm also beginning to wonder the main purpose behind the Next now, is it to play old games, to play new games or to sit in a beautiful box on a shelf and never take it out? Because they amount of time, effort and likely money they're spending on perfecting it makes me think it's going to be a museum piece. 

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22 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

I'm also beginning to wonder the main purpose behind the Next now, is it to play old games, to play new games or to sit in a beautiful box on a shelf and never take it out? Because they amount of time, effort and likely money they're spending on perfecting it makes me think it's going to be a museum piece. 

 

I would imagine its main aim is to make as much money as they can before people realise it's completely pointless.

 

I just don't get it.  If you want to play old games there are emulators, if you want to play new games there are plenty of platforms already.  It doesn't look like the old one so it's not really the nostalgia factor.  Who will buy these?

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26 minutes ago, Cool Ben said:

 

I would imagine its main aim is to make as much money as they can before people realise it's completely pointless.

 

I just don't get it.  If you want to play old games there are emulators, if you want to play new games there are plenty of platforms already.  It doesn't look like the old one so it's not really the nostalgia factor.  Who will buy these?

 

I originally backed the Next because, at the time, it seemed like a great concept. Creating a Spectrum with HDMI video, SD storage support that was FPGA based meaning it could be upgraded to support new features or graphics modes like ULA Plus. I had long since given away my original Spectrum(s) and it would be nice to play the games on an old style machine but with features to make it easy. Kind of like the NES or SNES Mini or even the Analog NT, but with a keyboard!

 

I also backed it because it was "ready to go", the boards had been designed and prototyped, the case and keyboard were also designed and just needed to be manufactured. There was almost a year from the preview of the Kickstarter campaign to the actual launch of it because they wanted the project to have minimum development time, they were literally just manufacturing the things.

 

But fast forward 2 1/2 years and the purpose of the Next seems to have changed along the way quite considerably. The keyboard now has to be modern and feather light (like anyone's going to do any programming with it) with two years being spent on refining it to perfection, the "Next graphics mode" now looks nothing like a Spectrum (it doesn't even look like a Sam Coupe, instead it's like a basic version of an Atari ST or something). It now feels like the Next is being viewed as Rick Dickinson's final legacy, something to be put on a shelf and admired (ooh, look at the KEYS) instead of something to play games on. It's so far removed from the ethos of the original Spectrum (a cheap computer for the masses) it's unbelievable. 

 

Except I got so bloody bored waiting for it that I picked up a Spectrum +2B, got a DivMMC Future (to play games via an SD card) and a decent SCART cable that means it works with my television. I'm now not really sure what the Next is going to do over what I can do right now.

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Yeah, it's still FPGA but another good reason for backing was that the code was going to be open source, meaning others could create their own campaigns using the same technology to make a C64, Amstrad, MSX or whatever 8-bit variant (the FPGA isn't good enough for 16-bit apparently).

 

However they've refused to release the source code until the cased units are in the hands of the backers for fear of cheap clones from the Far East. Which to be honest, would probably have been a good thing for them to have some competition in getting it released. However with them talking about a second Kickstarter, I now doubt the source code will be released for it.

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17 hours ago, ulala said:

Do they have any money left to actually ship it to backers?

 

Interesting, I never thought of that so Inlooked up Henrique Olifiers on companies house and found out he’s a director of SpecNext, so I’m going to presume that’s the company created for the Next.

 

The last accounts filing made by SpecNext, back in November 2018 which covered up to Feb 2018 (the accounts are due by November 30th of each year). The next accounts are due by Nov 30th this year.

 

But there’s a couple of interesting things about the company. One: it’s listed as a dormant company which again I’m going to presume is to prevent any corporate tax liabilities. Except I’m not sure it’s a dormant company

 

https://www.informdirect.co.uk/business-finance/dormant-company-definition-and-requirements/

 

Quote

Your company will be considered dormant for corporation tax purposes in any of the following circumstances:

 

It is not trading and does not receive any other income. This includes investment income.

It is a new limited company that hasn’t started trading yet.

It is a flat management company.

It is an unincorporated association or charity that owes less than £100 corporation tax.

 

Quote

A company will not be considered dormant for corporation tax purposes if it is carrying on any business activity, including the buying and selling of goods or providing of services; earning interest; managing investments or otherwise receiving income.

If a company is considered to be dormant by HMRC then it will be exempt from the requirement to file an annual corporation tax return.

 

They have received revenue income from the Kickstarter backers, I’m not sure why the company would classify as a dormant company.

 

That brings me onto the second point, the only director is Henrique Olifiers. That means only he likely has access to the bank accounts or financial information of the company. It’s also strange why none of the other team were made directors. Maybe they didn’t want the responsibility but it does seem weird that a company that raised over £700,000 in funding has a single director and a “single point of failure”, so to speak.

 

The final point is the filings themselves, the last one was made in November 2018 (EDIT - the original link must be a temporary one, go to here https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09994678/filing-history and view the Micro Company Statement from Nov 2018) .  Current assets (which is defined as “Cash or resources held for the purpose of converting into cash, these include stock, debtors and investments”)  are £576k, which is likely the cash from the Kickstarter campaign minus fees from Kickstarter. But creditors (.”Amounts owed currently by the business that are payable in the short term i.e. at any time up to a year from the balance sheet date. “) in year are £629k, giving a negative balance of  -£52k.

 

Here's a screenshot

 

410489333_Screenshot2019-09-13at09_47_54.thumb.png.c4b40e7cc9819aff5d28a4e0ce9c249b.png

 

Now I have to admit that companies house accounts can be very confusing (even after filing two of my companies accounts just a couple of months ago!) but if I’m reading that correctly, SpecNext paid out £629k to creditors, or owed £629k to creditors to be paid by Feb 2019 and are £52k in the red. 

 

Who those creditors are, we have no idea. It might be contracts for manufacturing that haven’t been fulfilled yet or it might be they’ve paid out all the money to themselves as salaries, we don’t know. But what we do know is that the accounts say they’re £52k in the red - and that was in November 2018. I guess we’ll find out when the accounts are published before November 30th what the current situation is, but again it seems strange to wait right until the last minute when the company likely doesn’t have much to account for this year (there’s no revenue for starters).

 

I don’t know if this does say that SpecNext are in financial trouble, and my analysis might be completely wrong, but the account filing doesn’t make a lot of sense. £567k In, £629k Out when only a few boards were actually delivered in that financial period.  Has anyone else commented on this? I’m surprised seeing as the amount of shit from the RCL Vega saga that nobody has been doing any financial checks on them. 

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Must be even more worrying with the added cost increase thanks to the pound and production changing over a couple of years.  Thing is the money's gone now, there's no way to get it back and KS won't do a thing about it. Great if it turns up but buggered if it doesn't.  Hope they don't announce it soon as I sold my pledge last year for £250 :blink:

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Well I hope it makes it but It's a bit worrying. I had hoped to use it to teach basic to my kids like I learned from the brown book way back but at this stage they'll be finished primary school before it comes out. I had been looking at divmmc before the next was announced and thought the next was a better option as it also had hdmi output. I see there is a hdmi adapter for the original spectrum now as well but I don't know if that can be chained with a divmmc or not.

 

 

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Reading all the updates and seeing the perfectionism over the keys reminds me of audio engineers trying to get that perfect mix, small EQ changes and minor tweaks to compression levels, then telling the client they're not happy with the final result and need to keep going. And anyone who makes music knows there's a point where you get into a downward spiral of perfection, but you know you should just stop and accept what you have. I'm not saying they should slam out a half-baked product, but it has gone way beyond necessary and entered the real of the hardcore audiophile.

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1 hour ago, crocked said:

Well I hope it makes it but It's a bit worrying. I had hoped to use it to teach basic to my kids like I learned from the brown book way back but at this stage they'll be finished primary school before it comes out. I had been looking at divmmc before the next was announced and thought the next was a better option as it also had hdmi output. I see there is a hdmi adapter for the original spectrum now as well but I don't know if that can be chained with a divmmc or not.

 

 

 

Yes, they can be chained together 

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19 minutes ago, Vimster said:

Reading all the updates and seeing the perfectionism over the keys reminds me of audio engineers trying to get that perfect mix, small EQ changes and minor tweaks to compression levels, then telling the client they're not happy with the final result and need to keep going. And anyone who makes music knows there's a point where you get into a downward spiral of perfection, but you know you should just stop and accept what you have. I'm not saying they should slam out a half-baked product, but it has gone way beyond necessary and entered the real of the hardcore audiophile.

 

Woukd they have to keep paying for each design change?

 

the negative equity in the accounts is worrying

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11 hours ago, Vimster said:

Reading all the updates and seeing the perfectionism over the keys reminds me of audio engineers trying to get that perfect mix, small EQ changes and minor tweaks to compression levels, then telling the client they're not happy with the final result and need to keep going. And anyone who makes music knows there's a point where you get into a downward spiral of perfection, but you know you should just stop and accept what you have. I'm not saying they should slam out a half-baked product, but it has gone way beyond necessary and entered the real of the hardcore audiophile.

 

Or alternatively they've run out of money and the keyboard is just a smoke screen for the delay whilst they try to get additional funding to enable them to release it.

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7 minutes ago, Ste_S said:

 

Or alternatively they've run out of money and the keyboard is just a smoke screen for the delay whilst they try to get additional funding to enable them to release it.

They're doing a fantastic job of keeping it going then. If they were just making time in order to do a new KS they'd just say nothing. I believe they want to get the keyboard right, they have just gone too deep into it. It's a fucking keyboard. Anyone with a board can get a normal PC keyboard going with it, they'll be fine.

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8 hours ago, Ste_S said:

 

Or alternatively they've run out of money and the keyboard is just a smoke screen for the delay whilst they try to get additional funding to enable them to release it.

 

This. A lot of this looks like frequent updates for really minor stuff so that they can keep up a sense of goodwill (“we’re talking to the backers!”) while also panicking behind the scenes because they can’t afford the rest of the project.

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5 hours ago, Qazimod said:

 

This. A lot of this looks like frequent updates for really minor stuff so that they can keep up a sense of goodwill (“we’re talking to the backers!”) while also panicking behind the scenes because they can’t afford the rest of the project.

 

If the start another Kickstarter before it’s shipped to original backers, this is 100% what’s happened.

 

they are stalling for some reason.

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6 hours ago, Qazimod said:

 

This. A lot of this looks like frequent updates for really minor stuff so that they can keep up a sense of goodwill (“we’re talking to the backers!”) while also panicking behind the scenes because they can’t afford the rest of the project.

 

Frequent updates? You must be joking, they're too infrequent.

 

Whether they have any money left or not the technical issues are all but solved now. There was nothing minor about the keyboard issues.

 

It will become clear, soon enough, if there is money to manufacture and ship it.

 

I'm growing weary of the comparisons with the vega, they're not in the least bit the same. All the parts of this project seem to be nearing completion.

 

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6 minutes ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

 

Frequent updates? You must be joking, they're too infrequent.

 

Whether they have any money left or not the technical issues are all but solved now. There was nothing minor about the keyboard issues.

 

It will become clear, soon enough, if there is money to manufacture and ship it.

 

I'm growing weary of the comparisons with the vega, they're not in the least bit the same. All the parts of this project seem to be nearing completion.

 

 

The problem I have with them is that with every “The technical issues are fixed” update comes a “actually, we’ve identified another issue that needs to be addressed”. Too many times we’ve been given updates like “the keyboard is GO” followed by “another setback with the keyboard” or “we’ll have photos of 3000+ cases and keyboards being manufactured within a couple of weeks” to “we’ve now got make pilot production keyboards and cases which are months away from being delivered and tested”

 

While the updates are definitely different from the Vega+, the amount of times they’ve come across unknown issues does now feel like they’re stalling or to be frank, they’re incompetent. Again what’s been so frustrating is the lack of getting an outsourced hardware manufacturer expert on board, when clearly the current team have no experience of it. I’m sure there would be plenty of people in the Spectrum community willing to help, but instead they seem to just blunder on.

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21 hours ago, Gregory Wolfe said:

I'm growing weary of the comparisons with the vega, they're not in the least bit the same. All the parts of this project seem to be nearing completion.

 

 

From where i am sitting, at the current moment they are exactly the same.

 

Broken promise and delay after broken promise and delay.

 

No money left in the account.

 

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It's heading that way certainly.  They've been saying "Just the keyboard" for at least a year now.

 

The Vega existed too, they just didn't have the money to build and ship the remaining ones.

 

I'm not judging yet but if I'd pledged I'd be very worried by now certainly.

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4 hours ago, ulala said:

 

From where i am sitting, at the current moment they are exactly the same.

 

Broken promise and delay after broken promise and delay.

 

No money left in the account.

 

 

The funny thing is that from when the Vega+ Indiegogo campaign launched in Feb 2016 to the final update in Aug 23 2018 (so 30 months in total) there were 96 official updates.

 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-sinclair-zx-spectrum-vega-plus-console#/updates/all

 

The Next Kickstarter campaign launched in April 2017 and in the 29 months since there's been 52 official updates

 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1835143999/zx-spectrum-next/posts

 

So yeah, the "reality" is that the  Vega+ campaign had almost double the amount of official updates in the same timespan. I think the Next has been let off the hook when compared to the Vega+ because there has clearly been less behind the scenes politics, but the updates from the Next are also very technical which I think makes the audience feel "safer", as well as the audience being more "understanding" (I get the feeling that a lot of the backers are likely engineers, so they're happy being sent techno pr0n images).

 

However, you're right - in nearly 2 years and 6 months the cased Next is in almost exactly the same position as the Vega+ campaign was until that point. Nearly 2 years delayed and nothing in the hands of the backers, except for updates promising that work is being carried out. Even the Vega+ campaign had supposed photos of the manufacturing and demo units at trade shows, just like the cased Next has had.

 

Yet for some reason people seem to be more forgiving of the Next campaign. Even after the last update the Facebook group is filled with posts saying "yes, it's nearly here! Take your time guys!", despite the update again being a disappointing one of the cased Next being nowhere ready. If anything it's like the exact opposite of the Vega+ campaign in that the backers seem to be incredibly unforgiving for a product that is still nowhere near released, even after countless promises of it being nearly ready. I really think that's feeling this "perfection" mentality of the Next team and in turn causing them to likely burn through more cash (even if there is any left).

 

But yes, at the end of the day we're in almost exactly the same position as the Vega+ was/is. Years delayed, updates of "it's nearly ready" with continuous disappointments and now worryingly the prospect of there being no money left, but without the political shenanigans that went with the Vega+.

 

 

 

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I think though that the reason people give the Next a bit more of an easy ride is that the people involved are legitimate.

I'm no expert on the whole Speccy scene but Jim Bagley, who has been a bit of a public face for the Next, clearly cares and wants the Next to succeed.

 

You only have to see the machine and talk to Jim at the various retro events and you'll come away with a really positive impression.

From day one with the Vega+ all I ever got was a feeling that they wanted money and didn't really give two hoots about the end product.

 

For me, as a backer who is patiently waiting, I'm still prepared to give the Next team a bit more time.  If it's not with me by Xmas though then I'll be really fed up and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

Edited by WizRider
Said impatiently when I meant patiently
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1 hour ago, WizRider said:

For me, as a backer who is impatiently waiting, I'm still prepared to give the Next team a bit more time.  If it's not with me by Xmas though then I'll be really fed up and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.

 

Yes, I think Christmas is my "good faith" deadline. I'm keeping the faith, but it is hard not to feel the passing of time more keenly at this point.

 

I'm still optimistic, since the reasons for the delay still seem practical. If Christmas comes and they're still talking about imperfections in the keyboard or wobbly joystick ports or anything of that nature, then I'll begin to seriously worry.

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I think the difference is that in this case it's being put together by people who I have far more faith in.

 

I've worked with Jim in the past professional and he's clearly promoting something he believes in. Henrique of course is successful already in the software world, he co-founded Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator, I am Bread) where they've been successful enough to do an MBO. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the current development is being done out of their personal pockets in this case.

 

Plus the hardware has had help and input from many capable people. After all, the boards are already out in the wild with developers and being put to good use.

 

But my gut is whilst they've got plenty of experience with software and electronics, they've not got that much experience in the rest of the manufacture. It was clearly something Rick Dickenson understood and I'm sure part of this is trying to make sure this last design lives up to it's legacy, but I think they didn't quite understand the challenge they were taking on. Much like many other delayed Kickstarters...

 

They've probably bitten off more than they can chew, and you can see some classic feature creep in places, but I'm confident as a backer that they'll pull it off eventually. Plus as I said before, much of this seems to be delayed by a desire for quality control, something you couldn't level at the Vega...

 

If you knew how many games go through almost exactly this process where something wasn't working and you had to iterate (but in private) then you really wouldn't be surprised that this is running late :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Latest update has just hit:

 

The guts of the update is:

 

Quote

We have the first small batch of keyboards at SMS, with the cases being sent tomorrow (October 31st). These first 50 units will be fully assembled, packaged and ready to ship soon after the cases arrive at SMS next week, and then they will be stored while a larger batch of 1,000 units is flown into the UK for assembly. The idea is to have a third-ish of the keyboards and cases flown in while the other two thirds are shipped by sea in two batches of 1,000 each. This will allow some parallelism to reduce the assembly time, as it's more efficient than waiting for the very last of the keyboards and cases to be produced before any assembly takes place.

 

Having 1000 units ship by air to speed up assembly can't have been cheap and it's another reason why I think the team behind this have earned a lot of good will in spite of the delays.

 

It looks like things are starting to fall into place and we can expect delivery in the near future. I see no specific mention of a Christmas deadline so I think it'll just have to happen at the speed it can happen.

 

A good, optimistic update though. I think if this had been another update bemoaning some discrepancy in the keyboard design, the first real moment of doubt would have crossed my mind, but as it is, it looks as though backers will be getting their machines sooner rather than later.

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