Cryptozoic failed to pay artists for months, blames disruption from shock CEO death

Board game publisher Cryptozoic Entertainment has gone months without paying some of its artists, saying the shock death of CEO John Sepenuk in February “significantly disrupted” its operations, emails seen by BoardGameWire show.

Cryptozoic, the publisher of games including Spyfall and the DC Comics Deck-Building Game, was called out by a string of artists on Twitter frustrated that they were being ‘ghosted’ by the company over payments due for their artwork.

Brazilian artist Marco Tamura was moved to publish an open letter to Cryptozoic earlier this week, after spending three months trying to get Cryptozoic to pay him for his work on an upcoming project.

That letter brought out similar reports from a host of other artists – almost all based in Brazil – who had also hit a brick wall in getting their payments owed to them by Cryptozoic.

Cryptozoic has not responded to multiple requests for comment, but emails obtained by BoardGameWire show the company has contacted some of the affected artists to apologise in the wake of Tamura’s open letter.

The email from company co-founders Cory Jones and John Nee said the unexpected death of CEO John Sepenuk in February “had a profound impact” on the organisation, and caused “a series of unforeseen challenges that significantly disrupted our operations”.

Sepenuk, who co-founded Cryptozoic in 2010, died of a heart attack while kite surfing on California’s Huntingdon beach on Valentine’s Day this year. He was 54 years old.

Cryptozoic’s email said it had been “striving” to pay about 10% of its artists each week, adding that it “understood the importance of timely payments”.

The email goes on to say that the company has now managed to secure the “necessary funding” to pay its artists, and BoardGameWire understands some of those affected have now received wire transfer notifications that their payments will arrive within the next couple of days.

But many of the artists spoken to by BoardGameWire pointed out that Cryptozoic has been accused of similar behaviour in the past, with the company making a public apology two years ago for delayed payments for artwork used on its Middle Earth and Crisis on Infinite Earths trading cards.

The company is also currently running three months behind schedule for its Epic Spell Wars Kickstarter project, which raised almost $375,000 from over 2,600 backers in January this year.

A Kickstarter update from Cory Jones at the end of May told backers the decision to add extra illustrations at the end of the crowdfunding campaign, and to expand the amount of individual illustrations in one of the game’s card decks, had caused the delay.

He said, “I cannot blame it on factories or shipping. NOPE, it’s all on me. I wildly underestimated how long the rest of the art would take, especially with one 80-year-old doing the majority of it (we did hire a colorist/inker to help).”

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