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Elite Systems pulls ZX Spectrum games after deluge of 'unpaid royalties' complaints

'A personally chastening experience,' says boss Wilcox

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The owner of Elite Systems Ltd finally broke his silence on Saturday after a number of British game developers for the 1980s 8-bit ZX Spectrum home computer claimed that Steve Wilcox had failed to pay royalties owed to them.

As The Register reported on Friday, Wilcox, 44, raised more than £60,000, via a Kickstarter campaign, to build funds for a Bluetooth ZX Spectrum keyboard that he planned to develop.

But as the allegations grew louder, and some supporters began to reduce the amount of cash they pledged to the project, Elite Systems' boss could not be reached on the telephone or via email for comment.

Wilcox finally responded to the developers' complaints in a statement on his Kickstarter page just as pledges for his Bluetooth ZX Spectrum keyboard were set to expire.

He promised backers that the project would go ahead now that it had been funded and added that he hoped to have the device ready for backers in September.

Wilcox then addressed the accusations of unpaid royalties:

We wish to assure all of the appeal’s backers, including the game developers that have posted, that having been in business for 30 years we take our contractual relationships most seriously. We urge the game developers to set out any issues which they wish to be addressed in writing and send them to us directly.

We will then investigate and respond in writing and in detail and if able to do so will place our response in the public domain.

He later added: "For the avoidance of doubt, any and all game developers with whom Elite has a contractual relationship will be paid."

Wilcox told El Reg that our "message was lost in a blizzard of communications" on Friday. But he failed to explain why he hadn't responded to our telephone calls.

He instead pointed us to a statement on Elite Systems' website, which confirmed that Wilcox was in the process of having ZX Spectrum games removed from app stores.

Wilcox said he had "failed" in his duty to pay royalties to developers, including Rod Bowkett - the man behind Dynamite Dan I & II.

"This has been a personally chastening experience," he added.

Late last week, Bowkett told the Reg that he had had no response from Wilcox since he agreed to a non-exclusive licence deal with him. Royalties had gone unpaid for successive quarters from the Lichfield-based outfit, he claimed.

Wilcox claimed that he will pay the developers the money they are owed within the next 28 days. But it's unclear where those funds might come from.

His Kickstarter campaign raised £63,194. It's understood that the total amount owed to the ZX Spectrum game coders is around the £10,000 mark. ®

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