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Monday, February 20, 2017

Why I Put Wayward Kickstarters' Feet to the Fire

There has been some recent displeasure with my Kickstarter coverage. No, not to me directly, but others are getting flack for letting the posts be shared over sources they control. I figured it was time for an explanation as to why I make such posts and why I take such posts seriously.

Our hobby is small. Really small. If you aren't WotC or Paizo, publishing is probably a side gig for you. Profit margins are slim. That is why Print on Demand and Kickstarter are used by so many RPG publishers - it minimizes risk and maximizes profit.

Lets look at Kickstarter. For all intents and purposes, RPG publishers use it as a preorder system. I'm not going to get into the argument that you are backing a "project" and not a "product." If the publisher treats it like a preorder system, allowing them to take your money up front while knowing how many of "X" to print, thereby minimizing the risk of dead stock sitting in a spare bedroom or garage somewhere, its a preorder. Quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and looks like a duck, its a duck. Fuck the DNA results.

Few publishers hit their overly optimistic release dates on Kickstarter. Those that do, I usually highlight. Most fall within the ballpark. A few go extremely long and a select few get to the stage of "tomorrow is always a day away."

Now, as a consumer, money that has paid for product that is now years late is money that could have been spent elsewhere - such as, you guessed it - other gaming product.

How many people take the time to track these late projects? How many look into the updates and try to ascertain what is truly going on? Who pays attention to see if a certain publisher / creator has a tendency to be really late, or not release at all? Does anyone vet these projects before backing them? Does anyone take the project creators to task, when lateness becomes lies and they attack the very community that funded them?

The answer to the above is "I do" and I wish others would.

While I like to think that honesty is the base state of human beings, we all know that it does not apply to all. Sometimes, you need to shine a light to remind folks to be honest as well as show honest folks who isn't, and beware.

But, Kickstarter says you are backing an idea, not a product, and there is no guarentee you'll get anything and that is true, its what Kickstarter says. But if shining a light improves the consumers' odds, that should only be a good thing. Not every funded Kickstarter is going to deliver, but every funded Kickstarter should make the honest attempt to do so. For every Mike Nystul, who fell on the sword and admitted to being an incompetent business man (and was pretty much forgiven by the gaming community even with Kickstarters that never produced product) you have a Gareth, with his "tomorrow, next week, next month" series of promises over the last five years. Or #ConManKen, who admitted to misusing Kickstarter funds, basically ran multiple Kickstarters as a pyramid scheme that only filled his pockets and has threatened me with lawsuits and arrest. Or Kevin, who took in $1.4 million and keeps punting completion to NeverNever Land.

Kickstarter is not all Ice Cream and Bunnies. There are those that will take advantage of their backers and potential backers should be armed with all the knowledge they can get.

Keeping bad Kickstarters in the light helps ensure that future creators do their own due diligence before kicking off their latest project and are ready to succeed.

As a side note, my moderating hand is VERY light here at The Tavern. I do NOT delete comments of those that disagree with me. I don't even delete ones where I am threatened with lawsuits or arrest by federal authorities. I am more likely to moderate personal attacks between readers than anything else, and even that needs to be over the top. So, if the Gareths, Kens or Kevins of the world want to defend their actions, they won't be silenced.

Kickstarter - Alternative Facts the Game (Not to be Confused with Alternative Facts - A Hilarious Card Game by Frog God Games)

Alternative Facts. Catchy name for a game, right? So catchy that you might be tempted to use it EVEN AFTER another publisher just started a Kickstarter under the very same name. Because why bother to see if its already in use on the platform you want to fund on.

You know what? I really like the name Labyrinth Lord for an RPG. Its already in use? No problem. Mine is different. Its "Labyrinth Lord the Game." See? Totally not the same.

Hey, lets look at the quality presentation of Alternative Facts the Game, shall we?

Wow! That just screams "Take my 25 bucks damn it!" Well, maybe not. Personally, it doesn't even whisper to me.

Here's the link to Frog God Games' Kickstarter for a similarly named card game that kicked first. Really, the only thing in common is the name.

Ah well, I'm going to be hard at work on my "Dungeons & Dragons the Game" Kickstarter (go big or go home ;)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kickstarter - Off the Beaten Path, Forest Excursions (Adventures for SWL / System Neutral)

Have I mentioned how much I like this cover?

There are less than 21 hours left in the Off the Beaten Path, Forest Excursions Kickstarter's funding. With a goal of $600 it has now surpassed $2,800. Six stretch goals have been hit and the next one is within reach.

Its exciting to see a release for Swords & Wizardry Light about to reach the market place.

Just so you know, Throwi Games has been using a beta copy of the forthcoming SWL Monsters Book as well as discussing rules questions with me as they crop up. This is going to be a sweet release with at least 22 one and two page adventures. You simply can't go wrong backing for either the SWL version or the system neutral version.

FYI, I get 1% of the monies raised for the SWL version. Its not a lot but it's certainly a sweet thank you :)

Kickstarter - Robotech® RPG Tactics™ - How NOT to Announce the Suicide Attempt of one of your Freelancers

Holy shit.

So, it seems like the guy that was / is to release the Rifts Boardgame Kickstarter got a huge amount of flack for his comments on the Robotech® RPG Tactics™Kickstarter on Friday and made an attempt on his own life later that day. Thankfully, the attempt was unsuccessful and he is in treatment. Please put Carmen and his family in your prayers as they are in ours. Tell your family that you love them.

That is what this morning's update should have been. It wasn't. Instead, it's all about how awful the backers of the Robotech® RPG Tactics™are. It's all you fault! You nearly killed a man over a 3 year late project of toys!

Normally, I just give pieces or screenshots of updates, but this one I'm going to post in full. Its such a self serving pile of shit (and rightfully seen as such by 90% of the Kickstarter backers) that its generated more negative comments than one would expect where a member of our hobby nearly died.

Let's read how Kevin tried to capitalize on this tragedy, shall we?

Update #197   Feb 19 2017
A terrible day  110 Comments

In recent weeks, game designer Carmen Bellaire began talking online about the Rifts® board game he has been developing under license. His planned upcoming Kickstarter will launch it and his own company. 
On Friday morning he came here, to the RRT Kickstarter comments pages, and made what he had intended to be a post to drum up support from backers of our Robotech® RPG Tactics™ Kickstarter project. It didn’t go well, to say the least. 
Carmen’s awkward words might have seemed out of context and harsh. They were fueled by comments and accusations people had been directing at him here and elsewhere for a while now. Somehow, he thought he was helping by coming here to speak to people directly. 
I don’t know why Carmen Bellaire said what he said, in the way that he did. I know he has been pushing himself much too hard, and was emotionally drained and physically exhausted when he made those posts. That might explain some of it. He can also be the proverbial bull in the china shop, and has a bad habit of not choosing his words carefully. (its at this point I said to myself - we are building up to a suicide / suicide attempt)
A lot of his comments and observations about Robotech® RPG Tactics and Palladium Books were from an outsider’s perspective, and often incorrect or not clearly presented. Carmen’s viewpoint, like many of yours, is that of a concerned outsider looking in. 
He had not been around Palladium Books much the past 3-4 years, because he was busy creating games for his own fledgling company, Rogue Heroes LLC, which he has hopes to launch in spectacular fashion with the Rifts® Board Game as his first release. This would be done via a Kickstarter campaign in April, 2017. In addition to this endeavor, Carmen works a full-time, 9-5 job, as well as doing freelance game design for Upper Deck. A lot of work for Upper Deck. It is my understanding that the many games he has designed for that company have yet to see release, but they have been keeping him busy and several are in the pipeline for release. Doing board games right takes time. I’ve learned that the hard way. Carmen is also doing work for at least two other game companies under a veil of secrecy. He cannot speak about them or identify the companies due to NDAs and the wishes of those companies. I’m not even sure if I’m supposed to mention Upper Deck. I have been doing so rather shamelessly, because I’m very proud of my friend Carmen, and I figured the folks at Upper Deck will be okay with it coming from me. 
Carmen is a passionate person who feels things deeply. He has a heart of gold and a truly brilliant mind for games. The launch of Rogue Heroes LLC and the Rifts® Board Game is the culmination of his lifelong dream and a five or six year journey to make that dream a reality. He has made a lot of sacrifices, invested a lot of money, and worked his tail off to get here. He was excited beyond measure as he prepared to launch his Kickstarter for the game. And if it panned out, he had big plans for the future. 
Carmen and I have not talked about him “fixing” Wave Two, as he put it. We at Palladium, and many others, believe the RRT rules are solid. That while they could use some clarification, expansion and tweaking, they are really quite excellent and damn fun to play. What Carmen and I have talked about is Carmen’s hope and dream that if the Rifts® Board Game Kickstarter is a big success, he can quit his 9-5 job and dedicate himself exclusively to creating games. It is a lifelong dream I have heard about since the first day I met Carmen 12, 15 years ago. A dream he saw finally becoming a reality. A dream he has put his heart and soul into making come true. So no, Rogue Heroes, LLC is not a front or shell company for Palladium Books, as some have suggested; it is 100% Carmen Bellaire. 
His terrible opening post and further discussion about Robotech® RPG Tactics™ and Wave Two on the RRT Kickstarter board was fueled by his passion and hopes. If the Rifts® board game was a big success, and he really could quit his 9-5 job, he planned to help Palladium get RRT back on track, doing whatever he could to help. Carmen has all kinds of ideas for advanced RRT rules, new factions and new waves of product that we would love to see happen. But for the moment, he was still buried with other work commitments and needed to stay focused on the Rifts® board game and its Kickstarter.  
What Carmen was trying to say and why 
Carmen didn’t intend to challenge, threaten or blackmail anyone for support of his impending Rifts® board game Kickstarter. He was, in his own lame and awkward way, trying to say that his success with it would be good for the future of RRT, because he could be more involved and hopefully help make things happen faster in the future. He was trying to say, please don’t undermine his Rifts® Board Game Kickstarter, because his success would actually help RRT in the long run. 
I know this is what he meant, because he called me Friday, early afternoon, very upset by the reaction of some people on the RRT boards. He apologized to me over and over again for upsetting people and fueling the vitriol when all he was trying to do was help. Help me. Help his upcoming Kickstarter. Help the fans. Help his family. Help everyone. And doing it by creating a fun Rifts® board game to be followed by many other games from his company, not just based on Palladium’s I.P., but many of his own brilliant ideas. 
I understand why people are upset about RRT. What I cannot understand is the absolute hate and bloodlust of some, to destroy us, when we are trying to deliver the game they backed. Even more puzzling is attacking and destroying anyone who is affiliated with Palladium even in the slightest way, and shouting down and condemning others who don’t agree with their point of view. 
What you need to know 
Carmen Bellaire has put his heart and soul, and every dime he has, into the creation of HIS company, Rogue Heroes LLC, and HIS Rifts® board game. I say “his” Rifts® game because while it is Palladium’s I.P., it is ALL Carmen’s genius, money and blood, sweat and tears. 
Vicious words of hate shocked and overwhelmed him.  
Twisting the truth and twisting his, admittedly poorly chosen words, cut him to pieces. Carmen was never an employee of Palladium. He was a freelancer who worked off site, like all of our freelancers. He submitted the occasional book or contribution to a product like RRT. Carmen has never deliberately held back from making RRT great. Carmen was not trying to blackmail you to support his game. All he wanted to do was help, and he saw the Rift® board game as his way to start doing that. He wanted you to understand this. That your support for his Kickstarter – or at least not trying to undermine it – would enable him to help you and RRT, because he would finally have the time to devote to it, if he could quit his day job. He even shared his dream of being able to do a lot more work on RRT, Wave Two and future RRT releases, among other things. Carmen had a lot of big dreams and good intentions.  
Crushed and shell-shocked by your heated words and promises to do everything in your power to ruin his Kickstarter, Carmen’s dreams were shattered. And why? Because he was friends with Kevin Siembieda and had done freelance work for Palladium Books off and on over the years. 
He took your words to heart. Carmen believed you hated him. Believed you would work to destroy everything he had spent years building for himself, his family and for you.  
In a telephone call on Friday, he had told me he had never experienced this kind of hate and venom. He was clearly reeling from it. He said it was beyond anything he could imagine. He apologized, saying that all he wanted to do was help. Instead he had ruined everything. 
A short time later, at 2:07 PM, Friday afternoon, Carmen emailed me to say how much I have meant to him. That he was sorry he ruined everything by posting on the RRT board and stirring up unfathomable hate. He felt there was no way to undo the damage he had done. That he had ruined any chance for a successful Rifts board game Kickstarter and the launch of his company. That he had let his family down and every single person who was working so hard to make the Rifts board game and his company a reality. “I can’t take it, man ... I am so so so sorry. Good bye.” 
Carmen tried to kill himself moments later. 
It is only by the grace of God that his wife, a nurse, entered the room in time, that Carmen is alive. He is in the hospital, but in a bad way. He is a mess. The fate of the board game, his company, his dreams ... and most importantly, his life, are unknown. His family and all of us who know and love him are still in shock and praying to God that he will be okay. 
Words can kill 
On Friday, words on this board – cruel, vicious, condemning words – successfully crushed a man’s hopes and dreams and sent him spiraling into despair. Those words pushed him to the point of trying to take his own life. I would hate to think anyone may take pride in that.  
I’m posting this, with the permission of Carmen’s family, because you need to know that words of hate, spite, cruelty and intolerance, pushed a good man – a husband – a father – a friend – to attempt suicide on Friday. A simple gaming geek like every one of us, Carmen worked hard to support his family, found joy in gaming, and dared to pour his heart into making his dream come true for the betterment of everyone. 
Please realize that your words and tone may hurt another person as much as a bullet to the heart. Please, try to stop and think about what you say. Remember that human beings are fragile creatures. Try to find compassion and support for others, not tear them down. Try not to assume the worst or cast your assumptions and accusations against someone who does not deserve them. Not everyone is a bad guy. Not everyone is an enemy to be hated, attacked and ridiculed. Words matter. Lives matter. Kindness and tolerance matter. Perhaps more than ever before. 
A friend asked me if Carmen will be okay. We don’t know. Carmen will be in the hospital for a while. We don’t know for how long. We don’t know if he will ever be the same. We don’t know whether he’ll return to game design and try to launch his company or the Rifts® board game in which he has invested everything. If not, that’s a tragedy of another sort, because Carmen has so much to offer. Before his suicide attempt, Carmen regarded game design as pure joy and tackled it with a childlike sense of wonder. All he wanted to do was to make games. After this, I don’t know.  
I’m afraid this is not my most eloquent post. I am still shaken. I’m scared for him. Terrified. And saddened beyond words. 
Please pray for Carmen’s swift recovery, emotionally and physically, and that Carmen is able to find the strength to once again follow his dreams and dare to try to make them come true. I want that not just for Carmen, but because he has a treasure trove of wonderful games locked in his imagination waiting to come out. Games that will bring joy and laughter to all of us. 
I hope and pray there is a happy ending coming. Our love to Carmen and his family.  
Kevin Siembieda
President, Palladium Books
Self serving? Deflecting? Capitalizing on a suicide attempt? All that and more. The backers see it for what it is.

Edit: Here's Carmen's original comment that set up the backlash (I highlighted the line many backers have seen as blackmail):

Hello Everyone

I am Carmen Bellaire, I have started my own gaming company called Rogue Heroes, and as most of you know I will be doing a Kickstarter for a board game based on the Rifts IP.

So first off, I am a backer of this project too just like you, and I’m in the same boat as all of you. I know that some of you are pissed off at Palladium Books over the MASSIVE delay of Wave 2 of this project. I am disgruntled about it too. It is something of a sore spot between me and Kevin from PB. I too wish he would finish Wave 2 or resolve the matter in some way. Unfortunately, I have NO control over his business or Palladium’s conduct of in regard to this Kickstarter project. Kevin is a friend of mine, the way any one-time co-worker is. I once wrote for him and helped with the RRT rules, but my professional involvement with this project ended there. I have NO influence over this Kickstarter currently. So why am I posting here and now?

Well, you guessed it – I am going to release my Kickstarter soon (a few months) and wanted to state my opinion on things here for all the disgruntled RRT backers before I do.

So why me and Rogue Heroes for the Rifts: Board Game. A few years ago when things were going good and Wave 1 was just releasing Kevin was thinking about doing a Rifts board game and was looking to either do it himself or sell the IP rights to someone who could. Ninja Division either didn’t want to do it or was not asked, I really do not know. But in talk with me about finding the misprints in the rulebook for RRT Kevin let it slip that the IP rights for the Rifts: Board Game were available. I had just sold my first board game to another company for a big chunk of money and asked my wife if she would let me risk it on getting the IP rights for the Rifts miniatures and board games. She said yes.

So I gather a group of guys I know and get to work on it. Time goes on I make more money on other board games for various people and learn a ton about the industry. We continue to slowly get sculpts and art done, with me paying for everything as I go and I start to hear problems in the RRT KS. I don’t know much at first but watch as things get steadily worse (in my opinion). I don’t know why it is happening and hear from Kevin that it will all be fixed soon. More time goes by………………a lot of time and it's now. I have a nearly completed board game and have paid an amount that outstrips and individual backer on this KS project and most groups of backers too! And I see what a cluster-F things have become.

While I do still have faith in Kevin to make things right in the end, I don’t know how long that will take. In the meantime, I have to get my Kickstarter going if I am going to meet my contractual obligations to Palladium Books and try to make back at least some of the money my wife let me invest in the Rifts: Board Game. So that leaves me hear talking to you all.

While it is true I don’t want a hoard of mad RRT backers slamming my Kickstarter out for blood, I know that Kickstarter itself will regulate that. It did on the Savage Rifts Kickstarter which I also backed. I want to be on your side. I would love to pull a white knight and fix all the things going wrong with this KS, but first I have to get my Kickstarter started and funded to prove to Palladium that Rogue Heroes can do get our own project done. As they say money talks and bullshit walks.
My hope for the future would be to take over the miniature and board game rights to all Palladium Books, including Robotech (and in this case Harmony Gold through PB), and do them right! Not to throw stones but the Ninja Division chose the wrong manufacturer for the RRT, they forgot to charge shipping on the Kickstarter and made some other errors (in my opinion), while they meant good, mistakes were made. These were then compounded by Palladium and amplified to the point we are at today.

So where does that leave us, Rogue Heroes and the RRT backers I mean? Well, YOU as the other RRT backers have two choices. Either you can do everything in your power to try and kill the Rifts: Board Game OR you can allow me the chance to complete my Kickstarter in peace.

If you take option one, I will take all steps to prevent it, but calmly and by the rules. But I probably won’t ask for you to be banned unless you get too out of hand. But I believe you would be fighting an uphill battle anyway since all of Palladium loyal Rifts fans and many of the new Savage Rifts players REALLY want me to succeed. After all, Rifts hasn’t ever had really good miniatures, it had the old metal ones, but not the awesome figures we will be producing. And if you chose this route I will write you off, when Kevin asked me to help, as happened in the past on Wave 1, I will simply step away and let it burn. I am under no obligations to help with the RRT but I DO have the contacts and knowledge to help fix it.

Or you can take option two. I don’t ask anything from you, I don’t ask you to help or support me, or give me money or do anything at all. All I ask is please be decent individuals and give me room to succeed or fail on my own. And let those Rifts fans support me as they please. If you do this, basically do nothing, I will be all in for you. Even if my KS crashes and burns I will put my efforts into getting this shit straightened out!

While I cannot divert KS funds from a Rifts KS to the Robotech KS, or get anyone a refund. There is a lot I can do that will get things moving along again. I can help Palladium get the RIGHT manufacturer for Robotech and give them the advice and knowledge they are missing.

I have answered repeated questions on the Palladium forums about my project, including coming close to breaching my contract and NDA to be as honest and open as I can be. I want to show you that Rogue Heroes is different and that I can try and make a difference here. Which is also why I am posting here and will listen to the torrent of crap that will surely come of it.

After all, who else is helping? Contacting the FTC, or the Michigan Attorney General, or the Michigan BBB, or anyone else – who cares? According to Kickstarter they (PB) are doing their due diligence in working toward the goal of completing the project, as far as the law goes he has done nothing wrong (in my opinion, if I am wrong, invest in a lawyer). After all, it does say in the Kickstarter guidelines that the estimated delivery times are just that estimated, a project creator can take as much time as they require to complete the project as long as they work on it.

But in the end, it’s all up to you. Collectively you all have the opportunity to TRY and do some damage. Of course, you will be damaging Rogue Heroes, not Palladium, but it might make you feel better. Maybe? Remember, I already have the Rifts IP rights, Palladium got their money from me. Sure they will make some more money from my Kickstarter, but only AFTER I fulfill my rewards to ALL my backers! And you might blunt that a bit, but you will not be able to stop my Kickstarter. After all, my Kickstarter has nothing to do with Palladium and the folks at Kickstarter know it. As far as Kickstarter goes it’s no different that the Savage Rifts KS and that funded without a hitch.

I just felt that it was time that someone actually told you the lay of the land. Kickstarter is great, it’s F-ing awesome, but when things go wrong everyone needs to work together. It like all those with the loudest voice here thought they bought a product off a shelf, not backed a project. Things go wrong in all creative endeavors, then the creator gets things working again, or not. That's it.

Yea, I don’t want to battle with the RRT backers in order to complete my own KS, I am one of you after all. And you can call me a shill for Palladium if you want, call me a liar, call me whatever you want, but my Kickstarter will succeed. And when it does, do you want my next project to be straightening out the problems here. Or not? You decide.

Thanks for your time and attention

Carmen Bellaire
Rogue Heroes"

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gygax Memorial Fund - When Does Failure Become the New Reality?

You know, it blows my mind that it is 1 week short of 15 months that I first kicked the tires of the Gygax Memorial Fund. Admittedly, I should have been looking sooner, as someone "in the know" raised some flags with me over beers a few years earlier, but then we had Hurricane Sandy the next day and it got forgotten.

Not that an earlier look would have made a difference. I would have received the same non-answers then as I did in November of 2015.

Looking at 2016, the only Fund News on the website was the Tom deSanto announcement in July. What little info I had of going ons regarding that dried up months ago (I know someone that knows someone that...), and although I am not at liberty to discuss details, I think its safe to say there is little going on on that front right now.

As for Facebook, the Fund had two posts in 2016. The July deSanto Announcement and this:

Break ground in 2017? Sure. And @ConManKen is honest and kind to his backers,

Now, for some reason I can't find this post in the GMF Facebook feed:

Its from the end of April, 2016. That would make three posts. Now, Facebook can be finicky at times, so maybe someone else can find it. I'd hate to think it was deleted.

Nearly 10 months since the audit was announced. Yep. Not holding my breath, either.

Anyhow, about the statue that has no land (because Gail doesn't like the land designated by the City Council) and the bricks that were to have been sold years ago - this really has turned into one of those fucked up Kickstarters.

I'm still amazed that the money in the fund isnt invested in a low interest earning account. I mean, its free money, and as the Fund is no longer in the habit of raising money from donors, you think they would go for the low hanging fruit. If that isn't mismanagement (not criminal, put just piss poor) I don't know what is.

You know what is truly sad? If it weren't for The Tavern's posts, no one would even remember the Fund these days.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zak S Goes Full Story Gamer - Main Author of Vampire the Masquerade: We Eat Blood (and other related drama)

Yep, Zak S has gone full on story gamer. Good for him. Its all about the Benjamins anyway ;)

Now, if you read the linked post, there is some vagueboooking about allegations dealing with Zak's behavior online. That alleged behavior was apparently directed at David Hill. I could guess as to where such postings were made but really, does it matter? White Wolf has conducted a full investigation and found nothing wrong. Because investigating your own is always on the up and up.

No research assistants were harmed in the composing of this post...

WizKids has a Mind Flayer "Trophy Plaque" for $449 - I Want one of Tsathogga!

Yep, There is a Mind Flayer head looking for a home. I kid (WizKid) you not.

It releases in May, 2017. Preorders are being taken now.
Take on one of the most feared beings in the Forgotten Realms and display your greatest achievement with the Mind Flayer Trophy Plaque. With four tentacles protruding from its octopus-like head, the Mind Flayer Trophy Plaque is sure to grab everyone’s attention (no mind control necessary). 
The Dungeons & Dragons Mind Flayer Trophy Plaque is made of foam rubber and latex that’s carefully hand-painted for realistic detail. The trophy plaque comes with everything you need to mount the plaque to your wall. 
Please Note: This wall hanging unit is a heavy object weighing approx. 14-16 pounds and we recommend professional installation. You must install this unit into structural elements (2”x4” wall studs).
Sadly, I am tempted.

Still, I want a Frog God I can mount on my wall...

edit: As pointed out by +Moe Tousignant , there is a WizKids Red Dragon Head at a slightly cheaper $399 on Amazon.