Game developer Money Horse Games has blamed vandals – supposedly inspired by the recent breach against Sony Pictures – for hacking into development servers used for a game featuring Kim Jong-Un and irreparably trashing its data.
Glorious Leader!, a shoot-em-up, was due to feature North Korea's leader squaring off against the US military with the support of allies including his late father's ghost and eccentric basketball star Dennis Rodman.
The company was hoping to pay for the parody through Kickstarter, but funding efforts were going slowly, only reaching $3,500 of its $55,000 goal, before hacking disaster supposedly struck just before Christmas.
Money Horse Games initially said it wouldn't back down before deciding to pull the plug – not because it was way short of its funding goals with three weeks to go – but because its website had been hacked, in an attack seemingly motivated by the upcoming Nork-themed PC and mobile game's controversial content.
"We have NO reason to believe that this was done by the GOP [Guardian of Peace] or anyone affiliated with North Korea," the developers state in an update to the game's Kickstarter page on Christmas Eve.
"It appears to be an opportunistic copycat, as we have been the target of hacking attempts in the past," it continues.
"And we stress that, despite what the message says, there is NO chance that our backers information has been compromised. As soon as we regain control over our website and work computers, we will upgrade our security and continue forward," the developer said.
Devs at the company subsequently announced they were cancelling the game's development as a result of the hack, blamed on amateur vandals rather than the long arm of Pyongyang's hacking brigades.
The hackers destroyed data pertaining to Glorious Leader! and other projects we had in development and locked us out of our own computers and wesbite.
The timing couldn't have been worse as it hampered our ability to attend to the Kickstarter project. We realise that we also made mistakes in our pledge levels and rewards.
It is now evident that our funding goals will not be met, so we are cancelling our Kickstarter campaign. This is not the first time we have been targeted because of Glorious Leader!
Between the hacking and other threats, we think it is time to re-evaluate our commitment to Glorious Leader! We thank our fans and supporters, and we are sorry to let you down.
The Kickstarter campaign pegged out at just over $16,800, still less than a third of the way towards its funding goal, despite plenty of publicity about the supposed hack attack (AP, The Guardian and Mashable, among others).
The official Money Horse Games website remains suspended at the time of writing on Thursday, evidence that the firm has suffered genuine business-disrupting problems.
Some security watchers are still suspicious about the whole episode, while others are inclined to give Money Horse Games the benefit of the doubt.
"Something simply doesn't ring true about Money Horse Games' explanation," writes security industry veteran Graham Cluley, on the Four Sys blog.
"Is it really likely that the developers had no backups of its source code and other data? Pointing the finger of blame at North Korea, or copy-cat hackers inspired by the Sony Pictures hack, seems awfully convenient for a failed Kickstarter campaign," he said in the blog.
"There's enough doubt as it is that North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures hack, let alone that anyone would care enough to target a tiny games developer," he added.
The controversy has however highlighted the need to make back-ups, a widespread failing in the sector.
"You'd be amazed how often game devs lose whole chunks of game because they don't backup," noted avid gamer and security expert Chris Boyd, in a Twitter update. ®