I've been reading this thread for months hoping it would eventually turn around but it's starting to look pretty bad.
I think the main thing that killed it is the prepay model... it rarely works, in any industry much less the pinball industry. It takes away all the initiative for someone to work hard or meet deadlines if they've already been paid in advance. It must be really hard to bust your ass for 3 years, AFTER you've been paid for it.
Ultimately it shows what a great job Spooky and Stern have done. Spooky just knocked that shit out, and Ben was working with Jpop in the beginning, the same could have happened there. With Jpop's pedigree they could have been churning out games every 6 months or so and the stuff would have been creative as hell. Spooky still has tons of great stuff coming down the road I'm sure, but imagine if all those machines were being designed by Jpop! It'd be on another level.
It seems like many times when a boutique starts out (plus JJP, which isn't boutique) it's in response to perceived or publicly stated complains about the way Stern does business... they're presented as the alternative, and ultimately it just makes Stern look like the better alternative. I've really got a lot of respect for Stern for doing things the old way, here's a machine, send us the money and you'll have it in a week.
Hopefully guys like Spooky doing such a great job will kind of show the way for others to follow along down that path and get boutique games designed, built, and shipped in a timely matter. Not every boutique is going to have a brilliant mind like Ben Heck helping them make it happen, though.
I don't think Jpop set out to scam people, but people have been locked up for less, i'm surprised he has let this go on so long, it's eventually going to get to a point where people are trying to get criminal charges pressed against him...