Daily Reaction: Kickstarting Shenmue III, Broken Age, and More – Money Where Your Mouth Is

July 21, 2015 Written by Chandler Wood

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Kickstarter is becoming an increasingly popular trend in funding video games, from relative unknowns, to established developers looking to make their next project happen, such as the most recent Shenmue 3 Kickstarter. Despite this, there are many who are vocal about games not being funded through these channels. What’s the right answer? Daily Reaction joins the discussion on video game funding and the Kickstarter phenomenon.

Chandler: We’re living in an increasingly social world. Previously if you had a good idea, you would seek investors to back you and fund your project based on if they believed you would succeed. There are also business loans. Then there’s pulling the money from your own pocket and living off of ramen and microwave pizzas for years on end. There are so many ways that people have gone about getting their idea funded to reach even the beginning stages of development, and ultimately, fruition. Now, with Kickstarter, you can go right to your consumer. Conversely, the consumer can assist with the development of things they believe in.

First off, yes, Kickstarter is a risk, but so is handing your buddy $50 to help with his grand scheme for that “Waffles, Waffles, Waffles!” food truck idea that he had. You may be getting in on the ground floor at the start of a wonderful franchise, or you could find out just how much of a waffle your buddy is as he blows your investment on convenience store roller food. However, creation of a new product is not one sided. If an idea fails on the consumer side, the work, money, and energy put in by the creator are all at risk. This is why Kickstarter works so well.

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Talk is cheap. Fans can say how much they want Shenmue III to happen. They can say how great Double Fine’s Broken Age looks. They can say they’d love to revisit Harmonix’s Amplitude. But saying those things doesn’t fund the project. It doesn’t recoup the costs that the developer puts into creating the product. Good intentions aside, these developers create these games as a job. They money made pays their bills and puts food on their tables. So when they make something that doesn’t sell, it becomes a problem, and amazing studios have to turn off the lights and shut their doors. Kickstarter gauges interest in a far more reliable way than reading through forums or comments sections. 

It was revealed recently that Double Fine will just be breaking even with Broken Age, even after a stellar Kickstarter backing of $3.3 million. You’d think that any extra sales would be profit for the developer, but the Kickstarter funding was not actually the full costs for the game, and Double Fine put a large amount of their own money on the line to make Broken Age the game that they wanted it to be.

Kickstarter backers are not funding projects without reward. At a certain tier, backers usually get the game, often at a discounted price than if they bought it upon release, so in fact, the people funding the game are the ones that are interested in seeing a project happen, and it’s a glorified pre-order to support something they believe in. So regardless of whether the funds can come from elsewhere, Kickstarter is a way of making fans put their money where their mouth is, proving appeal and getting them to take an active part in development of beloved projects. Is it such a bad thing that developers want to make sure that people’s interest in their project is more than just talk?

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Dan: That is precisely why Kickstarter is becoming such a useful tool for developers of all sizes. We as an industry used to be completely at the mercy of investors, but rarely anyone outside of the hardcore even knew they existed. What this means is that, while you would love to have X game have Y feature, maybe that said option would be too risky for the expense, since there is no guaranteed way to measure sales before release.

At this point, I am sure someone will spout something about pre-orders being a method to gauge excitement, as well as reading the comments section. But, honestly, do you really trust everything you read on the internet? There is a massive tendency for people to hype things up but not purchase them, or tear them down and invest all of their free time playing it. Everyone’s favorite game of the last year, Destiny, is a prime example of this. As given the reception that we see from the comments section over and over again, you would imagine that the game would be a complete flop, but that isn’t the case. The reality is that most people’s mouths are not attached to their wallets.

The issue of course with pre-orders is that very few people will put money down on a product when a project is still needing funding. There is also the issue that pre-orders usually don’t charge people before the title ships, which defeats the ability for a studio to get funding when it really needs it. There are massive operational costs that every studio has to face, and if they don’t have a major publisher backing them, it can be very easy for the doors to get shuttered. Which is another reason why we see so many back room deals about exclusives, or DLC priority that so many fans complain about. Those are just the realities of doing business.

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What about something like Shenmue III? With an announcement at Sony’s E3 conference, it has to have enough backing to make it worth the cost of production, right? Well, given that Shenmue cost an estimated $40 to $70 million to make in 2001, during a time when the average game cost was significantly less than it is now, it would be hard to fault anyone for not picking the check up on a sequel right away. Also, taking into account that the original only moved around a million copies when it was groundbreaking, and the competition wasn’t nearly as stiff, there are just too many holes to be confident in a project like this, which is where the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter comes in.

The thing about all of this that I find the most interesting are the people who are complaining about pub-funded projects. If a project isn’t something you want, don’t pledge any money towards its development. If you are excited about a project, then feel free to reserve your copy and possibly get some exclusive stuff for being ahead of the curve. If want to wait and see, guess what? You can do that too. Sites like Kickstarter are not a bane to the industry, they are a tool that give people the same options they have at the store when looking to pick something up. So, if you are going to complain, complain about having to wait because you are super excited and hate waiting, otherwise, why do you care?


What do you think of the Kickstarter trend? Should developers be looking to their fans to help make projects a reality? Let us know in the comments below, email us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or kickstart some Daily Reaction ideas on Twitter @Foolsjoker and @Finchstrife.

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