(Brian Rowe is a new member of the team here at NHS. Brian has worked with us for years at GameShark and he’s going to be talking about industry stuff as well as more of the indie scene. Brian is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet…so we’re still not sure how he’s going to exactly fit in here..but we’ll make it work.)
2Bad Company seemed to be on the right track for success. The indie duo from Portugal wasn’t overloading anyone’s radar, but Yokai – their first game in development – had an enticing art-style, solid gameplay, and a pleasing little trailer (above). They blogged, tweeted, made videos, created demos, and yet, almost no one paid 2Bad Company any mind.
The result: failed crowd-funding attempts on IndieGoGo and Playism, a rejection from IndieFund regarding a second game, and now…
“The future of 2Bad Company is uncertain, let’s just hope it’s not the end.”
By no means am I wagging my finger at the good people of the gaming community. This is the sad route that some projects take. Sometimes it’s easy to see why a game spreads through the the press faster than bird-flu in a wildfire, and subsequently becomes a crowd-funding poster-child, as in the case of Against the Wall:
And then there are successfully funded games like Pissed Off Penguins and Cafe Murder that inspire complete bewilderment. I don’t like being mean (maybe a little), but why people are willing to pay for something that amounts to a learning project is beyond me. In the latter case, the average donation was over $100.
Perhaps it’s time I reinstalled FlashPunk and changed careers.
From a development standpoint, there are two benefits to crowd-funding that are not often mentioned; lower barriers to entry, and the ability to bypass the press. You can make a bad game, and hop right on the train (or ship) without repercussions.
I won’t say much about this next trailer, but, after so many years in this business, you gain a sort of extra-sensory ability to look beyond the ‘cool’ snippets and cuts of trailers and see games for what they really are. I am not enthused.
The overarching point is that, had Muse Games relied on traditional sales models along with reviews and previews, a few people may have been out of jobs last year. Sure, you could say that crowd-funding offers people second chances at success, or even their first chances, but you could also argue that some people weren’t ready for that chance in the first place.
Was 2Bad Company ready? I don’t know. I didn’t try the demo. Actually, I’ve never contributed to a single crowd-funded project. In other words, I’m one of the people who let Yokai die.
Now that I’ve flamboyantly dismounted face-first from my high horse, what are your thoughts on crowd-funding? If you participated, how did you judge which projects were worthy of your money?
4 thoughts to “How Crowd-Funding Let Yokai Die”
Crowd funding, in particular at Kickstarter, is a HUGE thing in board games right now. Alien Frontiers, a very good dice game that I slated as one of 2010′s best games, was a Kickstarter project and it was a smash hit for its publisher.
At first, I thought it seemed like a good concept that would enable smaller, weirder, and more niche games to actually get published. It also seemed like a reasonable extension of the “P500″ crowdsourcing model that publishers such as GMT have used for years to fund projects.
But what’s happened is the ol’ gold rush bum rush. Now, if you look at Board Game Geek, there are Kickstarter projects- most of which are not actually published but seeking funding- everywhere. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the title of a new game and then found out it was Kickstarter.
Over at F:AT, we actually had to institute special rules and regarding Kickstarter advertisers because we got so many “press releases” from fund-seekers and first-time posters that were shilling their project. I called them carpetbaggers.
The problem is that, like all things in the Cult of the Amateur that the internet has engendered, there’s so much CRAP coming from unvetted, unprofessional, and untested sources. Now, you’ve got people “backing” projects (which is in itself a marketing trick, to make people feel like they’re a part of something as a low-level investor or something) that have no guarantee of being any good- or even ever actually getting published.
Making games- video or board- is a business. It requires a business model and best practices along with professionalism. If I’m some guy that wants to get my hot new game Bobo Jones: Butttown Galaxy Adventures published- and it’s really great, I promise- then I’ve just got to get it crowdsourced through one of these sites. Market it enough and convince people that yours is the bandwagon to get on- and offer them a T-shirt or some other crap to “back” you, and you’re on the gravy train.
I’ve only “backed” one Kickstarter project, the new edition of Glory to Rome. The company doing it is a reputable business that I trust and I’ve already played (and hated the art of) the old game. However, I backed it in August for a November publication and it’s still not even manufactured yet. To their credit, the company has been very communicative and is offering a free game to make up for the time, but it shows how putting a bunch of people’s money on the line like that can be a very, very risky business proposition. One that professional companies should _not_ be taking.
I dunno, I think that what this kind of thing does is just increase the amount of unfiltered garbage that’s available. I’m all for DIY, I come from a punk rock background. But when you’re asking people for money to bankroll your risk…it’s awfully close to a confidence scheme rather than a business model.
I have this design or a deck-building game called Springtime for Hitler. The goal is to get cards worth Zero.
I admit I am not the biggest indie gamer and know nothing about Kickstart other than it’s an old game from the ’80s. How does that stuff actually work?
Most of these crowd-funded games are just selling preorders and bonus content. If they offered people a potential share of the profits, they might see some people willing to invest larger sums. I buy stocks with only marginal insight into their worth. I might fare better in investing in individual game projects.