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Kickstarter or Nonstarter? Leisure Suit Larry Takes His Turn on the Catwalk

UPDATE: After a full day, the project has hit $100k in commitments, including 9 $1,000 backers. The odds of me taking some egg in the face over this post just went up, but honestly, my gut instinct is still that it’s going to sputter out short of the mark.

Verdict: Nonstarter!

I’ve been wondering at what point I would see a game-related Kickstarter go one bridge too far to grab my interest. It took a bit longer than I thought, but I think the reveal that Replay Games has teamed up with series creator Al Lowe to remake the Leisure Suit Larry series may just fit the bill. First, the obligatory details:

The team that created Leisure Suit Larry 1 has been reassembled to create a 2012 “Reloaded” version. Al Lowe, Josh Mandel, Sabine Duvall, and Leslie Balfour have teamed up with Replay Games to form what we call “The Dream Team” of adventure games. We’ll be making Leisure Suit Larry 1-7 and keeping you guys informed every step of the way. If this game is successful then we can bring you guys the rest of the Leisure Suit Larry games (and maybe even Leisure Suit Larry 4: The Case Of The Missing Floppies)!

The remake aims to bring the game to mobile devices, add in full voice acting (while still going mobile?), update the graphics, and add more of the “humor that’s made Al Lowe a household name.” The bottom end donation is $15 and will get you a digital copy of the game. The progressive “rewards” from there include a PDF art book, soundtrack, playing cards, and Larry-themed condom. I assume that’s one of those trademark bits of humor that made Al Lowe a household name?

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Look, it’s not my intention to disrespect Lowe, Replay Games, or anyone’s love for this series. Hey, when I was 12 (give or take a couple years) I loved this series. But I was 12 and the list of games with content that my parents would object to of was pretty darn short. If you brought 12-year old me to the present, I suspect he’d agree with 3729-year old me that Larry Laffer is a character best left to the ghosts of gaming’s past. But that hasn’t stopped Al Lowe and company attempts to resurrect this series at every turn. It’s not like this is the first attempt to make Larry connect to a modern audience. In the past decade we’ve seen such success stories as:

– 2009: Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (how appropriate)
– 2007: Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail
– 2004: Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude

EDIT: To be fair, Al Lowe was not directly involved in these projects. That established, I don’t think their only problem was that they were bad games. Larry is not a character with wide-ranging appeal. I don’t think he’s a character with even modest-ranging appeal anymore, nor has he been for quite some time.

Kickstarter gaming projects, up to this point, have generally been about resurrecting game franchises and varieties of gameplay that other publishers have generally rejected. It’s not like Brian Fargo didn’t try to get a publisher for Wasteland 2. Without Kickstarter that project sits in a drawer. Leisure Suit Larry? He’s had his chance, more than one, to connect with a modern audience and guess what? Eyerolls and crickets has been my general impression.

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Given that, this will be an interesting project to watch. After On day one of a month-long campaign it currently sits at a bit over $20k (at the time of this post) against a goal of $500,000. My experience has been that if a Kickstarter game project goes big, the donations surge on that first day. If that’s going to happen here, the momentum sure hasn’t started to kick in just yet. So, the question becomes, if it ends, say, its first 48 hours at $100k, does it have any prayer of making it the rest of the way? I’m not holding my breath. But perhaps I’m underestimating the appeal of stepping into the shoes of a balding middle-aged swinger clad in polyester. Does this project excite any of you?

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

18 thoughts to “Kickstarter or Nonstarter? Leisure Suit Larry Takes His Turn on the Catwalk”

  1. That sound? Why, it’s the bottom of the Kickstarter gold rush barrel already being scraped.

  2. Well, I am.

    Firstly, the three Larry projects you mentioned didn’t involve Al Lowe at all.

    The 2007 Love for Sail is a mobile “version” of the original 1996 game with a completely different plot. Hardly a full entry either way.

    That’s the reason they list buying back the rights as a bullet point. The company who had the rights treated the franchise like shit. And it is all well and good to go ‘oh they released games and nobody bought them’ but I think a more fair assessment is that they released garbage that not even sex could save. If a game came out to critical acclaim and bombed, fair point.

    However, not the case. Clearly this is market testing for a new game and yeah Al Lowe thrives on puns and innuendo, but for fans this is a minimal way to express that interest in a way that brings money in and let’s people enjoy a game from their youth.

    So, yeah, to answer your question the project excites me. I was raised on Sierra games and would love a new Larry. I would rather a new Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist but I am realistic.

    1. Corrected the record on that above. (Thanks!) For what it’s worth, I loved the Sierra games back in the day, but I think the least enduring of all those adventures is Larry. I think he was a creature for his time and place, but not one with the kind of appeal that will draw an audience today.

      This established, I will be in no way shocked if the Kickstarter drive ends up proving me spectacularly wrong. That’s just par for the course with these things.

      EDIT: I wasn’t sure about the other two, but I was positive Lowe had involvement in the Magna game. No?

      1. not to go all grammar nazi on you, but did you mean “least enduring” or “least endearing”? Just curious because it does alter the meaning of the sentence quite a bit.

      2. I don’t disagree, but I am a creature of nostalgia.

        If this brings back old school Sierra, woo, but I acknowledge that the time of them is long, long gone.

        And, no, I guarantee he has had nothing to do with the series since ’96. I have frequented his website many times in my day and read his numerous stories.

  3. I have 7 KS projects backed. Until I actually see something from one of them besides flooding my email with updates on how great I am. Well consider my KS bucket tapped.

    1. Oh no, Dan…they tricked you. You’re not actually backing anything. You’re preordering vaporware.

      1. I should clarify. I have gotten several board games via kick starter. The whole video game thing is new to me. Considering how long it takes to make a game I could be dead by time some of these come out.

  4. The idea of a 40-year old virgin where the goal of the game is to get laid has potentially massive appeal. If a new iteration were done competently it would have a far greater impact than any other classic adventure game in my opinion. Licenses such as Monkey Island have become the favorites of hardcore gamers, but Sierra always beat Lucasarts in sales handily and a license such as Leisure Suit Larry is almost certainly more well-known among non-hardcore gamers (and especially the non-gaming public) than Monkey Island is.

    This does not necessarily mean that the Kickstarter will be more successful than Schafer’s; it almost certainly won’t. It also doesn’t mean the Leisure Suit Larry remake will outsell the Monkey Island remakes; it probably won’t. Kickstarter campaigns and 2D remakes have an extremely limited appeal, and among those hardcore gamer types, Lucasarts and probably other Sierra licenses reign supreme.

    What is the purpose of bringing up Magna Cum Laude and Box Office Bust? How are they in any way relevant? If a crappy studio made a bad Monkey Island first-person shooter what would that prove? It’s as relevant as saying “the NES Back to the Future game was bad so I don’t know why you’d want to see one for PS3.” If you have actual sales figures on any of those games I’d like to see them, because while the two main releases were critical failures I don’t think it’s a given that MCL was a financial failure. Anecdote – my casual gamer friend’s girlfriend bought him MCL unrequested in 2004. So, a woman who has no interest in gaming sees “Leisure Suit Larry” on the shelf, has some vague knowledge of what it’s about and buys it for her boyfriend. That would not happen with other adventure game licenses.

    In conclusion – take a hypothetical pure adventure game, decently well-made (let’s pretend IGN gives it an 8.0), retail release of “A” to “AAA” quality with 3D graphics for all platforms. I am taking Leisure Suit Larry in sales above any other classic adventure game license in that scenario.

  5. You’re implying that the campaign has been going on for over 24 hours and has just $20K, but in fact it has been less than 6 hours total and is over $45K.

    1. The pot was at $20k at the time of the post, but I used poor wording on the timeline, which I’ve updated. (Since the Kickstarter page listed 29 days to go on a 30 day campaign I assumed it launched in the morning (EST) and had the better part of a day behind it. Still poor wording on my part.)

      As for the viability of the franchise, the point of referencing those earlier games is to point out that it’s not like attempts, however good they weren’t, haven’t been made to re-establish the franchise. I played every one of those original Larry games and as much as the adolescent in me got a kick out of them, I don’t see them as games that hold strong appeal for modern remakes today. Nothing would surprise me less than for the Kickstarter to prove me wrong and hit its funding component, but I don’t see it.

  6. I actually liked magna cum laude. Don’t get me wrong, the concept of soft core polygon porn is a little weird and in any case not very well served by the game, but the concept of a college humor style game is sound. Further I would contend that the conversation mechanic is still one of the best I’ve ever seen, which is good because it is the majority of that game. The rest was just a bunch of inoffensive minigames. As light fair, it was a pretty decent way to spend an hour or so.

  7. So I can pay $75 to become a game tester? Sounds amazing.

    Seriously though, hope this works out for Al Lowe and company. I just wish they would get Al Lowe involved with a new LSL and not a remake of the first one. The way the property was handled after Sierra was sold was such a joke.

  8. You should probably think before you shoot your mouth off in such a badly written article, Herr Brakke. The fans have proven you wrong. Ta ta!

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