We talk about Kickstarter from time to time. We might introduce games that are starting their campaigns, or we might talk about games whose campaigns have recently ended and have moved on to development. What we very, very, very rarely ever talk about are games that have been completed after a Kickstarter campaign. I mean, it’s pretty much just Shovel Knight, right?
But, we’re not here to talk about Shovel Knight. We’re here to talk about three games that are “Coming 2015”.
Remember River City Ransom: Underground?! We sure do! Almost two years after their Kickstarter began, this game is aiming for “Summer 2015” and is still under development…kind of. No, don’t get upset at the developers—Arc System Works, the current owners of the Kunio-kun/Downtown Nekketsu franchise, has purchased the rights to titles including none other than the original River City Ransom. It’s really just a case of bad timing.
Is there anything that could have been done? Could this have been avoided if the developers had just finished the game earlier? Not really, honestly, especially when the developers weren’t contacted ahead of time about the buyout. Games take time and effort to create. We’re often shielded from this fact with AAA titles since they don’t announce that games are being developed until they’re nearly completed. With Kickstartered games, we’re often introduced to games that are still in the basic planning stages, but we’ll talk about that more in a little bit.
Hyper Light Drifter went up on Kickstarter only a few days after River City Ransom: Underground, and is another game “Coming 2015“. Huh. Did we not talk about this one on GameCola? I remember being excited about it at the time…and I still am, when I remember that it exists. But, that’s sort of the problem with Kickstarter.
A lot of excitement is built up during the campaign, both from the introduction of the initial concept (with trailers and promotional materials that are explicitly intended to get you excited), and also from your participation in the campaign itself. It’s one thing to be excited about buying a AAA title, but there’s way more personal investment in a Kickstarter campaign. While you might not lose any money if the campaign fails, you’ll miss out on a great game! You want to see it through, so you invest energy into advertising the campaign yourself.
Then the campaign ends, and the developer has a year or two or three where they need to keep the interest going during the boring parts. If they had initial art and gameplay done before the campaign, there’s going to be very little to actually show for the rest of development. Coding isn’t particularly engaging Twitch material, but again, we’ll revisit that in a second.
Our last game is much more recent. Temporus, which went up only about a year ago now, is also expecting a release in “late 2015“. At a casual glance, this may seem an oddity. Why is it that River City Ransom: Underground and Hyper Light Drifter are taking more than two years to reach completion, but Temporus should be done in a year and a half? Was Temporus further along in development than the other games? Is it going to be a shorter game or have less content? Are game development times just based on the length of the name?
And, that’s the thing about game development and indie development in particular. As I mentioned before, we’re often shielded from the development process in the world of AAA titles. When we beat a game, we’re usually too busy celebrating to notice the hundreds of names that scroll by, so it’s difficult to grasp the difference in scale when we talk about an indie team of one or five or maybe even ten people. At the same time, companies generally wait until they’re sure a game will be released before making any announcements, while indie developers need to announce their games as early as possible if they hope to ever make a profit—especially if they’re launching a Kickstarter.
People talk about the end of the Kickstarter boom. It’s not the magical world of possibility that it once was, now that people have realized that the things they fund take time to produce, and may never actually be completed at all. However, I think what people are taking away is the wrong thing. We as consumers need to realize that this isn’t a Kickstarter problem—this is a business problem. Ideas fail all the time, and products have always taken time to produce. The only difference is that we consumers are seeing this up-front. We’re making a purchase and experiencing the loss ourselves, rather than never knowing that someone, somewhere out there made a loss that we never knew existed. We’re making a purchase and seeing the production process unfold in front of our eyes, rather than picking an item up off of a shelf and taking it home.
We shouldn’t walk away from this just saying, “Whelp, looks like Kickstarter was garbage after all; all those lazy bums and scammers.” If there’s something that the average person should learn from Kickstarter, it’s the amount of effort that really goes into creating something. Indie games aren’t made in five minutes using RPG Maker like so many Steam Greenlight commenters seem to believe. It’s not that we need to remove our support from a bunch of lazy nerds who just want a free ride, it’s that game developers require way more support than we tend to acknowledge.
In the end, I’m not disappointed in supporting any of these games, even if I had to search through my email inbox to remember what games I even supported. The initial excitement may have worn off, but I’m sure it’ll all come back when I finally get the chance to play them. All I hope is that consumers of gaming media don’t get the wrong impression from the Kickstarter slump, and that indie developers continue to find ways to make great games.
Now to go back to quietly waiting.