Opinion: How Crowdfunding Can Win Back Gamers

By | 3 months ago 

With the release of Mighty No. 9 now casting a shadow over the use of crowdfunding, Game Rant takes a look at how the likes of Kickstarter can regain the faith of the community.

It’s fair to say that the release of Mighty No. 9 has been extremely underwhelming. When the game was initially announced as a spiritual successor to the iconic Mega Man franchise, complete with Keiji Inafune at the helm, fans of the original series of platforming classics were immediately excited to see just what the title would bring to the table. The game’s Kickstarter page promised the world, complete with a multi-platform release and a wealth of other bonuses.

Unfortunately, Mighty No. 9 has barely even dented the expectations of backers. The game was released to disappointment from players, and a general consensus from critics that the title was lacklustre at best. In spite of all its potential, Mighty No. 9 was a mediocre platformer that paled in comparison to the games that came before it, while some of the ports of the game struggled to run at a steady rate.

As such, the game has also left a bit of a black mark on the notion of crowdfunding as a whole. Fans being able to directly fund the development of new games is hardly a fresh idea by now, with the concept having been around for several years, but nonetheless the stability of such a business model still feels rather fragile. When a project such as Mighty No. 9, which was a high-profile title with an impressive number of backers, fails to make a positive impact on gaming, it certainly seems to justify some of the scepticism surrounding crowdfunding.

Report: Kickstarter Video Games Declining in Popularity - Mighty No. 9 Beck

It’s true that a sense of cynicism over crowdfunding has descended on gaming, and the results are clear for all to see. It was recently revealed that the funding of video games on Kickstarter has been dropping of late, and the failure of titles like Mighty No. 9 will do little to endear the gaming community to the business model. When a crowdfunded game doesn’t deliver, it stumbles in front of the eyes of potentially millions of investors – and those investors would be forgiven for their hesitance over backing future games.

Unfortunately, this could prove problematic for those creators who truly look to crowdfunding as a means to make a project they love a reality, as sites such as Kickstarter provide a possible route for developers who want to stray from the traditional publishing route. Whether it’s a new developer trying to stay independent, or an old hand looking to make a style of game that is no longer considered viable by industry management, it does seem as though crowdfunding could serve as an important lifeline for these creators.

Pillars of Eternity GR Picks

It’s also hardly as though crowdfunding has yet to bring about any successes, either. In spite of the calamity that is Mighty No. 9, there are still a huge number of games that have used crowdfunding to create titles of genuine quality. Pillars of Eternity was one of the best games of 2015, while Double Fine’s Broken Age has also received plenty of plaudits. Meanwhile, two more high-profile projects, in the form of Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained: Symphony of the Night, are proceeding at a very promising rate, and behind-closed-doors sessions with Yooka-Laylee in particular have been extremely positive.

How, then, can sites like Kickstarter regain the faith of gamers? For starters, developers looking to crowdfund projects could look at exactly where Mighty No. 9 went wrong. After all, managing to negate the errors that befell the game could lead to a much easier and more well-received funding process.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with the Mighty No. 9 campaign was the difference between what was promised and what was delivered. Over-promising is something that has proved to be one of the major bugbears of a large portion of the gaming community, be it in the form of Peter Molyneux’s grand claims for projects or the lack of parity between early footage of Ubisoft games and the finished product. In many cases, a failure to deliver on cast-iron expectations is seen as a deception by gamers, and this is even more noticeable when users have personally financed the game in question.

Mighty No 9 Delayed Again to 2016

With Mighty No. 9, Comcept promised the world: a new game in the style of Mega Man, across multiple platforms, and with a unique and eye-catching graphical style. When the game finally released, however, the difference was obvious, with comparatively bland visuals when contrasted with early footage and screenshots.

For some, it appeared as though the development of Mighty No. 9 was spread too thin, and suggestions that a lack of focus led to a weaker final product certainly ring true. This focus is another area that other developers may want to keep in mind with their own projects. After all, most users would rather have a simple prospect made perfect than a vast campaign but mediocre product.

The most noticeable example of this with the development of Mighty No. 9 was the reveal that Comcept already had another game in mind. Red Ash, which itself was framed as a nod to the Mega Man Legends series, was put forward for backing while Mighty No. 9 was still in development. Unsurprisingly, fans were less than ecstatic about this choice, with many feeling that it could prove detrimental to the finished product that had already been funded. This sentiment was hardly softened when Inafune discussed the potential for a sequel to Mighty No. 9 before the original was even released.

red ash

The Red Ash fiasco also showcased another of the major flaws of Comcept’s strategy during the creation of Mighty No. 9: a lack of clear communication with its backers. Gamers were left out of the loop through the development process, which led to an understandable level of frustration. This came to the fore when news of other external backers appeared, with companies such as Deep Silver having a stake in the game alongside funds gathered from Kickstarter. In the end, many backers felt like they were no longer an important part of the process.

Thankfully, not all crowdfunded games have suffered from the same issues as Mighty No. 9, and a multitude of other developers have either delivered upon great games or a still making steady process using the business model. What’s more, some developers have already adapted to user expectations accordingly.

Take, for instance, the System Shock reboot from Night Dive Studios, which opened up to Kickstarter funding complete with a fully playable demo of the game. Acts such as this will go a long way towards making potential backers feel comfortable with the project, giving a finite example of what the full game could have in store.

With that in mind, there is clearly more to come from the crowdfunding model. With care and attention, it can still provide a style of game that traditional publishing practices shy away from, and can still result in a wider library of titles for all. Hopefully, Mighty No. 9 will not be the start of an epitaph for crowdfunding, but instead be the moment when the likes of Kickstarter truly adapted to backer needs.