Editor’s Note: Please note that this article does not represent us as a team and that any view points expressed within this article are purely that of the writer.
Kickstarter. The name for many will ring a bell of crowdfunding in order to make lifelong ambitions become true. For many this can be projects such as working on a book, taking a trip for professional studies abroad, and or simply making a game of any form, but with one thing; Backers get a piece of the experience in some form or another. Had you asked me a few years ago if Kickstarter existed, I would have said no, and it’s the simple truth; I didn’t. I wasn’t interested. Simply put? I was ignorant to anything outside of mainstream game development. I knew indie developers had a 50/50 shot to make it or break it with their title. While some lifted off, I played others that were horrible, and should never have been released. On the other side of the coin? I played games that were amazing, some of the best ever, and even out did games that I would have sworn were triple A titles. And now? We have a platform for that to happen: Kickstarter.
Kickstarter has been and seems to be the place to go for independent developers who have no backing in order to have a chance to make their game; be it tabletop in the format of board game, card game, or on screen as a video game for whatever platform the developer chooses. Over the past year we have seen some major titles make it or break it on there, one was a title I wrote about called Ashen Rift, which unfortunately did not make it, and is a title to this day I could only wish to see come to life. Over that time we have also spoken about games such as Rogue Wizards which was awarded as “Best of Show” at GDC 2015, which is amazing, and something we can only hope to see more of from independently developed games. But what is the problem with Kickstarter as of late?
The best example? Shenmue III, the game that has started this controversy, and unfortunately has broke the seams to a once amazing place to crowdsource funds for indie developers. 14 years ago, we got to experience a new legacy as Shenmue II. The game was a sequel to the highly successful open world martial arts title, that left us with a tale spun around drama, martial arts, and high-end graphics for that time. Even this day the graphics still hold up quite well, but most of all, we were given an incomplete story once Shenmue II launched on Sega’s final console the Dreamcast, and Microsoft’s first; Xbox Classic. Over the years fans began to rally and become louder, louder, and even louder for a new Shenmue title. As their noise got louder a console developer and a video game publisher by the name of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) began to listen in. At E3 2015? We got to see just how much they had been listening when Sony’s own presenter Adam Boyles stepped out on stage to discuss the game after they let the trailer roll. We got to see the beautiful animations and familiar faces of both Ryo Hazuki and Ling Shenhua on screen. Even with the brontide of fans trying to hold back their excitement, Sony and Yu began to discuss how the game would be funded, but somehow be published on the Sony PlayStation 4, and now it’s no secret that the game was merely a test to see what the player interested would be by using Kickstarter as its “interest test”.
So what’s so bad about this to be exact? When boiling down to the very basics of thing; it was a scam. We now know that Shenmue III already had Sony in its pocket, and they are going to be helping all the way through the games launch and post-launch requirements to ensure the game works. Yu Suzuki had known that fans would eventually find out and the most shocking part? The fact the apology came out quicker than his smile did. As originally stated by Stu Hrovarth in his article called “Bad Penny” on Unwinnable (definitely a worthwhile read), he states that the videogame industry has a silent and terrible force that has been awakening over the past few decades, and now it’s getting worse, a fandemonium created by companies, but also the fans. The prime example of this is how fans will follow the “piper’s flute, pouring money down a corporate maws, joyous, without question”, which in essence is very true once I read and went over Stu’s article several times. Quoting Stu there? Is honestly the best damn way it can be said when looking at the growing problem of consumerism as a whole.
This problem he and I are now both speaking of? Has been caused by platforms that are being abused such as Kickstarter, but also being caused by armies of fans who are unthinking, unquestioning, accepting of half-assed released games, which feature pre-order content to lure fans in, while the others are questioning, patient, and laying siege to the corporations whom don’t listen to fans, who launder their many in half-assed products, and even well placed consumerism. The problem? This will destroy the very industry we know, and this Kickstarter campaign I so quickly backed? Is a great example to this terrifying force that is exponentially worsening with every minute.
When looking at the Shenmue III setup that both Sony and and Suzuki-san used, it’s hard not to see that they wanted to know if fans were interested, something that Gio Corsi, third party director of Sony Entertainment has stated was there, and something that was most well received when they saw how fans took to the announcement of Shenmue III. In the interview session on the PlayStation Live Show, many fans would not be surprised to see both Gio Corsi being joined by Yu Suzuki to discuss the success and reception of their joint project. To pour salt on the wounds that have already been scratched open to a painful depth? Take a look at the Kickstarter project’s original information:
“The real challenge now is to deliver a sequel that we will all be satisfied with after 14 years of waiting. After much research and planning, we set the funding goal at this level believing it will make possible a fulfilling Shenmue experience.
With regards to development of the game, we have an experienced team, deeply connected with the Shenmue franchise. With modern tools, experienced professionals, and the community of Shenmue by our sides, we have set ourselves up for success.
We will do our absolute best to deliver Shenmue 3 and the rewards by their respective deadlines. However, there is always the possibility that problems may arise which could affect reward delivery. There may end up being changes in game or reward designs. We may press right when we are supposed to press left and get hilariously head butted and kneed in the groin.”
With this information it was clear that Sony was never mentioned as a form of backing, financial gain, or even a form of co-development to ensure the game would see the light of day. Instead? Backers were given the idea that Yu Suzuki would be using the funds in order to finish the game with his team, to bring it to light the question is? Just how much of a partner is Sony to Ys Net and how much of the game did they actually fund? That part will largely remain unnamed, but it does bring forth an even larger pressing matter; pre-release ordering of games that haven’t released.
For years now companies such as Amazon, GameStop, EB Games, Wal-Mart, Target, Toys ‘R Us, and many, many other stores have been a place of pre-ordering games, music, collectibles, tv shows, movies, books, comics, etc, and they have always included little bonuses for doing so. Be it a poster, a lithograph, a piece of memorabilia, and nowadays, digital content such as movies, DLC, or even free copies of the item bought through a form of digital access. It’s not unfamiliar to many fans who have purchased games such as Warner Bros. (publisher) and Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight, D.I.C.E.’s Battlefield 4, or even the overly troubled title by 343 known as Halo: Master Chief Collection. Fans who had pre-ordered these games, even purchased them from the get-go had one in common, and one thing that is the most deceitful piece of owning video games; a broken title that is riddled with bugs.
For months EA and D.I.C.E. battled issues with Battlefield 4 that ranged from game crashes, save corruptions, rubberbanding lag, frame rate stutters, and even other performance issues that left fans with game breaking bugs. Unfortunately, this isn’t a first in video game history since the launch of online updating for consoles. Except the most recent problems? Are on a much larger scale, even Bethesda Zenimax had a few issues with Skyrim for PlayStation 3, which left much of the game broken, bugged, and suffering rather large systematic underlying issues that kept even the long awaited DLC from launching with minor bugs. Another example as stated is the Halo: Master Chief collection that 343 Studios and Microsoft teamed up to release, and did so for the Xbox One. The issue with this one? Same ordeal as Battlefield 4. Much of the game was broken, unplayable, and even lead to some rather frustrating moments when fans wanted to go online in order to play against each other or simply play some co-op with friends across the games multiple titles within the collection. As an apology? 343 Studios and Microsoft later launched Halo 3: ODST HD Remake for the Xbox One as a free gift for early adopters as an apology. Hell, even Batman: Arkham Knight has been suffering issues of its own such as an early removal from the Steam Store due to how broken and unplayable the game was. So how has this even become acceptable? Is pre-ordering the issue or are companies getting too dependent on update systems to fix the problems that should have been found in Q&A (Quality Assurance)? The long-term answer is? Yes, we are the problem as a gaming society, we’ve caused this issue and allow for it to continue to this day at the helm of getting a few small bonus items and features from the companies will lure fans in with.
While Kickstarter is used for the right idea for many and some for pre-orders it’s time for fans to begin questioning their stance as consumers and begin deciding if they are the problem or if it’s the companies they’ve devoted their many to. If anything has taught us that we are the issue? It’s the Shenmue III Kickstarter and the failed launch of Batman: Arkham Knight on PC. Though none of these will ever be the singular titles to have bugs, issues, and even fixes that cause more problematic things to occur.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter @GamingAnomaly, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.