The dream of so many gamers finally became a reality last week— the spiritual successor to the Mega Man series was finally released: Mighty No. 9
Well, that’s the nice way of putting it.
What really happened was this: last week, many disgruntled gamers got the carpet yanked from under their feet when the supposed-to-be-awesome Mighty No. 9 finally launched after a series of large delays. After tremendously mediocre reviews, jeers from other game companies, and the creator’s own seemingly-condescending remarks towards fans’ negative reactions, the very real risk of crowdfunding campaigns is all but obvious.
Crowdfunding has become a very popular method of creating games in the past few years. Games are not getting any less expensive to produce, so developers always take a risk with any title that they release; there’s always the danger of the game not selling well enough to turn a profit. We have seen many studios close their doors in just the last few years alone. With that said, crowdfunding primarily accomplishes this: it shows how much interest the gaming populace has in a title (if they don’t want it, they don’t fund it), which then leads to the minimization of the monetary risk that developers take.
While those are very important factors, the risk behind crowdfunding almost totally out-weighs those benefits—there’s a chance that you will not get what you paid for.
Original concept art for the game got fans excited; it boasted charisma and charm. While concept art is almost always different than what the final product looked like, usually the concepts are worse than their final forms. But Mighty No. 9 was the opposite, with the final version of the game coming out boring, uninspired and sloppy. Considering that the title was able to generate $4 million in funds, much more than the team had even first asked for, not to mention the several delays, the fact that this was the end result makes absolutely no sense.
Due to the fact that crowdfunding is an entirely voluntary, this is what makes it such a touchy situation. Nobody is forcing the consumers to help fund the game, the decision is up to each person. The developers can make promise after promise, but because the end-user volunteered their funds, those promises don’t actually have to be fulfilled. It’s different than that of buying a retail product; the item is in a store, consumers expect it to be of quality, thus making it both the store and creator’s responsibility to ensure that customers are happy. With crowdfunding, the situation is basically like this: the creators have an idea, and they need the help of the consumer market in order to make that idea a reality. Even if the end result is totally different than what was anticipated, because the consumers offer to support the idea, the responsibility is pretty much entirely on them—that’s why crowdfunding is such a huge risk.
Mighty No. 9 isn’t the only case of a crowdfunding campaign gone bad. Nintendo fans especially know of another situation—Slightly Mad Studio’s Project CARS. The game was one of the very first titles announced for the Wii U, in fact, it was announced almost a year before the console was released. Project CARS was originally announced to come to PC and Wii U, with PS3 and Xbox 360 editions added to the roster later on. The latter versions were later axed, being replaced by the announcement of PS4 and Xbox One versions. Surprisingly, the Wii U version was still kept on the table. The developers kept insisting that things were going well with the Wii U version of the game, despite the lack of any screenshots or videos showing it off. This continued for months, until it was announced to be coming after the other versions, before finally being cancelled altogether. What made this situation so bad was not only was it crowdfunded, but the fact that the Wii U edition was the most anticipated version for quite some time, along with the developers speaking highly of it.
Between these two situations, along with many other examples (remember the Ouya?), it’s totally appropriate for many gamers to be wary of crowdfunding. Mind you, that isn’t to say that it’s all bad. When crowdfunding works, the results have proven to be great. Games like the wildly popular Undertale, Shovel Knight, and the upcoming Yooka-Laylee, are good examples of where the community is left impressed and then some.
It’s unfortunate that we have major flops like Mighty No. 9 and the Wii U version of Project CARS, as they only damage the reputation of what is otherwise a very efficient way to create new games. As the indie community continues to grow, then no doubt there will continue to be an increasing amount of campaigns. There are too many eggshells to avoid when it comes to crowdfunding. As long as we have major examples of things going all but wrong, some gamers (like myself) will continue to avoid it as much as they can.