With Mighty No.9 finally launching after an interminable series of unexpected delays coupled with early reviews painting the final product to be less than formidable, a large amount of seasoned backers are calling into question the reality of Kickstarter games. Mighty No. 9 is not the first Kickstarter game to fall flat on its face and it certainly won’t be the last, but is the way the game was handled leading up to its eventual release something to be weary of going forward?
Mighty No.9 was not the first game producer Keiji Inafune had worked on through KickStarter. No in fact his first project was Red Ash, which was a game that he had originally promised to be a successor to the beloved Mega Man Legends series. Much like Mighty No.9, however, it turns out that these promises were a little more than misleading. Similar to Mighty No.9’s development, Red Ash was plagued with problems from the very start. The game development team suffered from lack of communication between the backers and themselves as they failed to give straight-forwarded answers to backers about what exactly they were offering in exchange for their help (sound familiar?). There was confusion on whether the campaign was for a full game or a prologue; the campaign organizers promised a console port, but wouldn’t get specific about which console it would be ported to, and on top of it all and the game found a traditional publisher (FUZE) to fund their game. Meaning all the money that backers had put up went towards “stretch goals” but what kind of “stretch goals” it was put towards wasn’t clear.
“The Kickstarter campaign is going 100% towards more content! Consider your pledge a contribution to stretch goals from here on out. Exactly what are those stretch goals? We’re sorry to say that will have to wait a little while longer! Like we said, we’re very busy with many behind-the-scenes things over here, and we apologize if you feel left in the dark. As you can see, the things we have brewing that are keeping us occupied are BIG, and all for the purpose of getting you RED ASH in its biggest, bestest form. That’s the reason we’re less communicative than we’d like to be! We know we’re in the final days of our campaign, but we’d like to ask fans to continue their support of RED ASH! Your money is going towards 100% content now, so please look forward to the revised “stretch goals”!”
All this sounds well and fine, but when a Kickstarter goes from begging you for you help to fund the game to telling you your money is no good for development of that game and will go towards “stretch goals,” it comes off very sketchy (similar to Mighty No.9. This wasn’t a violation in their terms of service, but it seemed to have gone against the second rule of starting up a Kickstarter, which is “Project must be honest and clearly presented,” something both Red Ash and Mighty No.9 struggled with. Inafune had stated that the launch release of Mighty No.9 was “better than nothing” and although that may be true, this is not the first time Inafune had stated the final project of a game was better than nothing at all. Red Ash’s campaign fell short and Inafune decided to continue work on it anyways. The early product came out of the development oven just a bad as Mighty No.9 turned out to be. Once is a mistake but twice is a pattern; Mighty No. 9 was plagued with problems from the start and Inafune’s shady way of dancing around his multitude of issues with the game set off major red flags from the beginning.
All of these delays and issues with both games wouldn’t have been as bad as they were if Inafune and his team weren’t so dishonest about it. For example, when Amazon and GameStop suddenly switched Mighty No.9’s release date from September 15 to a 2016 placeholder without so much of a heads up to backers, producer Nick Yu stated to the game’s forum moderator that everything was fine causing the forum moderator to release the following statement, “Hey Guys! Just Received word from Nick that it’s a mistake. Looks like there was just some miscommunication, no need to worry. The release date is the same.” Obviously, this turned out to be far from the truth and on top of it all when Mighty No. 9 had released, Inafune suggest that fans should be grateful that they got anything at all, which isn’t something invested backers want to hear. I think they would rather have their hard-earned money reimbursed than receiving a below the bar, off course game in return.
Nevertheless, potential backers for Kickstarters shouldn’t let Mighty No.9 and Red Ash’s broken promises put a sour taste in their mouth when deciding whether or not to make a long-term investment into a project. Yooka Laylee’s creators, Playtonic Games, are the perfect example of how a Kickstarter game should truly be handled. Playtonic Games offers their backers clear and concise updates regarding the projects development stages. They also decided to offer backers (from the start) a self-contained Toybox in-order to give backers a taste of how the final game will play. Playtonic Games also breaks down exactly what backers money is being spent on and actually spend it on that instead of taking the money and putting it towards who knows what like Comcept consistently does, as they tend to always keep their backers and the community alike in the dark and at arms length at all times.
The main thing to keep in mind is that Kickstarters are still a good thing. They allow developers and small companies to create games that mainline AAA developers tend to ignore or wouldn’t dare invest time and money on. Without Kickstarer we would not have games like Shovel Knight, Broken Age and Darkest Dungeon (Early Access). It’s not the Kickstarter’s fault that Mighty No.9 and Red Ash failed to deliver what was promised, it’s the man behind the project to blame and Keiji Inafune has proven twice that he doesn’t know how to run a Kickstarer and would rather release a half-baked game that backers don’t deserve than close the project down and return their money.