What Does a Kickstarter Failure Look Like?

Wildman

Type: “Evolutionary” ARPG
Company: Gas Powered Games
Birth: Jan. 14
Death: Feb. 14
$504,120 pledged of $1.1 million goal

Elements
- High number of updates
- Playable build at launch, showing early gameplay video

The game’s developers provided would-be supporters with a high amount of updates over the course of the project. They also promised a playable build of the game, and even showed the progress they had put into the game thus far with an early gameplay video. It’s more than what many other developers can say about their Kickstarter projects.

In spite of the fact that the Wildman Kickstarter had all elements that would foreseeably sum up to a successful Kickstarter, the game failed to even reach half its stated goal with only four days left on the clock.

A Short History of Gas Powered Games
To provide some context for the Wildman Kickstarter, we have to first take a look at the history of Gas Powered Games. The developer made a number of highly successful games: Dungeon Siege, Dungeon Siege 2, and Supreme Commander. Founder and chief, Chris Taylor, was also the lead developer of Total Annihilation, a classic real-time strategy game.

Since 2008, the studio’s releases had not achieve the success of its previous games. Space Siege bombed; Demigod, a MOBA, was “before its time”, as it was released before the genre became as popular as it is today; Supreme Commander 2 failed to impress fans of the original game; Age of Empires Online was a good game, but not as popular as its publisher Microsoft expected.

Microsoft pulled the plug on Age of Empires Online updates, and put the company in dire straits. Gas Powered Games was struggling financially, and Chris Taylor said he was “betting the company” on Wildman’s success on Kickstarter, a game that had been in the works since mid-2012.

The Kickstarter for Wildman started strong, garnering $200,000 within four days. Within a week, it had received $300,000 in pledges. Amid the Kickstarter campaign, Taylor made an announcement that 80 percent of the studio’s workforce had been laid off.

Taylor stated that if Wildman fails, the company would have to close its doors. At that point, the number of pledges began to peter out. It would take more than two weeks for the company to reach the $400,000 mark. All the while, there were almost daily updates on the GPG Facebook page and the Kickstarter front.

Before the project was cancelled on Feb. 11, it managed to hit $504,120, not even 50 percent of its goal.

Saturation
Wildman, an action RPG, was announced during a time when the market is completely saturated by titles within the genre. There are many action RPGs to choose from, including Torchlight 2, Diablo 3, and the free-to-play game Path of Exile. It’s interesting to note that Path of Exile opened to the public after a long closed beta period, just as Wildman had found its stride.

Gas Powered Games may have developed both Dungeon Siege and Dungeon Siege 2, but it didn’t look like Wildman had much to offer that other games did not. Potential backers saw it as a generic RPG with a Barbarian aesthetic, and that alone may have been enough to drive them away regardless of the depth of the world and its game mechanics. One astute commenter on Reddit wrote: “Gas Powered games has never made a game I disliked, but if I was a completely objective buyer, they would be hard pressed to get a single cent out of me with the information they’ve provided so far.”

A New Chapter
In many ways, supporting the Wildman Kickstarter felt more like giving to charity than a project—at least it did, to me. This was especially true when the company’s financial troubles came to light, and it seemed like Taylor and the remaining crew at the studio were looking for a hand-out rather than developing a promising game. This may be untrue given that Taylor was especially diligent in keeping the project’s funders up to date with their development on the game, but this was the impression to those whose only knowledge of Wildman came from news that the company was going under.

With only a few days left on the clock, the Kickstarter closed with the statement that its developers wanted to “focus [their] attention on other ways to keep Gas Powered Games running.” Three days later, Wargaming.net acquired the studio.

A month after the failed Kickstarter, Gas Powered Games released an update for Supreme Commander 2 patch, after more than 2 years, showing that GPG is still very much interested in catering to their audience and that it haven’t given up.

For all intents and purposes, Wildman seems to be canceled. It’s sad, because the developer put quite a bit of work into the game, but it’s good to see that the company is still alive and kicking and that it’s begun a new chapter.

The Golem

Type: Action RPG
Company: Moonbot Studios
Birth: Feb. 4
Death: Mar. 26
$96,128 pledged of $750,000 goal

Elements
- High number of updates
- No playable build, only early pre-production stuff shown
- Very long Kickstarter — 49 days
- Developers are not very well known
- Guillermo del Toro on-board as a creative partner

Moonbot Studios undertakook an ambitious project as a three-year-old company. The studio won an Oscar in 2011 for its animated short film, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” Despite lacking a “real” pedigree in game development, the studio’s previous work in the mobile scene shows an understanding of the medium.

“At Moonbot, we’ve been trying to find different ways to tell stories because that’s what we love to do,” Moonbot co-founder William Joyce said in an interview with NOLA.com.

The Kickstarter itself started with no real fanfare — it didn’t gather much in terms of pledges over the course of the campaign itself, despite the length of it. While bringing del Toro on board 20 days in did bolster the credibility of the project, it ultimately didn’t break the $100,000 mark.

Despite the lack of pledges, The Golem managed to garner a significant amount of press, with features from Rock Paper Shotgun and MTV’s Multiplayer Blog. There were regular updates from del Torro and other members of the team.

Nothing to Show
Despite the increase in press coverage throughout the duration, Moonbot never released any gameplay footage of The Golem. There were some rough animations shown, some story boards, concept art, but no real gameplay. Despite the familiar setting (Assassin’s Creed-like, with Cesare Borgia’s army bolstered by da Vinci’s technology), the company’s lack of pedigree in terms of third person action RPG titles may have hurt public interest.

Despite the failure of the Kickstarter, Moonbot managed to acquire funds through more traditional means, so the game is still going to get made.

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9 Comments on What Does a Kickstarter Failure Look Like?

Mustachio Maruader

On April 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

This is exactly the reason I continue to come back to your page, you guys are always at your best when you write your own articles and this was no exception.

quicktooth

On April 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

First class article :D . A long look at how kickstarter projects succeed or fail is EXACTLY what the gaming industry and gamers in general needs right now. Pity no single factor could be found to explain the failures, but looking at your analysis it seems clear there are a number of things to look out for (including competing products at time of announcement, focus of project, number of updates, plain ‘ol fun ideas, etc). We all NEED kickstarter to succeed if we’re to see a games industry that’s anything other than toxic, insulting and exploitative (to developers and fans). Thanks for making this article!

Martin

On April 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm

FYI, your “set the record” link is this site’s WordPress login.

R.J

On April 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I’m actually pleased to see that people are seemingly more judicious lately about which projects they choose to fund. As much as I admire the concept of Kickstarter in that it can potentially give rise to games that the big publishers would never take a chance on, I’m also quite skeptical of the idea of basically giving money to a business without a lot of strong obligations on the company’s end. Seeing that people are looking at more than the “who” of a project, and taking solid looks at the “what” is encouraging since it will most likely encourage increasingly creative thinking.

timfads

On April 17, 2013 at 5:17 am

I am a huge supporter of KickStarter and firmly believe that its much more of a benefit to any industry it covers than a negactive (although there is a real risk of big companies placing false projects out there to take advantage of KS). Still this is a good article. It is easy to just paint such and incredible development such as KiskStarter in a glowly feel good story, but the truth is that KS only has about a 50% success (funded project) rate. It is an impressive tool and trumps monolplies (can you say EA?) but as you point out it is a gamble. Its just a low risk, high reward gamble. You put some time into a project, just enough to present somethng real on Ks and if it doesn’t get funded not big lose. If it does get funded, you have a great project you enjoy and have already laid the foundation for an interactive fanbase. A lot more rewarding than risk taking there.

Goner

On April 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Very instructive, there were two idea that specially talk me,the firs is about the market saturation for Wildman, i used to ask myself why in movie ‘s industry and game now, they like so much the” clone thing “and what make them think we love this too, and the second idea is about Demigod who was” before it’s time”. Before it’s time… words who can drive mad.

jose

On April 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

Woody Allen always says whether one of his movies is a success or a total failure is mostly a matter of luck. A large, unpredictable set of circumstances surrounds every original project.

Vinícius Santana

On April 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

Great article. Kickstarter is not a channel of success for everyone and it’s become more cleary now.

Keep writing like this!