The Problems with Big-Name Nostalgiastarters

The transcript for this video:

 

 

Hey guys! Gunlord here, comin’ atcha with a video I would like to think is up to some reasonably high scholarly standards, but on a somewhat less weighty subject: Namely, crowdfunded videogames. Again, not the most serious of topics, but hopefully my friends will still be able to learn a little something from my thoughts on it. One of the strange things about life is how a single decision, occasionally even a single ill-chosen word, can derail an undertaking that had been literally years in the making. This aphorism is aptly illustrated by the recent (as of this writing) controversy regarding Phoenix Point, a crowdfunded video game project created by Julian Gollop, who himself created one of the most highly regarded and influential strategy video games ever released—X-COM.

 

X-COM was such a good game that Gollop had been considered a legend as a designer, but ever since the release of the third game in the series, X-COM Apocalypse, in the late 90s, he had not had a chance to work on a project with a similar scope. He’d worked on various smaller games, such as a cute SRPG for the Gameboy Advance called Rebelstar: tactical Command (loosely based on a videogame he’d made before XCOM, Rebelstar), but nothing really extended. Meanwhile, Jake Solomon had worked on a 3D remake of XCOM for Firaxis Games, but while that was a success, it lacked the strategic complexity of Gollop’s original game. So people were still hankering for a really involved planetary defense simulator from the creator of the genre.

That began to change in 2013. Gollop founded Snapshot Games, and started a kickstarter for Chaos Reborn, a remake of another strategy game he’d made in the 80s before X-COM. That went very well, so in 2017, he launched a new crowdfunding initiative on Fig rather than Kickstarter. He sought 500,000 dollars to create a true successor to his beloved X-COM. Phoenix point would have many of the things that made the original X-COM such a success, such as time units, base management, and very involved inventory management, and combine it with the 3d graphics that made Solomon’s XCOM reboot a financial success. Julian also wanted Phoenix Point to have a variety of awesome features not present in a strategy game before: A narrative inspired by H.P Lovecraft (who had been featured quite a bit on action games or dungeon-crawlers like Bloodborne or Darkest Dungeon, but not many tactical games), combined with alien enemies composed of parts that would change and mutate as the game went on, providing almost unlimited replayability, since just about every playthrough would have enemies composed of different combos of parts.

The gaming public seemed to find his pitch very attractive. Fans flocked to his banner—myself among them, for a collector’s edition pledge of 95 dollars–and by the time the Fig campaign was over, he had made seven-hundred, sixty five thousand, nine hundred forty eight dollars, about 153% of his original goal. That number would rise as other backers and investors jumped on, eventually allowing the project to promise a stretch goal for floating bases that had been unmet to be promised as future DLC.

Since that time, the game had gone fairly well. It had been delayed from its original release date to (as of this writing) September 2019, but that always happens with software projects. Otherwise, it delivered several backer builds, or demos, that were a great deal of fun to play and showed quite a lot of promise. Everyone on the forums, discord, and subreddit was generally happy and excited, and it seemed like the game was cruising along to a smooth release, unlike several other famous crowdfunded projects, like Mighty No. 9, which had been delayed multiple times and had a mediocre release marred by a ridiculously bad ad campaign, or Unsung Story, which was pretty much abandoned. Phoenix Point seemed to be going much better. But something happened on March 11, 2019 that pretty much obliterated all of that good will. On Fig, Phoenix Point had been advertised as a PC game that would be available on the Steam and GoG platforms. Later on, they received a deal to port the game to the XBOX console, but for the most part, most backers pre-ordered the game with the expectation they could play it on Steam. However, on March 11, Julian Gollop announced that the game would instead come out initially on the Epic games launcher. It seems that Snapshot Games approached Epic about releasing Phoenix Point on the Epic launcher, and Epic responded with an offer:

 

They would give Snapshot Games a massive amount of money, well over the amount they received from backers and investors initially, in return for Phoenix Point being available only on the Epic launcher—that is to say, an Epic exclusive—for an entire year. In other words, while Steam backers weren’t entirely screwed, we still have to wait an entire year while everyone else plays the game on Epic.

 

Now, to be fair, this deal did have some good points for us. According to Gollop, we would get three subsequent DLC releases for completely free thanks to Epic giving Snapshot so much money, and if we didn’t like the move to Epic, we had the option of a complete refund. Even so, pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has been furious about the decision. Most of my fellow Phoenix Point community members have immediately asked for refunds and furthermore, declared they’ve lost all faith in Gollop and will never buy anything from him again.

 

Thus, you may wonder why folks are so angry. After all, if us Steam backers get our product eventually WITH additional DLC, and if we can get full refunds if we don’t want to wait a year, has there really been any dishonesty? Well, there are several principles that Julian has seemingly violated. First, Epic itself is a very insecure launcher and the company is quite sleazy and unethical. The launcher has pretty poor security (I can attest to this myself), it isn’t available in as many regions as Steam is, and Epic’s business practices strike many as bluntly immoral. Rather than competing with Steam (the PC game distribution platform that currently has a monopoly on the market, and that, as I mentioned above, most people who backed Phoenix Point use) by offering new features or useful addons, Epic Games can only compete by buying off exclusives. They do allow developers to keep a somewhat larger share of the profits from their games, but the Epic launcher is so much inferior to Steam that it simply doesn’t compare. Thus, even though Julian has offered his original backers, we who anticipated playing on Steam, a decent deal, most of us still feel that it doesn’t make up for the general immorality and sleaziness that Snapshot has chosen to associate with. Epic Games is such an unethical and repulsive company that even if it pays for refunds and free DLC for the original backers, most of us feel betrayed, as if Gollop had sold his integrity.

There’s also a more general matter of ethical investing. When most folks agree to put money into a crowdfunder, it’s because the creator has a cool idea that no investors are willing to fund, so it’s up to the enthusiastic fans to shoulder the financial risk. And these things are always a risk—obviously, bad luck, challenges fixing bugs, or whatever, can deep-six any software project. Thus, backers expect to be treated with a bit of respect, if not deference, for donating and essentially putting their faith in a creator where no-one else will. However, when the creator just up and gets money from disreputable bad actors like Epic Games, it’s as if Gollop had just used the original backers as an interest-free loan designed to get the project started so he could later attract richer investors. This struck most of us as highly dishonest, and even if, again, we’re allowed full refunds and free DLC, the principle of the matter is more important: The original backers who took a bet on the original crowdfunder pitch ought to be respected, even if someone with more money comes along.

 

Now, in the interest of fairness, I should say that you could make a defense of Gollop’s decision if you put yourself in his shoes. The thing to remember is that he’s not just an individual—he’s also responsible for the employment, and thus financial well-being, of everyone who works at Snapshot Games. I understand and agree with all the Phoenix Point fans who are really angry about Gollop selling out to epic, but from our perspective, it’s pretty easy to say we would never cut a similar deal. Most of us are individuals rather than owners or leaders of a large company, and we’re not responsible for taking care of a large team. So yeah, it’s easy for guys like me to say, “there’s no price tag on my integrity.” But if you were in Gollop’s position, and a devil like Epic Games offered you enough money to keep your entire team (not just you) financially prosperous for several years? Especially in a poor country like Bulgaria? Even if it meant betraying your backers, I think most people would consider such a deal, out of loyalty to and concern for their employees.

 

But, again, it’s also understandable why the backers themselves wouldn’t find this convincing. Julian has employees and a family to take care of, but many of us have families too, and we wouldn’t want to sacrifice their security just to play a game, even if Phoenix Point turns out to be awesome. Remember, Epic Games has some pretty severe security issues, even worse than steam, and that’s saying quite a lot. I remember when I played Paragon a while back, I used to get emails like every day saying my Epic account was compromised or something similar. So no matter how much Julian says this deal with Epic is good for his team and his family, most of us don’t want to risk our personal information getting stolen and inconveniencing our own families that way thanks to Epic. And that’s not even going into all the other shady things it’s associated with, such as the rather oppressive government of China (through the Chinese company Tencent holding much of its stock), and so on.

I’m not going to go into a long debate into the subject here—though I haven’t asked for a refund, my sympathies are with the folks who are displeased. Rather, I’m going to use this incident to discuss what I believe are broader, deeper issues with crowdfunding at least certain kinds of videogames as a whole.

 

Phoenix Point was what I deem a “Nostalgiastarter.” This word, as you can tell, is a portmanteau of “Nostalgia” and “Kickstarter”—even though Phoenix Point was based on Fig, Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding platform, and the word is often used to refer to crowdfunders generally. So, what do I mean with the ‘Nostalgia?’ part of that?

Well, in the last few years, there have been several high-profile crowdfunding campaigns that have marketed themselves primarily by being the brainchildren of industry veterans who created or were influential in beloved video game franchises from the 80s or 90s. The primary attraction for these crowdfunding campaigns—which often managed to make a great deal of money—was being made by these famous veteran creators, supposedly giving them an opportunity to make new games for fans who loved the old 80s and 90s franchises, that would capture the old magic with modern technology.

 

There are several ones I refer to here. One would be Unsung Story, which raised 660,000 dollars out of an initial goal of 600,000. This was intended to be a tactical RPG helmed by Yasumi Matsuno, who had directed some very famous TRPGs, most notably Final Fantasy Tactics, one of the most beloved games in that genre of the 1990s. Another, and more notorious, nostalgiastarter would be Mighty No. 9. This was created by Kenji Inafune, who was an influential producer in the beloved Mega Man series of games from the late 80s to 2010. After leaving Capcom, he wanted to make a spiritual successor to Mega Man, and Mega Man fans, who had been starving for new content and very dissatisfied with Capcom for canning Inafune, gave him a ton of money, just over 3.8 million dollars. But even that would be eclipsed by Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This kickstarter was even more successful, receiving 5.5 million dollars, because it was the brainchild of Koji Igarashi, the producer of one of the most highly regarded games of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Released in 1997, Symphony of the Night had one of the best musical scores and most elaborate gothic atmospheres of any game ever, and Igarashi wanted to recapture that magic with another spiritual successor—he even got the composer for Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane, to work with him on Bloodstained! Finally, we have Yooka-Laylee, created by the original British team behind Banjo-Kazooie, a highly regarded 3d platformer released on the Nintendo 64. While not as successful as Bloodstained, this one made just over 2 million pounds, which is about as much as Mighty No. 9 made in American dollars, maybe a little less.

 

You can see the similarities between all these projects and Phoenix Point. “Hey, guys! Didn’t you love Mega Man/Final Fantasy Tactics/Castlevania/Banjo-Kazooie back in the 90s? Well, the original creator’s back, so donate to his project!” By the same token, Phoenix Point’s pitch was pretty much, “Hey guys! Didn’t you love X-COM back in the 90s! Well, the original creator’s back, so donate to his project!” Thus, why I refer to all of them as “Nostalgiastarters.” Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I backed Bloodstained in addition to Phoenix Point. I haven’t backed any of the other ones I mentioned. However, I do believe that the recent fuss about Epic and Phoenix Point is essentially the death knell of the nostalgiastarter, or at the very least, will result in future projects in a similar vein making much less money. Allow me to explain why.

 

The most important thing to remember is that more than half of the above-mentioned nostalgiastarters had very troubled development cycles. According to Wikipedia, Unsung Story had been stopped due to a lack of resources, and had to be revived by another game company without Matsuno’s involvement some time later. Mighty No. 9 became very famous for the myriad ways it disappointed its backers. The game suffered several annoying delays and when it was finally released was generally considered mediocre at best, and riddled with several problems, such as bricking, or at least causing to crash, several Wii U systems. Indeed, even to this day, the promised port of Mighty No. 9 for the Nintendo 3ds has never materialized, and likely never will, and the backers never received any official notice from Inafune’s company whatsoever about what happened to what they were promised.

 

Yooka Laylee and my own Bloodstained did better, but still encountered issues. Yooka-Laylee didn’t suffer from too many terrible delays and its release went reasonably well, with no massive bugs like those plaguing Mighty No. 9, but it was still largely regarded as just average, not awful but not too great, and unable to truly capture the magic of Bajo-Kazooie, at least in this day and age. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is hopefully going somewhat better, but we’ve had to overcome a lot of challenges to get where we are. We’ve had several delays—the game was originally slated to release in 2017, but is coming out in 2019, hopefully—and the quality of the graphics was widely regarded as relatively poor until the February of 2019, where they showed off some muchly improved assets. And we’ve also had to abandon several ports, namely the Wii U, which was changed to a Switch port, and the Vita, Mac, and Linux ports, which were dropped entirely. So while I think this particular nostalgiastarter is going to end very well, it was pretty touch and go for a while. Given this background, I think it’s easier to see why the Phoenix Point drama would have such a chilling effect on other “formerly big-name creators looking to crowdfund their way back into the videogame industry.” And that’s because I think it’s finally highlighted several of the issues that had bedeviled the previous big-name nostalgiastarters.

 

 

The first, and this is arguably a problem with crowdfunding as a whole, is a general lack of accountability. Kickstarter says here:

“The creator is solely responsible for fulfilling the promises made in their project. If they’re unable to satisfy the terms of this agreement, they may be subject to legal action by backers.”

Well, what sort of legal action? You’ll notice the terms of use don’t go into much detail about that, and that’s because it’s a fairly weak disclaimer. It’s easier said than done to get a class-action lawsuit started, and there are several notorious kickstarter projects—thankfully smaller in scope than the big-name nostalgiastarters—that have just up and disappeared without any penalties for the scammers whatsoever. The one I’m thinking of is That Which Sleeps, where the creator essentially vanished from the face of the earth. How can any legal action be made against him? Nobody knows where he lives in real life; hell, for all anyone knows, he might be dead. Now, this problem might not be quite as bad for smaller projects. If some scammer gets 10,000 dollars for, say, a small board game or something, and he disappears with it, that’s a shame, but it’s not an immense amount of money, and not that many people have been affected by the scam. However, when someone takes 600,000 dollars, or even millions of dollars, that’s very many people and a rather significant bit of cash. In fairness, no big-name nostalgiastarter has failed that badly. The worst of them, Unsung Story, was at least handed off to some other developer, the others might have been delayed and mediocre, but still came out, in the case of Phoenix Point the game is on track even if attached to another storefront, and so on. However, the fact that there’s this almost complete lack of meaningful accountability should make even devoted fans of famous creators think twice about backing their projects. Perhaps another big-name nostalgiastarter in the future will be the first to just completely scam its backers, and even if not, the general lack of accountability leads into my second problem with these sorts of nostalgiastarters:

 

While complete failure is rare, there seems to be no way to prevent creators from changing the nature of the delivery, and sometimes the genre itself, of the game as they please without any oversight. Pretend you’re a big-name creator like Hideo Kojima or something, and you’re working on a Metal Gear game for Konami. While you may be the director, and you may have a great deal of influence over the game itself, you can’t just unilaterally say “The next Metal Gear isn’t going to be on the PS4” or “this game isn’t going to be available on Steam” or whatever. Since Konami is publishing the game, they’re the ones who make those decisions, and Mr. Kojima would have to clear it with those execs first.

 

In the case of Kickstarter and Fig, however, there seems to be no way, at least in terms of the Terms of Service of those platforms, to address sudden changes. Yes, Kickstarter says creators “unable to fulfill their promises” are liable to legal action, and Fig has something similar, but as most sneaky lawyers would point out, changes to what was promised are not the same thing as a complete inability to fulfill a promise. In the case of Phoenix Point, the game is being released on steam and GoG eventually, it just so happens they’ve been delayed a year due to the exclusivity deal with Epic. You could say this violates their promise to provide those releases “at launch,” but under that reasoning, several crowdfunding campaigns have also violated their promises, but for reasons out of their control—again, the aforementioned Bloodstained was initially promised on the Wii U and Vita during the campaign, but both ports were necessarily canceled because the Wii U had been superseded by the Switch, and because Sony stopped support for the Vita, among other reasons.

 

 

We can even more clearly see the problems of particularly condemning Phoenix Point by looking at the legal matters of other crowdfunding campaigns. For instance, look at Xenonauts 2, another Kickstarted game inspired by the original XCOM rather than the Firaxis remake:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/69341191/xenonauts-2-strategic-planetary-defence-simulator/comments?comment=UHJvamVjdENvbW1lbnQtMjM1MTQzNDQ%3D

Chris England, the creator of this kickstarter, says he won’t sell us out to Epic, and I’m certainly very glad for that—it speaks admirably of his integrity. But this is a kickstarter comment, not an actual iron-clad contract. There’s nothing stopping him from selling us out if Epic made a sizable offer. This isn’t to imply he’s dishonest or to impugn his integrity—I backed Xenonauts 2 and I personally feel confident that Chris is a stand-up guy. But that’s the same thing most of us thought about Julian, if you had told us just a few weeks ago that he would sell us out to Epic, none of us would have believed you. So I think backers definitely need stronger, more formal reassurances that creators can’t just blindside them with sudden and unnecessary changes every time a bad actor with money to throw around, like Epic, shows up.

In my opinion, we should make a distinction between changes, or even outright dropping of promises, made out of financial or scheduling necessity, and changes made for no other reason aside from profit.

In the case of Bloodstained dropping its ports, there was obvious financial necessity behind those decisions. The backers were aware that some issues with development, like having to replace Inti Creates, the original devs, had cost a lot of money, so they couldn’t afford to keep up with a Vita port when Sony was no longer supporting it. Similarly, delays meant that most people who had Wii Us would have replaced the system with a Switch by 2019, so it made sense from the backer’s perspective to move the game from the old Nintendo system to the newer one. In this case, it’s not that the Bloodstained devs just wanted extra money, it’s that they had to give up on these promises in order to avoid running out of time and money for the main game.

An even better example is in the case of Shovel Knight, which was a very successful Kickstarter designed to appeal to folks with nostalgia for 8-bit games—you could say it’s a nostalgiastarter, but not nearly as big-name as Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained, or Phoenix Point, as it made only a little over three hundred thousand dollars at most while Phoenix Point made more than a million after post-campaign contributions came in. Shovel Knight initially promised, as part of its backer goals, bonus modes where you could play as a couple of other characters (namely Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight), but those modes eventually grew into their own games entirely. That’s obviously pretty cool, but it also meant a significant delay—in fact, King Knight’s mode still hasn’t come out yet as of the time of this writing—and also having to buy each game separately unless you were an original backer or got the “Treasure Trove” edition of the game.

As you can see, there was some consternation in the shovel knight community about the increased price, but nowhere near as much anger as there is over Snapshot’s selling out to Epic. This is because it would have been very difficult otherwise for Yacht Club to finance the sheer amount of content they put into Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards without selling those as full-price games by themselves. They might not have gone bankrupt, but it would have been pretty straining on their finances—as it stands, they were able to recoup at least some of the costs for Specter of Torment (https://yachtclubgames.com/2018/04/two-million-copies-of-shovel-knight-sold/), which was pretty expensive. The case of Epic, however, was somewhat different for Phoenix Point. Phoenix Point fans will remember that Snapshot had to give up on the Linux port of the game as well, and while that was dispiriting, it didn’t elicit the sort of anger the Epic move made. Again, that was because Snapshot had to renege on the Linux port for financial and scheduling reasons, just like Bloodstained. As they mentioned, thoroughly bugtesting for Linux would have taken a lot of time and forced them to delay the game more than they already have.

The epic deal, on the other hand, was simply to gain more money for the project—that is to say, positively searching out cash—rather than prevent it from losing money, or in other words, negatively stave off an adverse outcome. It doesn’t seem as if Phoenix Point was running out of money and HAD to get an injection from Epic; the game had been delayed but otherwise everything indicated it was going very well. Under those circumstances, positively seeking out cash appears greedy and mercenary as opposed to dealing with an unforeseen budgetary or scheduling issue, which while unfortunate can be attributed to bad luck rather than malice. The same comparison holds for the changes Yacht Club made to Shovel Knight’s extra modes. Given the time and expense involved in creating the massively expanded bonus content, it was fair, or at least tolerable, for the company to ask for more money and much more time from customers in order to keep itself solvent. However, Snapshot Games wasn’t in extremely dire financial straits when they approached Epic, and while the deal did give them enough money for the next set of DLC options, those options hadn’t been paid for in the initial crowdfunding phase and the backers had accepted not receiving them.The Epic deal also involved an entirely new company coming in and changing the terms of the original agreement—the company is Epic, obviously. It’s one thing for Yacht Club to make a decision on their own to change how their game might be funded, but it’s another for a wholly different company, entirely uninvolved with the original crowdfunding initiative, to change what the fig backers would be receiving. There have been several other companies involved with Bloodstained, namely Dico, 505 games, and Wayforward, but those companies have only been helping out with polishing the game and improving it and publishing it, they haven’t unilaterally changed any of the game’s terms with its backers. It seems to me Snapshot’s deal with Epic is much different in all those respects, and much more high-handed and self-serving, at least from the perspectives of the backer.

 

Thus, if I were in charge of a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or Fig, my solution would be to add in several stipulations that would require a democratic means of input for any proposed changes that are not financially necessary. If the project has run into financial trouble and isn’t able to deliver on certain features, such as ports, I don’t think it makes much sense to leave that up to a vote from the backers, because no amount of voting could change the simple fact of bad luck encountered in that situation. Things happen, sometimes ports turn out to be more expensive than initially expected, and the only thing to do there is to honestly inform your backers of what happened. But if you’re not under financial duress, and indeed, you’re seeking to make more money—as Julian did when he approached Epic to change the terms of his initial agreement with the backers—I think there should be some penalty, perhaps a steep fine levied by the initial crowdfunding platform and forbidding the transgressor to work with them again, to discourage this sort of thing from happening.

 

Even more than that, though, I get the feeling that the “nostalgiastarter” business model is fundamentally and inherently unethical. Long story short, they rely on emotional manipulation to convince people into making investments—or more accurately, taking bets—that would otherwise be ignored under a more sober mindset.

Crowdfunding in general is a pretty good example of the “Caveat Emptor” mindset. Over and over again you hear that when you give anything to a Kickstarted campaign, you’re essentially just throwing your money away. Even being as charitable as you can, it’s different from investing. Investors have a cool-headed expectation of making money off their investment eventually, allowing them the evaluate what they’re throwing money at with a considerably more sober eye—and I do realize that Fig lets you invest as well as back, but the number of backers on that platform still usually dwarfs the number of investors. Backers, on the other hand, throw their money at something that has only a chance of giving them some satisfaction as a video-game player or board-game enthusiast or whatever down the line. The rewards simply can’t be rationally and objectively compared to the risks in terms of hard numbers since your “return” in the case of kickstarters is not monetary. This makes it considerably harder, I would say, to rationally appraise whether or not a crowdfunding venture is worth donating to.

 

These problems are greatly exacerbated in the case of big-name nostalgiastarters. Virtually all of them, ranging from Phoenix Point to Bloodstained to Mighty No. 9 to Unsung Story, have relied on a sort of halo effect surrounding the creators or influential staff members of well-known series. If you were a kid who grew up on the Megaman games, or a teenager who grew up on XCOM, Castlevania, or Final Fantasy Tactics, all the good times spent with those games have instilled in you a powerful emotional connection, one that remains even if you are a thirty or forty year old adult now. This makes it even easier for those old creators to convince you to donate money to…ill-advised ventures. Investors will typically look at someone asking for their money with an entirely cold, rational, hard-edged eye, ideally lacking in any kind of sentiment. But it is much harder to divest yourself of such sentiment when the person giving you puppy-dog eyes is a person you associate with your best memories of youth. Thus, these big-name nostalgiastarters, whether intentionally or not, rely on many if not most of their backers being even less rational about their spending than crowdfunding enthusiasts typically are.

 

On that note, one more aspect of the big-name nostalgiastarters that’s problematic compared to regular investing are the emotional connections built after the initial funding has been completed, while the project is in production. As I was just mentioning, most investors take a cool-headed, unsentimental view of the project they are supporting. This lack of sentimentalism extends further in time, while the project is being finished and even after it’s finished. If it’s a success, and the investors gain a return on their initial investment, then of course they’re pleased, but they’re only pleased in so far as they’ve made some money. They don’t typically feel many emotions other than that. And on the other side of the coin, if the project is a failure, most investors will, obviously, be annoyed that they didn’t get anything and lost their investment, but unless they put their entire life savings into it, they’re not going to be totally devastated. Most of the time, they’ll simply say, “ah, well, that’s the risk of investing, I’ll just hope the next one goes better.

 

 

For those of us who have backed projects like Bloodstained and Phoenix Point, however, we’ve often made a significant emotional investment as well as a monetary one, which can make the failure of a venture significantly more painful. Watching the Phoenix Point community over the past couple of weeks has given me a firsthand demonstration of this factor. Most crowdfunded videogame projects, and especially big-name nostalgiastarters, often find tight-knit communities growing up around them. In forums, subreddits, and discord chatrooms, the myriad backers of these projects come together and often become friends, sometimes quite close friends. But this means that if a project goes bad, these communities are shattered. In my own experience, it was at the very least disheartening, if not outright painful, to see the disappointment and anger on the Phoenix Point subreddit and forum. Whereas previously, we were, if not exactly a family or band of brothers, a nice little group of friends, afterwards many of us left and the sense of community was gone. I can hope it’s rebuilt as time goes by, that’s a long shot. Thus, it seems to me that emotional investment is often as significant a part of backing a nostalgiastarter as one’s monetary input, and this is a risk that’s not often considered. When you do, compared with the factors I’ve described above, such as lack of oversight and the somewhat manipulative nature of most big-name nostalgia, it becomes rather harder to justify.

 

Despite everything I’ve described in the video, I don’t want you, dear readers, to come off with the impression that these big-name nostalgiastarters have been complete failures. Mighty No. 9 was not a good game and Unsung Story has yet to come out, but at least Yooka-Laylee, if not incredibly, was okay. And as I mentioned earlier, Bloodstained has shown vast improvement and when it comes out, I think it will probably be regarded as a very good game, if not quite as good as Symphony of the Night. On its own merits, Phoenix Point is looking to be an excellent strategy game, easily a match for the original X-COM. It’s only the unpleasantness of this business with Epic that has cast a shadow over the entire project. Even so, the successes still highlight the extreme risks involved with big-name nostalgiastarters. With Phoenix Point being the most notorious highlighting of these risks—I’ve seen articles about the sellout on a variety of venues—I think it has spelled the death knell of these sorts of projects. I think the general gaming public is now largely very alert and aware of what a comparatively bad idea big-name nostalgiastarters tend to be, and will therefore be much less likely to support one in the future, that is to say, after march 12, 2019. I predict that any famous creator from the 80s or 90s who seems to have retired from videogames but wants to make a “comeback” is going to be met with a very cold shoulder, even from his fans who still like him.

 

Still, maybe I’m wrong. Human beings are known for having short memories. Maybe the blowback from Snapshot Games selling out to Epic will die down soon, though as of April 2019, it’s still burning pretty brightly—and if Bloodstained does as well as I predict, it might wash away the failures of Mighty No. 9 and Unsung Story. Even if I am wrong in that case, though, I do hope this video will encourage viewers to be at least a little more cautious concerning the next crowdfunding venture they back—big name or otherwise. Hopefully you guys will have a clearer idea of the sorts of risks and the kinds of manipulation that may attend to such things. And with that, my friends, I bid you farewell for now. I might do another video soon—either on Aristotle, as I promised someone I would a little while ago, or on Phoenix Point again, because I’ve heard from David Kaye that the deal with Epic might help their investors even if it hurt their backers, which might make their decision a little more palatable. But we’ll see. Till next time!

 

 

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One comment

  1. […] is an absolute scam, even worse than what I criticized “nostalgiastarters” for in a previous entry. My only crowdfunded projects I’m waiting on right now are Phoenix Point, Xenonauts, and the […]

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