Someone on Kotaku
wrote this and after reading it I'm fine with shift in getting older games made
Bear this in mind.
Shenmue, the first game, once held the record for most expensive video game production ever, clocking in at costing $70 million to produce, and as Forbes points out, adjust for inflation, and that comes to $99 million in modern dollars.
This is a game series that had Triple A funding from Sega and while it was critically acclaimed, the sales did not mesh up for spending that kind of money. Apparently the same applies to Shenmue 2.
So when you spend more making the game than you would in receiving a profit from the game, even if the game is a creative work of art and story telling, the problem remains that few publishers or investors are going to shell out the kind of cash to make Shenmue 3 unless they can get some idea on whether or not it will actually sell.
That’s where Kickstarter comes in.
The same model was used by the Veronica Mars movie and Warner Bros. The WB would handle costs for marketing & other things if the Kickstarter hit its goal. Since that was a movie versus a full blown game, WB only chipped in partially to the expense at the time.
But this is where we start seeing risky IPs, the game franchises that may or may not do well sales wise but which are highly requested by a loyal fanbase, get a chance at life. Before, the answer was simply, “No”, and no game or movie was made. You were shut down, out of luck, zippo. This model, however, gives the investors/publishers a chance to see if something like this is worth making.
I imagine someone at Sony asking someone in their accounting department to estimate the cost to make Shenmue 3 and the sales it would likely generate. If the accountant projects that the end result will create a loss of $2 million, then that leaves the higher ups with a dilemma. They WANT to please the fans and keep their customers happy by providing them with what they clearly want, but also want to make sure they don’t lose money in the process. With Kickstarter, the publisher/investor can go, “Okay, I’ll foot $48 million towards your budget if you can raise $2,000,000 on Kickstarter.”
The Kickstarter is launched, the response is overwhelming, and the execs go, “Well okay then.”
If the accountant was right in their estimate of what the loss would be was correct, then the $2,000,000 basically covers that and the publisher/investor breaks even while also having a nice game to play that would not have otherwise existed. If the accountant was wrong and the game sells BETTER, then an executive can smile and be glad that the estimates were wrong as it turns a profit.
“But wait a minute” you say, “How does that add up? Everyone who would have bought the game anyway on release are pledging the money now, so who’s going to buy it when it comes out?” The catch is that with the Kickstarter, people are paying SEVERAL TIMES MORE than the actual retail cost of the game. Already, 4 people have pledged $10,000 each to see this game get made. 3 of them get a personal dinner with Yu Suzuki and get a boatload of other goodies, while 1 of them gets one VERY legendary goody: an iconic leather jacket which is considered THE jacket of the Shenmue series as a whole. So these 4 people, instead of paying $60 each for a copy of the game, totaling $240 in revenue (roughly), are now paying $10,000 each generating $40,000 in revenue.
What’s more, those 4 people are perfectly happy to be spending that much money because they are that passionate about the product which they have hoped to see for a long, long time. For them, they would gladly chip in all that cash if it meant seeing this game get made. If you asked them if it was worth it, then there’s a 99.99% chance they’re going to say, “Totally worth it!”
There’s always the catch that something could go wrong, but given the backing of Sony and their deep pockets, combined with the ability to recruit notable developers to create the game, with Yu Suzuki at the helm, this leads to the odds of this game getting made (and being good) even greater which I’m sure is what also helped many decide to pledge as well.
So from a consumer’s stand point, I can see why they would do this, and given that it leads to a creation that might otherwise never get made, I really can’t complain. Granted, OTHER developers who don’t have such nice cushy backing from outside investors for their Kickstarters might feel pretty resentful and angry, but that’s a discussion for another time.