19,576 Backers Later...
Congratulations to Intrepid Studios and the backers of Ashes of Creation on a campaign that didn’t just fund, it funded bigly! I thought it would fund; the marketing was too sound and the blueprint of Kickstarter MMO past too established but I never expected it to break Kickstarter MMORPG funding records with $3,271,809 in the bank while pulling in nearly twenty thousand backers! WOW! So much for the MMORPG genre being over saturated with crowd funded games like that hack Tim theorized. Never underestimate the fans in this genre and the amount of expendable income we have!
Once again Ashes proved MMORPGers have never met a paywall we wouldn’t climb! Like Vader to the dark side, we just can’t resist the temptation. As the wayward children forgotten long ago by the studios and publishers we built we come with optimism and hope for our MMORPG future. Leveling up a Kickstarter is in the fabric of the genre we hold so dearly. It's the MUD of our dreams. It encompasses all things MMORPGers love minus the 3-D gameplay. Numbers, stats, goals, levels, PVP, quests and even tiers that show others you are superior! A Kickstarter campaign has it all.
This time was different for me. This time I never budged from the fence upon which I still sit. This time I watched from afar and I’ll admit I missed the feeling of being a part of it. I missed the feeling that my MMORPG peers and I helped give life to a new MMORPG. I missed being part of the community that crowd funded games grow. While the temptation to be backer number 19,577 was strong I learned something about myself from the Ashes campaign. The days of me Kickstarting games may be over!
If Intrepid couldn’t get me to back Ashes I’m not sure what could because they did it better than any studio before them and that’s a fact. They did what the other games I backed did but they did it better and they brought more to the campaign than most of their predecessors. It wasn’t them as much as it was me. Having played the Kickstarter game a few times now I’m just less interested in the big ideas and pretty graphics. What sells me nowadays is the technical stuff.
Unfortunately, that is the kind of information MMORPG studios can’t provide during a Kickstarter because it takes getting to the point of testing to figure it out. The next game I backed would have to be a crowd funded sequel to my dearly departed Star Wars Galaxies led by Raph Koster himself or be in beta then do a Kickstarter. Since studios do Kickstarters to get money to make the game to get to the point of beta…well you can see my paradox.
Compound that with the fact that technical talk puts most fans to sleep while trailers sell boxes and you have little motivation for a studio to show their tech hand during a Kickstarter. Worse yet if they do then later fail to implement it they will be crucified. MMORPGers never forget! (See above SWG comment for proof. She would have been 14 this month. I’ll be pouring some libations for her on her birthday.)
MMORPG’s evolve throughout production often in ways developers never expected. Coming to the table too locked in on a MMORPG is dangerous. A studio needs to allow for some development leeway but not too much as to void their original pitch which is what Kickstarter is, a sales pitch. They come to us because they need us but don’t confuse the relationship.
Developers that seek crowd funding are friendly, as friendly as anyone selling you a thing ever is. They might grow close with their backers; some studios do but at the end of the day they are a business they can’t allow their friendship to compromise the studio. If a studio fails reputations are ruined and more importantly hard-working people lose their jobs, their livelihood. It’s doesn’t get more serious than that. It’s a game to us and so much more to Intrepid.
Friendly, not friends because it must be that way. It’s not good, or bad, it’s just the reality of the situation. It ok. Don’t be cry. Enjoy the process. Following the development of a MMORPG is a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. Good or bad, it’s interesting as hell and if you dig in you will learn more about MMORPGs than you ever imagined. Sit down, strap in and let Intrepid take you on their journey.
Kickstarters are a crux for studios. Going forward Intrepid and Ashes will forever be changed. I’ve seen it happen several times now, each studio seems to evolve differently. Each one forges a path with their backers in tow. The fans, they will be the same. Eager and zealous at first but slowly fading over time with bursts of enthusiasm erupting when the studio lands a benchmark. The fans can come and go but the studio must remain consistent. MMORPGs are often accused of being grindy, players don’t realize the grind begins with the studio. Making a game is incredibly difficult, making a MMORPG infinitely more so. It's a tough business with a tougher audience.
Intrepid pulled in more cash than any MMORPG developer that came before them and they did it as a new studio without an industry established figurehead, making it all the more impressive. You can tell a lot about a studio from their campaign and Intrepid was on point the entire time. Hopefully that translates to the production of their game. I’ll be sitting on my fence, watching from afar. Maybe when she gets to Beta and shows me some of that sexy tech I’ll join many of you in the Ashes of Creation.