Campaign Postmortem: Blackmore
By Brad Jones
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]arlier this year, iQiOi Co. launched a Kickstarter for Blackmore (or Blackmore’s Bane), a steampunk adventure game that intended to take full advantage of a development team made up of industry veterans from both America and Japan. The campaign was unsuccessful, raising only $77,508 of the $200,000 stated as its goal. Considering the impressive array of talent associated with the project and the fact that the game itself seemed rather appealing, why was it that this campaign failed where others have succeeded?
Part of the blame can perhaps be attributed to Unsung Story, a game that ran a successful Kickstarter that ended just days into the campaign for Blackmore’s Bane. Unsung Story was akin to iQiOi’s title in that it professed to be a collaboration between video game designers in the US and Japan. However, midway through the campaign for Unsung Story, it emerged that the involvement of Yasumi Matsuno—a name that had been plastered over the Kickstarter—was limited to initial designs only. It’s up for debate whether this was a case of mass misunderstanding or a sneaky tactic on the part of Playdek, but it caused significant backlash against the product, with figures by Kicktraq showing that the campaign in fact lost money on 1/26 in response to the news.
Japanese developers haven’t been as quick to jump on the crowdfunding bandwagon as those in the West, with standout success Mighty No. 9 being notable exceptions to the overarching trend. Whilst the resemblance between Unsung Story and Blackmore’s Bane was superficial, it’s difficult to argue that the bad feeling towards the former didn’t have a somewhat undeserved effect on the latter. Whilst Playdek is a western studio that had input from a Japanese industry veteran, iQiOi is a developer based in Japan headed up by translator and localization coordinator Jeremy Blaustein, best known for his highly-praised work on Snatcher, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill 2. The following posts come from a thread on popular gaming forum NeoGAF discussing the launch of the Kickstarter for Blackmore’s Bane.
As you can see from the second post, there was more to the criticism of the Blackmore campaign than can be attributed to residual ill-feeling towards a superficially similar project. At the launch of the Kickstarter, there was no gameplay footage available to illustrate what exactly the final product was going to look like. This was, of course, of little concern to fans who were already on board based on the pedigree of the talent involved—many crowdfunded video games are pitched as a ‘spiritual sequel’ or the reformation of a team that made a classic video game, because that sort of project has an in-built audience that will start putting money down. The next step is to entice a wider audience, something particularly important for a product that has a relatively high asking price of $20 as an early-bird rate and $25 as the standard tier to buy the game itself.
An attempt to remedy this was made on February 21st, when mock-ups of what the game would eventually look like were posted to the project’s Kickstarter page. On the same day, an episode of Giant Bomb’s 8-4 Play podcast featuring Blaustein as a guest was released. This two-prong attack cause a spike in Twitter discussion, primarily from fans urging others to back the project. However, it didn’t have much of an effect on the amount of money that the project was pulling in.
Despite a strong finish, Blackmore’s Bane did not reach its funding goal. A few weeks after the end of the campaign, I asked Jeremy Blaustein what his thoughts were like leading into the campaign, and what they were afterwards.”We thought we would achieve our goal judging by the other campaigns we had looked at, but there really is no way to know until you do it!” he says. “We made mistakes on everything from the reward tiers being too complex, not including shipping costs and lots of other things. Also, we didn’t have enough material to do daily updates, thinking we would achieve our goal quickly.”
One of the things that stood about the campaign—and no doubt part of the reason that so many fans took to social media to recruit backers—is that Jeremy and his team made themselves accessible to fans who wanted to reach out to them. “I was doing the communications myself. Dealing with the fans is about 98% great. They are very supportive and encouraging, but once in a rare while you get a negative response and it can be difficult. Some people maybe don’t realize that we are just people like them and can say hurtful things. Not so much on the Kickstarter page, but on forums such as NeoGAF and Reddit. I now understand why actors don’t read reviews! I’m not sure that I’ve learned to deal with people differently except to perhaps try to not take it personally. But I always try to remain positive, friendly and humble.”
I asked Jeremy about the split in opinion that formed around the game between fans who were sold solely based on the talent involved and those who criticized the campaign for its lack of a substantial prototype. “I can understand both sides,” he told me. “Naturally, people are excited about the team as I hoped they would be. On the other hand, I can also understand why they want to see more concrete stuff from us. I entered into this hoping that people would be willing to help fund the game based on the strength of the idea and the team, but I guess I underestimated the current mood around Kickstarter. When we relaunch, we will be showing a great deal more of what we are working on now that we see what is needed. We’ll be sharpening up the KS campaign in every way you can think of.”
As you can tell, iQiOi aren’t taking the setback of a failed campaign lying down. The fact that the response to Blackmore’s Bane was so passionate has encourage Jeremy and his team to learn from their mistakes the first time round and make a reinvigorated attempt at getting the game off the ground. “The mood is positive. It was our first foray into the world of crowdfunding and we learned a lot and gained some very loyal supporters,” Jeremy said. “We are very confident of a success on the relaunch. As for Blackmore’s Bane, we are going ahead with development and are feeling very happy about the direction.” Expect to hear more about Blackmore’s Bane from iQiOi very soon.
You can read more of our Campaign Postmortems right here.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/brad1.jpg”]Brad Jones is a Yorkshire-born writer currently spending his time in Scotland and the Northeastern United States in roughly even measure. He likes to write about things like genre movies, pro wrestling and video games. You know, the stuff that will be considered fine art in thirty years but no one gives the time of day just now. You can find Brad on Twitter under the handle @radjonze.[/author]