On August 31, 2013 Mighty No. 9 arrived on Kickstarter. With a blue robotic protagonist and side scrolling action both incredibly reminiscent of a series by the name of Mega Man, the campaign caused quite a stir. Keiji Inafune may have been unable to create what he wanted in his last years as a Capcom employee, but Kickstarter had finally given him an opportunity to return to this classic franchise with a just different enough coat of paint to shield from legal ramifications. By the end of its first week on Kickstarter, the project raised far over its $900,000 goal and by the time the campaign closed it had raised approximately $4 million (including Kickstarter and PayPal pledges). Although originally tagged with an April 2015 release window, Mighty No. 9 is now finally coming on September 15, 2015.
In a move that surprised many, Inafune returned to Kickstarter on July 4 in order to raise funds for his next Mega Man-inspired project. Titled RED ASH – The Indelible Legend, it attempts to draw on gamer affection for the lovely Mega Man Legends series which was canceled before the 3rd version could launch. It’s also a mixed media event, with esteemed animation studio STUDIO4℃ at the helm via their own Kickstarter. Now, people absolutely are gaga about Mega Man Legends, even today, but something interesting happened with the announcement of this campaign. Alongside excitement came reserved comments, and even a bit of anger. The main sticking point seems to hinge on the fact that RED ASH is on Kickstarter while Mighty No. 9 has not even launched yet.
This is a very valid point, and one which deserves further attention. After all, it’s affecting the campaign. Despite having Keiji Inafune’s name at the helm, RED ASH simply isn’t making money at the same pace that Mighty No. 9 did. Instead of being fully funded in a few days, it’s taking some sweet time to arrive at the goal. It’s true that many Kickstarter backers have become savvier these days, but even so, a similar retro revival in the form of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night made its funds quickly and easily, in a similar fashion to Inafune’s inaugural crowdfunding project. Sure, we could throw Shenmue 3 into the chat as well, but I really do feel that the Bloodstained and Mighty No. 9 Kickstarters form a better comparison from the fact that Mega Man and Castlevania are both similarly adored retro classics and both campaign pitches were heavy on concept art rather than anything tangible.
But let’s return to the topic at hand. Why are people reserved about the RED ASH campaign in relation to Mighty No. 9? On one hand, this is not new behavior for a developer on Kickstarter. Just look at inXile Entertainment. The Bard’s Tale IV was successfully funded very recently despite the fact that Torment: Tides of Numenera is still in development since its successful campaign back in March 2013! With that said, folks do have Wasteland 2’s release to look to as for ensuring that inXile Entertainment are still as skilled a team of game developers as they ever were. That’s one thing that Inafune lacks right now. Consumers have yet to play Mighty No. 9. They do not know if the game is even any good — or at least what they had hoped it to be.
I’m fortunate enough to have played Mighty No. 9 at E3 2015. I did not back the campaign, so I do not know how close or far this is from early releases backers have received, but the version at the convention seemed feature complete. All that seems to need to be taken care of now are bugs. With that said, I can’t say I was in love with the experience as it does change up the Mega Man formula more than may be expected. Will backers love these modernizations or reject them as they’re not true to the “classic” Mega Man titles? I do not know, but the fact of the matter is, the majority of gamers looking forward to Mighty No. 9 simply have no way of knowing whether they like Comcept’s formative effort or not.
If you have no idea whether or not the previous project produced by a team is good, why should you have any reason to feel comfortable about pledging money to their next one? In my mind, a reason why Kickstarters by known developers do so well is because people have a history with and knowledge of their previous games. If, however, inXile Entertainment completely bungled Wasteland 2 it’s likely folks would be far less willing to back their next title. Yes, despite how wonderfully it would play on people’s nostalgia for classic franchises. Luckily, they didn’t screw things up, but we don’t yet know what the general reaction will be to Mighty No. 9.
So why did Comcept launch a new campaign prior to Mighty No. 9’s release? To be quite honest, it probably was a necessity from a business standpoint. Many game developers do not wait for their game to be 100% complete and shipped before beginning work on another project. There is a need to always be nursing a couple projects. With just one project on the docket, many staff members would find themselves idle — which is quite the expense. Not only that, but you simply can’t put all your eggs in one basket with one game. What if it completely fails? Then you’re dead in the water. There’s many more reasons for companies to continually work on multiple projects, and when you throw Kickstarter in to the mix, it just means that outsiders (backers) are now getting a taste of this business reality.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we the backers have to like the practice or even support it if we choose not to. It definitely appears that there is less willingness to pledge extravagantly for RED ASH, but there’s little chance it won’t actually succeed by the time it ends on August 3. What are your thoughts on the RED ASH campaign? Do you think it would have done better to launch after Mighty No. 9 was already out? Or do you not mind this practice? Let us know in the comments!