Somehow I don’t think this is what Fig was originally intended for. Fresh(ish) off the heels of the massively successful Psychonauts 2 campaign, Fig was enjoying a boost in both popularity and credibility. What better way to follow that up than with a PC port of Rock Band 4, a game that’s been out for months? Yeah… you’re right… so are you… um, that was a rhetorical question everyone.
I’m not a Business Expert™, but this move makes little sense for either party. For Harmonix, it looks like a desperate cash grab, especially with the massive $1.5 million goal they say they need. The company has been struggling since gaining their independence in 2011, notably laying off 37 employees in 2014, and needing help from Kickstarter to release a remake of Amplitude, a game originally from 2003.
Rock Band 4 was self-published in October 2015, but they did have help from Mad Catz with distribution. You have to figure with a massive franchise like Rock Band 4 being out 4½ months and a lucrative distributor like Mad Catz, Harmonix would have no problem with a PC port. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In that regard, you have to wonder if a PC port of the game is even worth it, especially since it’s not necessarily the kind of game that plays best on a PC.
For Fig, it’s a massive step back from Psychonauts 2, and even earlier games on the platform. A crowdfunding platform, especially a site trying to establish an audience, has to rely on new and exciting products, or sequels to big franchises. A PC port of a months old game that received mixed reviews isn’t going to do them any good.
This is, however, the first time Fig stepped away from its “one project at a time,” policy. It’s currently hosting this, and Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch. However, given the names attached to that project, it’s woefully under performing, not a good sign when looking at a campaign hoping to get $1.5 million.
This campaign will add only one feature to Rock Band 4, albeit a big one, and that’s Rock Band Network. RBN was a feature from Rock Band 3 that allowed player to make their own songs, and upload them online for other people to play. The service had to be shut down though, because it was so expensive. However, Harmonix says they can bring it back on Steam thanks to Steam Workshop. It’s a huge feature, and the only reason anyone has for backing the campaign. But it has the unintended consequence of making console buyers feel like they got an inferior product.
It’s a strange campaign, and does a great job of showing how far the industry has changed in recent years. The music genre used to be the king of the castle, now after a failed comeback, it’s relegated to PC ports on unproven crowdfunding sites. It also begs the question why Harmonix needs so much money. Whole games get made for less than what Harmonix is seeking. For them to ask for $1.5 million for a port of an already existing game, without any explanation of what the money is for other than “development and testing,” is an insult. If this appeared on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, I’d be sure it was a scam.
Crowdfunding is supposed to be for companies just like Harmonix: struggling indies that specialize in under-appreciated genres. What it’s not supposed to be for are former AAA companies looking to eke out whatever cash they can from their dead and dying horses. Nor is it for the crowdfunding sites themselves to support products just because they have a big name attached to them. As much as the industry has changed, it’s stayed the same.