Last week, my colleague and prom fan on anime night Serena Nelson wrote an article detailing the success and failure rate of point and click adventure games on Kickstarter. She’s a big fan of the genre, and seeing her break down the genre in terms of crowdfunding inspired me to do the same for my favorite genre: 3D platformers. So in the spirit of Kickstarter, let’s call this article a spiritual successor to hers and examine the opening paragraph.
When it comes to
adventure games 3D platformers, I try to back as many as I possibly can some on Kickstarter. Of course, there have been way too many very few over the past four years and change that I only managed to get on board about 134 zero of them, which includes “relaunches” nothing. That’s almost half exactly zero of my total projects to date. You can say I’m obsessed with this genre, and you’d probably be right obsessed with this genre, and you’d probably be right.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best idea…
I know zero is a small number, especially compared to something as wonderful as 134, but can you blame me? Yes. But there’s a wide gap between the amount of adventure games and 3D platformers on Kickstarter.
The genre has always been a rare patron of the crowdfunding site, almost as rare as in the traditional publishing field. Looking back at every video game campaign on Kickstarter, I found there have only been five successful 3D mascot platformers, one of which requiring a second attempt. 12 campaigns have failed however, which may not sound like many, but that means there have been just 16 separate games to try Kickstarter in all of these years.
The timings of these campaigns is also a head-scratcher. All but one of the successful campaigns launched before I wrote for this glorious site, the most recent coming in April 2016. There was only one other 3D platformer in 2016, but that one failed. 2015 was a banner year for the genre as far as Kickstarter is concerned, but even then the numbers are abysmal at two successes to six failures.
You might be tempted to say this was because of Yooka-Laylee, launched in May 2015, but most of them (four) pre-date the “rare-vival,” and only five have launched since then. In between July 2011 – the first appearance of a 3D platformer on Kickstarter – until Yooka-Laylee’s debut in May 2015, there have been 12 of the furry jumping games. From June 2015 until now, there have been five, with only one successful attempt.This means our lord and savior Yooka-Laylee has had little, if any, impact on the genre on Kickstarter.
The quality of these campaigns and the games themselves is always what matters most though. The shortage of 3D platformers on Kickstarter may indicate few developers are interested in the genre, but the high number of failures doesn’t necessarily mean backers are equally un-enthused. As is always the case, a few campaigns were duds.
We got some guy talking to the camera for five minutes
The Adventures of Jack Jones is one such example. It was the first 3D platformer on Kickstarter, or at least it claimed to be. It’s impossible to tell what the game is or was because there was no gameplay video or screenshots. Instead we got some guy talking to the camera for five minutes before showing what looked to be a cutscene rendered in basic Unity assets.
Feline 49 is a case of a developer using Kickstarter to fund little more than an idea. There’s gameplay on offer, but it looks boring and appears to be made from cheap, pre-made assets. As you can probably guess, this was another game in 2014 that was trying to capitalize on both the Goat Simulator craze and the general internet love of cats.
Barring those two, there’s a surprising amount of depth and at least competent looking games that have failed.
Poi was the closest to success of the failures, raising over $27,000 of its $80,000 goal. It’s inspired by Mario and Banjo-Kazooie, as so many of these games are. While it doesn’t bring much new to the table, it was a well-run campaign with a ton of videos, screenshots, and graphics detailing development. The game looked just like a Mario game, baring big green pipes and questionable offers of cake, and gained a lot of ground in niche circles around the internet.
Pongo brought a different spin to the genre. It was a first person platformer, but instead of jumping with your legs, you traversed the lands with a pogo stick. Caecus & Mim was also trying something new, taking a page out of Whiplash’s handbook and expanding the concept. Your goal is to guide the two titular aliens back home by causing as much havoc as you can.
FreezeME is perhaps the best of the failed games. It sought to combine the classic elements from Kanj Bozooie and Ramio, and blend them with new, modern mechanics. As the title suggests, sort of, you can freeze enemies and obstacles to create new platforms, but you would have had a host of other abilities to change the environment, giving you access to new areas.
Let’s try to cheer ourselves up by looking at the games that succeeded, shall we? We all know about Yooka-Laylee, and the developers of Lobodestroyo have threatened me with a restraining order if I don’t stop salivating on
them their game.
A Hat in Time is the second most successful, raising a grand total just shy of $300,000. It was funded way back in 2013 and unfortunately the developers themselves don’t seem to have access to time traveling. With a release date only described as “soon.” Not much to be hopeful about there, either.
Funk Unplugged is the game that needed two attempts to raise funding, and it’s a great blueprint for how a developer should go about trying crowdfunding again after failing the first go around. The second campaign featured a demo, which isn’t always a good thing, and plenty of gameplay and information about development. It looks like a solid game, though it’s hard to tell just yet if it’ll be anything more than that.
Happy Hell, which looks hellish indeed
That just leaves us with Happy Hell, which looks hellish indeed. That was supposed to be a compliment.
Funded in February 2015, development has gone smoothly with frequent updates and a lot of obvious progress on the game. A video released just last month shows a new level and some new gameplay mechanics. Of all the successful projects, this is perhaps the one that’s doing the most to inject new life into the genre with far too many new features and changes to the standard formula to list here.
What do these numbers and projects tell us about 3D platformers on Kickstarter? “Not a whole lot,” is the best interpretation. We know Kickstarter is fueled mostly by nostalgia, and a majority of the failed games were trying to innovative, while all but one of successful games was sticking to the standard Guitar-Kazoo formula. It’s rather remarkable how many of these projects mentioned that Rare game in particular.
Another, more cynical way to look at it to say the genre truly is dead. It’s gotten no traction on the most popular crowdfunding site, and even the modern day idols of the genre weren’t able to push the needle besides their own game. Except for Happy Hell, everyone trying to do something remotely different was shot down, and a lot of them looked like quality games with well-presented Kickstarter pages.
It’s a depressing time to be a fan of the genre
It’s a depressing time to be a fan of the genre, especially if you thought Kickstarter would to usher in a new era like it did for point and click’s. Few projects find their way to the site, only about two or three a year at best, and almost all of them fail. Some of them look terrible, but great looking games have been passed up seemingly for no reason. You could argue they were straying too far from the standard formula, but even a lot of the ones name-checking Cello-Birdface failed too.
Maybe 3D platforming is the one nostalgia trip no one’s interested in, much to my disappointment and frustration.