Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn and Mighty No. 9 aren’t talked about in tandem often. This is probably the first time, in which case I’ll take my medal now. At first glance, any similarities seem minuscule. Both games used crowdfunding, they sought to atone for previous games’ sins, and are/were developed by inexperienced teams. Conversely, you could list off the differences for ages.
But they both share one core similarity. Neither of these campaigns met funding because of the games themselves. It was everything surrounding them which fueled their success.
In one corner, Mighty No. 9 had the weight of scorned Mega Man fans behind it. Creator Keiji Inafune only added fuel to the fire by constantly comparing his new work to the old. It was to be a return to form and the beginning of a new series of Mega Man-ish games. They were seen as saviors, and that’s reflected not only by the $4 million dollar funding, but the massive backlash with every update. Inafune and his team at Comcept had to carry those expectations with every step of development.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Redeployed targeted the “so bad it’s good” crowd. On their Indiegogo page, they used the same phrase to describe the previous Shaq Fu, and name dropped a website dedicated to destroying copies of it. The developers, Big Deez, didn’t seem to take it too seriously, and neither did backers. It’s the Bob Dole bobblehead my sister got for my birthday this year: a joke novelty. It barely met its $450,000 goal despite having such a massive pop culture icon glued to it and that’s why.
Let’s not forget neither of these crowdfunding projects had much semblance of a game attached them. The two used concept art and maybe a brief teaser trailer of some sort, while the meat of their pitches focused on those other factors. Developers, or anyone using crowdfunding, use nostalgia all the time. Without that, a celebrity name, or the appeal of novelty, Kickstarter would probably have 20% of the projects it’s got now.
So what’s the problem? It’s about whether or the developers care as much as their backers. Since both Inafune and Big Deez were more or less starting from the ground up, it’s not clear if these are projects they’re already invested in. Some developers, like Wave Interactive did with Buck, spend years and their own money and time on projects because they’re passionate about them.
Which is not to say Shaq Fu: A Legend Rejuvenated and Mighty No. 9 were money grabs. We have no way of knowing, but we can assume both teams wanted to (and did) the best job they could with what they had. But in Shaq Fu’s case, there’s less certainty. Where Inafune and Comcept were open with their shortcomings and the development cycle, Big Deez have shut the door and closed the curtains.
The question becomes: is it okay that Shaq Fu: A Legend Revised has disappeared? Crowdfunding is always a risk, and in this case the backers don’t care about the game’s disappearance. The comment section wouldn’t be so barren if that were the case. News outlets would pick up this story as they did with Mighty No. 9. Given it’s a game involving Shaquille O’Neal, it could even reach farther than Mighty No. 9 did. Yet that front is as silent as Big Deez. If seemingly nobody involved cares, why should anyone?
Because this is a slippery slope, my friend.
Along with their money, Big Deez received a license to do whatever they please. From a majority of the backers perspective, this game would never be good, that wasn’t the point. The developers knew it, so they felt no pressure to be transparent the way Comcept were with Mighty No. 9. Big Deez are body-surfing on a ripple of low expectations, while Comcept were surfing on a wave of high expectation, desperate to hang on. Some of those high expectations led to too much negativity by the end, but they kept Inafune and team in check.
By allowing Shaq Fu: A Legend Re-contextualized to get off the hook because “no one cares,” we’re giving the same license to not give a shit to other developers. Frequent updates act as a window into a game’s creation. Even a post as simple as “hey, we’re still here, nothing to report” goes a long way to show backers that the developers still care.
Without those updates, a developer can disappear for months or years, announce the game was canceled with a simple “we tried,” and we’ll never know how accurate a statement that is. Crowdfunding is akin to gambling, but that doesn’t mean it should be just as harsh, making backers wait months or even years to know if the game is still being developed or not.
It’s a roundabout discussion. Why did they use crowdfunding and why did anyone back the project? I don’t have the answers to those questions. Between the video and this article, I hope I get some gears turning at least.
I think we need to be tough on Shaq Fu: A Legend Referencing a Dictionary. If the game comes out and isn’t any good, fair enough. But if it never comes out and we stay silent about it, that will let any shady developer replicate Big Deez’s “success.”