I’ve recently covered adventure games and how they fare on Kickstarter, but what about those that finally get released? I want to take a look at these projects and how they have done since release. There have been a number of crowdfunded games that have gone live, but not all of them do well. I’ll be discussing both the successes, as well as the failures, in this genre.

pinkertonroadlogo

It’s important to note that adventure games are a niche genre. Not everybody enjoys story and logic puzzles as much as others. The unfortunate truth is that adventures have dwindled in popularity over the last couple decades. Kickstarter might have given them a second chance at stardom, but they don’t reach as large of an audience as they used to. Even the projects with well-known names attached to them have done poorly.

I’ve noticed that adventure games inspired by LucasArts titles have fared much better than those following a more Sierra On-Line approach. Broken Age hasn’t been a smash hit, but it still hasn’t forced Double Fine to shut its doors. Likewise, games with “higher resolution” graphics, such as Dreamfall Chapters, have done pretty well for themselves. On the flip side, pixel games and Sierra-inspired titles have gotten relatively poor reviews.

Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded

Even having a well-known name like Al Lowe or Jane Jensen doesn’t mean that the game will sell well. Both Replay Games and Pinkerton Road had to shut their doors due to their respective games not making money. The same goes for indie developers like Infamous Quests, with the recent decision to stop making games for the foreseeable future. All of these examples have one major thing in common: all have used the Sierra template in their titles.

I’ve also noticed most adventure games are funded primarily through nostalgia. With the rare exception, most cite games like Monkey Island or Space Quest as their main inspiration. Nostalgia is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a game will sell well. In a genre that already has a small audience, something like pixel art could make it even smaller.

Thimbleweed Park is a classic style adventure game on Kickstarter from the creators of Maniac Mansion.

And that brings me to my next point. As with pretty much any crowdfunded game, adventures tend to already “pre-sell” most of their copies during the campaign. The die-hard “superfans” would already be on board before the game even ships, and that means less sales on launch. Basically, one side effect of crowdfunding is that most copies pay for the development cost.

Out of all the adventure games that have been funded, only a handful have been released. Several are being developed right now, so the future of the genre is still pretty much up in the air. Thimbleweed Park and Obduction are highly anticipated titles, but the future for SpaceVenture and Hero-U look bleak.

SpaceVenture

I’d love to see all adventure games do well, but their track record so far has been less than stellar. It’s possible that more development houses might end up shutting down if they don’t do well after release. A few have just recently released, and several are slated for later this year, so only time will tell how the genre fares down the line.

Serena Nelson
Serena has been a gamer since an early age and was brought up with the classic adventure games by Sierra On-Line, LucasArts, and Infocom. She's been an active member on Kickstarter since early 2012 and has backed a large number of crowdfunded games, mostly adventures. You can also find her writing for Kickstart Ventures and evn.moe.
Serena Nelson

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  • Kevin Kutlesa

    Could you explain what you mean with the “Sierra Model”?

  • Liviu Boar

    Another problem would be that a lot of kickstarter games that claim they are Lucas Arts-inspired don’t really draw that much from those games of yore – maybe just in a superficial ways, such as tropes like no death and maybe the UI scheme. And that’s not really what people looking for more Lucas-like experiences look for; it might be an explanation as to why a lot of kickstarted adventures don’t do so well. I can’t comment on Sierra-inspired titles because I haven’t been a particular fan or player of those. There’s also the harsh reality of very few studios (read none) actually being able to replicate the kind of quality LA provided. Plenty of reasons for this, but the main one is, simply, incomparably smaller budget and teams.

    Another reason – LA had the best of the very best of Calarts alumni. Again, we’re talking different leagues… way different. As one of the successfully kickstarted studios proudly wearing our Lucas Arts inspiration on our sleeve, we’re really doing our best to, uhm, not ape, but strive for both the feeling and production values Lucas Arts games did, but we’re pretty aware of the fact that we’ll never, in fact, match those games’ quality. We’ll try our best, but a 3 person team on a $50k budget will never be able to deliver a game on par with the LA classics. It feels really good when one of those veterans looks at your game and is positively impressed, but… As a Kickstarter backer, I’ve learned to really tone down my expectations when the phrase “x-like or x-inspired” is used. And it’s natural to use those hooks, ’cause.. it’s Kickstarter.

    It’s also always good to keep in mind you can’t expect a $30,000 budget game to be on par with a $3million one. I know most of us kickstarter-heads do, but it’s good to keep reminding ourselves 🙂

  • Nostalgia sells, it’s a fact… At least when it comes to Kickstarter. You just can’t “sell” a project on Kickstarter without making references to some popular titles, because that’s what makes people interested.

    For my own game I didn’t really reference old Sierra or Lucasarts games though, mostly because I don’t feel as much nostalgia for them as other adventures that came after (though Demetrios has some Sierra elements into it like the deaths)

    If adventure games have multiplied these days, that’s because it’s a genre that doesn’t require high budgets to be made so it’s perfect for indies.

    When it comes to selling, unfortunately it still is a niche market, and the more games released, the less profits we make…

    Only the bigger budgets movie-like titles such as Life is Strange and the TellTale games are doing well, and it saddens me a bit because… well, they aren’t really games at all. They don’t have any puzzle nor freedom of movement. It’s fine, after all I like visual novels which also don’t offer much interactivity too, but they don’t replace “real” adventure games.

    Most people just don’t want to use their brain anymore, unfortunately, and that’s why it’s a niche. That doesn’t mean we have to stop doing puzzle-based games, but big budget adventure games with puzzles is a thing of the past.

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