When I first wrote about Ghost Theory about three weeks ago, I was amazed at how unique and charming the game looked. Most first person horror games these days are still cashing in on Slenderman and Amnesia, with the occasional Five Nights at Freddy’s rip-off. None of them have a quarter of the originality or heart that Ghost Theory has behind it.
Despite this, Ghost Theory’s Kickstarter is failing. With roughly $120,000 to collect in eight days after getting just over of $22,000 in three weeks, the writing is on the wall. Kicktraq is estimating it’ll only reach 20% of its goal.
I’m not sure how often I’ve used the phrase “a professionally run Kickstarter” in the last few weeks, someone’s probably keeping track, and that person is going to have to add another tick to the list. The developers posted a well shot, detailed video explaining the game. There are a lot of screenshots and concept art also informing us of what the game will be like. Updates are aplenty with new information and answered questions. All it’s really missing is a detailed breakdown of where the money will go.
What excited me about Ghost Theory (already speaking in the past tense) was the evolution of the Amnesia formula. It’s not about walking around looking at stuff, then hiding whenever you saw the monster. The roles are actually kind of reversed, the ghosts are hiding and you have to take action to first reveal them, then capture or destroy them.
The Kickstarter campaign’s biggest problem was that it didn’t have much to show for itself. The few in-game screenshots showed off an empty house. The actual gameplay had to be demonstrated in concept art, developer commentary and text. Even still, it’s hard to imagine what the gameplay will actually consist of. The descriptions make it clear that you can’t see ghosts and that you have to hide from them, but you also have to find a way to find them and extract them from the environment. You have to attack and hide at the same time, and it’s not very clear how exactly you’d go about doing that.
That’s always a problem with certain genre’s hoping to acquire funding through Kickstarter, especially an interactive medium like videogames. It’s difficult to convey the exact mechanics of the game no matter how detailed the descriptions are, no matter how pretty the concept art is. But building a demo, or even a short video showcase for a game can be extremely expensive and time-consuming.
A lot of developers wait until they have something to show before they take to crowdfunding. However, not many studios have the kind of capital to essentially work for free on a project without any guarantee of success.
Sometimes we’ll see Kickstarter’s with much less information than what Ghost Theory has get funded within a few days, or will meet their goal at the last second. A lot of the time, those projects have A-list names attached to them (Tim Schafer and Double Fine Adventure) or will have such a unique concept that people feel compelled to pry open their wallets. Developer Dreadlocks have worked on solid games in the past like Dex, but they’re hardly rock stars, and while Ghost Theory might be a unique horror game, it’s not exactly Pony Island when it comes to overall originality.
Over-saturation played a role as well. I wasn’t kidding when I said Steam is flooded with first person horror games. Any fan of Jim Sterling’s Youtube channel can tell you that. On Kickstarter alone it had to contend with the likes of Rides With Strangers, Relapse, Broken, and the recently launched Visage, all first person survival horror games. Rides With Strangers and Visage have both received extensive media coverage, and Visage has made nearly $10,000 more than its initial goal in the first 24 hours. Competition is a bit tough, to say the least.
Looking at the Kickstarter, and the reception our previous Ghost Theory coverage, it’s fair to say the campaign never had a chance. There just isn’t enough gameplay being shown. Dreadlocks’s previous game, Dex, was refused sale by GOG due to “mixed reviews.” Perhaps this hurt their reputation more than anyone initially realized, but after that and this likely failed Kickstarter, I wouldn’t blame anyone there for being a bit depressed.
There’s no word yet on what will happen to the game if the Kickstarter does indeed fail. It’s still up for voting on Steam Greenlight, though without funding it seems irrelevant.