Familiar Beats Innovative for Kickstarter Video Games

Although Kickstarter is theoretically here to give quirky, untested ideas a shot at success, backers more often flock to well-known creators and rehashed concepts — at least where video games are concerned.

Given the many well-known gaming success stories that started on Kickstarter, it may seem like a veritable haven for low- and mid-budget game design. Just ask for somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million for your game, and gamers, eager to break free of the shackles of derivative mainstream gaming, will open their wallets with gusto.

Video games on Kickstarter

What gamers want and what they say they want, though, are two entirely different things. Look at some of the most successful video game Kickstarters ever: Double Fine's "Broken Age" asked for $400,000 and received $3,336,371. "Torment: Tides of Numenera" from inXile Entertainment needed $900,000 and got $4,188,927. Perhaps the best example is the Android-based Ouya console, which requested $950,000 and wound up with $8,596,474.

These may seem like the real triumphs of passionate fans over corporate pabulum, but the issue gets a little more muddled when pedigree enters the mix. Double Fine is a well-known adventure game company overseen by industry veteran Tim Schaefer. "Torment: Tides of Numenera" is the sequel to "Planescape: Torment," one of the most beloved PC RPGs of all time. Julie Uhrman, the brain behind the Ouya, has been a mainstay in gaming's business side for over 10 years.

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If you want to be a Kickstarter video game success story, it seems that your best bet is to already be a moderate bigwig in the games industry. Original, innovative ideas are not necessarily the way to go, either: Although the Ouya was a novel idea, other successful Kickstarters fall back on tried-and-true ideas: sequels, spiritual successors and pet projects from proven designers.

Consider "Mighty No. 9" as an illustrative example. Game designer Keiji Inafune is not exactly a household name, but his best-known creation, a daring little blue robot named Mega Man, is. Inafune left "Mega Man" publisher Capcom in 2010, but could not retain the rights to his beloved creation.

On September 1, Inafune announced his very own Kickstarter project: "Mighty No. 9," which features a boyish blue robot in a colorful, side-scrolling adventure in which he can acquire enemy abilities to deal with eight deadly boss robots in a nonlinear fashion — in other words, it's "Mega Man." Subtlety, thy name is Inafune.

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The project needed $900,000; at time of writing, it has $1,327,571, with 28 days left. In all likelihood, "Mighty No. 9" will enter the hallowed ranks of the most successful Kickstarted video games; although, when Tom's Guide corresponded with the "Mighty No. 9" team, they were too busy managing the overwhelming outpouring of support to give commentary.

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  • Anonymous
    This seems kinda like a no brainer to me. Yes, ideally, Kickstarter is used to help indie developers and designers create new, innovative things that they wouldn't otherwise be able to acquire money for from investors or publishers. I think it's just an unintended side effect that vested creators can come in and make something that is generally already established in the market, and it will succeed many times over. It's common sense that human beings are more receptive to things they are familiar with.

    Which, IMO, is great for Kickstarter because it doesn't really harm the true indie projects and it brings in a larger crowd for possible funding. Mighty No. 9 was the first Kickstarter I ever backed, and I honestly never thought I would back anything, despite being interested by several projects in the past. But now, I believe I'd be more inclined to back projects in the future, just because I have now been exposed to the process and familiar with it.

    As a side note, I believe the Kickstarter for M9 was open as early as last Friday, not September 1. I really hope Comcept is able to produce the great game that they envision. Inafune deserves this after having the balls to speak up against Capcom and us Mega Man fans would really appreciate a fresh, new installment, even if it is technically a new IP.