When A Kickstarter Fails

Sometimes video game Kickstarters just don't take off. In fact, that's most of the time. For every monumental success like Double Fine or Wasteland 2, there are 10 projects that remain undiscovered and unfunded.

One of those failures was Class of Heroes 2, a Japanese RPG for the PSP and sequel to a game that not many people liked or cared about. Although it managed to raise close to $US100,000 from genre fans eager to help localise as many Japanese role-playing games as possible, Class of Heroes 2 fell far short of its $US500,000 goal.

So what will its creators do now? What's next for Class of Heroes 2? And why didn't it succeed?

"The biggest failure was time, or lack thereof," said John Greiner, head of Monkeypaw Games and one of the leads behind the localisation of Class of Heroes 2, in an e-mail to Kotaku. He said the project had been in the planning stages for months, but Double Fine's immediate, rapid success this February drove them to expedite the process. They wanted to get Class of Heroes 2 up as soon as possible. They didn't have time to put together all the screenshots and gameplay footage they would have liked to use.

"We certainly reached the core JRPG fans, but more polished assets would have increased awareness," he said. Most people who saw this project had no idea what Class of Heroes was. Without some sort of game-changing pitch or eye-popping trailer, $US500,000 was a hard sell.

Perhaps another problem was lack of urgency, Greiner says. The Kickstarter project aimed for a physical, limited edition release complete with collectable goodies like maps and figures, but Greiner and his team promised to release a digital version of Class of Heroes 2 either way. So even the series' biggest fans (all 20 of them) didn't have to worry that a lack of crowdfunding might prevent the game from coming to the North America.

Another mistake: leaving out obvious rewards in the initial launch, like digital soundtracks and wallpapers. Greiner also lamented the fact that Kickstarter doesn't let you change or add bonuses to reward tiers once people have already donated to them.

Class of Heroes 2 was a bit of an experiment. According to Gaijinworks head Victor Ireland, the second main brain behind this project, one of its goals was to prove to Japanese publishers that Kickstarter was a viable method to gauge fan interest in North America. In the wake of its failure, Ireland says convincing Eastern publishers to take risks like this might be very tough.

"It will be harder to sell the idea of licensing these games for the US and taking chances to Japanese publishers," Ireland told Kotaku. "That doesn't mean we won't stop trying; it will just be a harder road with less guaranteed success. The Kickstarter was essentially a shortcut to where we wanted to get this with Japanese publishers and fans. Since it didn't work out, we'll just have to take the longer, harder, slower road and hope for the best. Getting Class of Heroes 2 out, though, will help everything, I believe."

Ireland and Greiner will localise and release the dungeon crawler, which Ireland promises is much better than its poorly-received predecessor, on the PlayStation Network later this year for PSP and Vita. It will be a basic release, without some of the bells and whistles that a successful Kickstarter would have brought, like physical goodies and interface enhancements. They don't know if they'll use Kickstarter again any time in the near future, but Greiner says they're still fighting to bring as many JRPGs as possible to the West.

"There are so many great RPGs waiting for their time in the Western sun," he said. "It's just a matter of bringing them to a less-risky position of development ... Fans deserve the games they truly want and we're going to do our best to deliver both new and nostalgic experiences."

Think positive. That's the name of the game. Greiner and Ireland couldn't get this project off the ground, but they're taking the optimistic approach to failure. For one, the Kickstarter raised awareness of the series — fans who might not have otherwise cared about Class of Heroes 2 now know that it's coming. Still, it's a bitter pill to swallow, especially for Japanese publishers that have been watching from afar.

"In the future, will Japanese companies be likely to do this kind of deal? No," Greiner said. "It will have a negative effect. But we will keep pursuing titles and if we can be successful the next time around, eventually the voice will be heard. In the end, we're fuelled by our fans. If there's enough demand, there's always a chance."


Comments

    This just seems to indicate that they made a bunch of mistakes which they recognise and instead of fixing those mistakes and trying again they are happy to have it sit as a failure.

    If they really believe that Kickstarter could be a good way to gauge the audience in western countries then they should actually give it a fair go instead of a half arsed attempt, and go "oh well".

    In either case I'm not interested because I don't have time for JRPGs, I prefer my turned based games to be tactical, or faux realtime like KOTOR.

      I think it also doesn't help that no-one was really crying out for Class of Heroes 2, and Victor Ireland has something of a reputation in the US for championing questionable games.

      Kickstarter is not free money. John Scalzi had this great blog post where he explained the massive success of Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter, and chief among them was that Amanda had been building a reputation for delivering for years. Future Kickstarters really have to consider that if they don't have a pre-existing reputation, they'd better make sure they demonstrate their ability to execute.

    Well I went and imported a copy of Class of Heroes, since It had never seen release over here, and Aus PSN store is useless when it comes to RPG's in general, while kickstarter is good for well known games, people or ideas, not so good in this instance, and if I had access to the money required for this stuff I'd definately jump on board.

      While we don't see the same titles as the US, the EU PSN (which is what AU gets) has quite a large selection of RPGs:
      Most of the Final Fantasy Series from 4+ (I think maybe 1 and 2 are on there), Vagrant Story, Wild Arms, Grandia, Disgaea 1 and 2, FF Tactics, Arc The Lad, Persona 1-3, Trails in the Sky, Spectral Souls, Generation of Chaos, Lunar, Astonisha Story, Dragoneer's Aria, Phantasy Star 2 Portable, Riviera and a bunch more (even more if you include minis).

        I forgot to add that ozgameshop.com also has a large selection of RPG titles that we don't have in shops here (except maybe the niche ones) . I'm currently enjoying Agarest: Generations of War.

    It needed a digital copy of the game, and possibly the first game in a bundle. People like KickStarter because they can get the games for cheaper than release, look at Wasteland/DoubleFine/Banner Saga/Shadowrun for examples.

    It cost $80 to get a digital copy (that came with a useless UMD). For publishers, they made some really really stupid decisions.

    The real problem with this was that it was a Class of Heroes sequel. The first game was pretty poor, and even if the sequel is much better, it's a dungeon crawler and not really a classic JRPG in the first place.

    I guarantee that if it were a game with a stronger fanbase from a series that was actually good, they would have made it. Something like Valkyria Chronicles 3 or Sakura Taisen or Legend of Heroes would have had no problems.

    $500,000 for funding only a physical release of a game that wasn't that great is always going to be a hard sell. They should have gone for the minimum they needed to make that profitable, then added stretch goals which would have added extra stuff to the release. People are a lot more likely to donate to something that actually seems reachable, this seemed like pie-in-the-sky stuff from the outset.

    As much as I want to like the idea of Kickstarter, I just cannot bring myself to put money into any of the projects. I understand people that do, and that games that would never see the light of day, gets a chance to be made.

    Its already hard enough now to decide if a game is worth the purchase (day 1). To think I will be putting money into a game that may end up horrible, and a may be a year away from release, is really hard to justify.

    I know you get bonus items and discounts (and the feeling you made something happen), but the chances of the game being great, and the items being of value are just to slim to justify the investment.

      if you dont have the early adopter or trendsetter mentality...or even an indie enthusiast (if i can call it that)...itll be a hard sell.

    I love the concept of Kickstarter and am a big fan of Working Designs glory days but betting it all on a game like Class of Heroes II was kind of a dumb move. Should of pushed a different game instead of trying to sell people on a sequel to a game that had already bombed in the west before. You can polish a turd all you want but at the end of the day it's still going to reek of shit.

      You know there have actually been instances where a sequal superceded the first game?

      *points to a little well known street fighting game as a prime example*

      =P

        Because Street Fighter II and Class of Heroes II are in the same league, genre and popularity.

        Wait a minute.....

    I've mentioned this every other time this project comes up, the demand for localised JRPGs is there otherwise groups like Ghostlight and Atlus USA wouldn't exist. I think it just came down to asking too much for a game that only a limited population would know or care about enough to fund a translation of by a group that no one knew anything about. If they had picked a more well known title for their debut and asked for less, they probably would have seen a vastly different response.

    They still had the option of adding new reward tiers too, which people can change to even if they've already pledged (I've funded other projects that did this) or at least made a post that certain reward tiers now include other bonuses (I've funded projects that did this too). Overall, I hope they have learnt valuable lessons from this and look around at why other people doing what they're doing have been successful because we really do need more titles from Japan.

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