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.”

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