Unabridged Comments_edited-1

Unabridged Comments – What we can learn from Fable Fortune’s Kickstarter [MCV]

Here is another Unabridged Comments (the fact I contributed to two articles in a short time frame kind of kicked me in doing this section). This time, it was MCV reaching out to me to discuss the unfortunate Kickstarter campaign for Fable Fortune. Like last time, I have fixed a few typos and rephrased some points I was making a bit.

Article premise – Here is the frame provided for the article:
  • The piece is centred around Fable Fortune on Kickstarter
  • The wider topic is why crowdfunding doesn’t really work for free-to-play titles
  • The request came with a series of questions I have reproduced below to frame the discussion
And these are my unabridged comments:

Were you surprised [Fable Fortune campaign failed]?

Well – whenever you set rules, [like the “Free-To-Play games don’t get crowd funded” rule], you always have exceptions to prove them wrong. I would have thought the Fable brand to be strong enough to invalidate this one.

There were other things at play, [and] without going too much into it right now, one comment that came back a lot was on the fact that Fable is an Xbox franchise at its heart, and the campaign was addressing the PC audience first and the Xbox audience (in appearance) only after a certain very high stretch goal was reached.

How would you assess Fable Fortune’s Kickstarter campaign? 

The Fable Fortune campaign was a surprise to me, and it didn’t unfold how I would have expected. The most important component to any campaign is to make sure you have an existing audience that you bring with you in the campaign, and Fable certainly  has that. The franchise is incredibly strong. Another key component is to be able to show the game, and certainly Fable Fortune fit the bill there again. And while Free-to-Play games tend to have a very hard time getting funded, the few notable exceptions are all CCGs, which made me optimistic for Fable Fortune.

As far as campaigns go, I think Fable Fortune did a lot of things right, I suspect they failed (or more precisely they would have failed as they cancelled the campaign before the end and secured funding with a 3rd party) due to the change in the video landscape. With Hearthstone dominating the CCG genre at the moment, they don’t fill a niche that is in strong demand. They also diluted their message by announcing their Stretch Goals from the beginning, something that is really not recommended.

Do you think that free-to-play games can be successfully crowdfunded?
Free-to-Play games are historically incredibly hard to get crowdfunded. The most notable exception is probably Hex Shards of Fate, a free-to-play CCG, that raised more than $2m three years ago. From the top of my head, I think I can count less than 20 successfully funded (free to play) video games on Kickstarter, and I would certainly advise [strongly] against trying to fund this type of game this way.
What challenges do you think free-to-play games face on Kickstarter?

The inherent promise of a Free-to-Play game is that you can try it for free, with no commitment, and as you play it, you may feel like putting your money into it. This is the opposite of what happens with a game that you crowdfund, where you build a promise that the game will be so interesting to you before you can play it, that you can safely put your money into it, months or years before you actually put your hands on it.

It makes funding a Free-to-Play game incredibly counter-intuitive. There are other principles at play too here. One of them is the fact that F2P games have offerings with a very large variance. You can spend a lot or you can spend a little. It might seem like it is the case for games funded on Kickstarter, where you can pledge at very different levels, but actually, the core experience offered is usually at one fixed price point (the price of the game), and everything else is additional perks on top of that core offering. This is not how most F2P games operate, and it makes it difficult for the potential backer to project how satisfying certain rewards will be.

And lastly, and it probably plays a role too, the profile of the most frequent backers for video games is certainly close to the profile of the players that are defiant of the F2P model: older, hardcore PC gamers.

What tips would you offer someone attempting to crowdfund a free-to-play game?
I would seriously advise against it first. And in case the project has some strong community that would help compensate the F2P handicap, I would suggest to create the rewards as much as possible around perks or content that are very easy to understand for the player before they even play the game. Imagine a World of Tanks-style game on Kickstarter. Imagine it has a reward at $10 that gives you a free tank. How good is this? Will the tank be useless after 2-3h in the game, or will it be valuable throughout the life of the game? If you can explain what is the value of what you offer in a clear and simple way, then you make one of the core challenges easier to surpass.
How would you assess the launch of Mighty No.9? 
Mighty No.9 ran a fantastic campaign. Maybe too good. I think it is very tempting when you run a campaign to get taken by the momentum and make too many promises, or present the project a certain way, before doing a proper assessment about its feasibility. It seems to me that it happened here.
The launch itself, I don’t have much to add to what many have said already. The expectations were high, and the game didn’t meet them, unfortunately.
I’ve seen some people saying that [Mighty No. 9] may have damaged consumer faith in crowdfunded games. What are your thoughts on this?

I don’t believe in these kind of statements. There has been many badly managed campaigns in the past, some of them with more dire results than Mighty No.9 (Clang comes to mind), and the number of

projects that get funded [every month] on Kickstarter is stable.

If anything, each campaign exists in its own set of communities, and one poor game, even very well covered by the media, won’t have much of an impact on other projects.
What we observe is that the euphorical enthusiasm for crowdfunding is gone. Projects that are funded don’t tend to go beyond their initial objectives as much as a couple of years ago.
Anything else I haven’t touched upon that you feel is worth mentioning? 
Nothing coming to mind,


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