I've given my support recently to three projects going down the crowd funding route. Obviously I'm sure you've all gone out and supported them all... ahem... well maybe not. But I have found the relative success rate and controversy rate of each campaign interesting to watch. In fact I've found a lot of these campaigns successes or lack thereof a highly interesting phenomenon to watch from an outsider perspective. So any way where are the campaigns at? Trust me it's more interesting than you think...
I simply have to start with the Tentacle Bento Kickstart program don't I? Why? Well because of this email:
This is a message from Kickstarter Support. We're writing to inform you that Tentacle Bento - by Soda Pop Miniatures has been suspended by Kickstarter. Your $50.00 pledge has been automatically canceled and you will not be charged. No further action is necessary.
For more on project suspension, please see our FAQ: http://www.kickstarter.com/
For those of you scratching your head as to what is going on I guess I should explain in a little more detail. There is a thing called moral panic, if you take a quick ill-informed glance at something and make your mind up it is evil you can normally work yourself up into a frenzy. Society then goes on a binge of purging and unthinking destruction without really grasping what's happening or whether the outrage is justified in the first place. But hey, why let that get in the way of a decent witch hunt? In the UK there was a famous case where a pediatrician was attacked because our newspapers had been whipping the public up into a frenzy over pedophiles for weeks. I guess moral panic sells newspapers, it brings you ratings and if you use emotive enough language in a non-declarative way, people will blindly take your crass assertions at face value and treat them as fact.
So it appears is the case with Tentacle Bento. First up we have the classic moral outrage / panic post by Insert Credit. It has all the classic hallmarks of the slavering ill-informed attacks that such articles usually make. Firstly they've filled in the blanks themselves, you know rather than actually asking about it or doing any research, heaven forbid you try and get informed about a topic! So even though tentalce rape isn't what the game Tentacle Bento is about that's what it's now about, because it suits those at Insert Coin to make the debate about that. Mention rape enough times and eventually rape is all you will see, believe and association with the topic. Rape. It's a classic marketing trick, you then blithely throw in a spurious quote from a well respected authoritative figure or organisation, in this case Amnesty International, which has bugger all to do with the thing you are talking about. You then link in tenuously and make the article about that now, and bingo, you have the sort of crass journalism I thought it was only possible to find in Rupert Murdoch owned newspapers... seems I was wrong.
The great thing about moral panic tough is that it's a horrible little weed of a thing. Normally what happens is that the Moral Panic starts in somebodies head, which actually says more about that 'somebody' than it does the thing they're normally panicked about, but their malady normally spreads to others. In this case step forward and take a bow one Luke Plunkett of Kotaku, who clearly swallowed this crap that was written on Insert Coin whole, completely hook line and sinker and gullibly believed that what was written there was true. So the badly framed and ill-informed message now gets transmitted to another moron who will do zero research as well, because why should they have to? I mean the original author did it all for them, right? Oh dear, suckered into the writing their own article based off of the misinformation of another persons opinion piece. This is how these things grow you know. It's true there are people who study the idiocy of such trends in journalism, it's a fascinating field and the hypocrisy of those involved is normally the most amazing thing about it.
I bet these same individuals who have attacked Soda Pop and tried curtailing their freedoms, have themselves trotted out the same tired freedom of speech and expression arguments, when computer games have come under attack from the moral majority. But, of course when they tout freedom of speech arguments themselves they do so from the morally superior position of being right! Oh the irony. Journalists are bizarre creatures, they seem to defend their right to say complete and utter bollocks and cause mass distress to many people, even to go past what's considered morally decent and at times legal on many occasions, and they do so by claiming it's all in the name of freedom of speech. Yet they very often write moral panic articles that are aimed squarely at curbing those very freedoms for others, they hope to enjoy themselves. As I say the most interesting thing about the phenomenon is the hypocrisy of it all.
It even cuts off any sensible debate as a trend, why? Well because if someone actually engages their brain and comes up with a well reasoned and informed argument as to why all this is an over reaction, the moral panic brigade have a response for that. You know just in case there is a threat common sense and reason might break out. What is this awesome defence mechanism? Well if I say I think they've over reacted, all of a sudden in their blandly dichotomous world I'm against them and therefore I'm also everything they hate. I am now a supporter of tentacle rape, and am probably a rapist in the real world to boot! I mean what other reason could there possibly be for me not blindly falling into line behind their fatuous argument like the rest of the good little sheep? Don't I know how awesome they are? Never mind that I could be (and have been) a campaigner for the stopping of violence against women around the globe... however, I am standing up against them. Hence me writing this, I urge you to go support Soda Pop to make Tentacle Bento if only to piss these moral guardians off!
I am not trying to trivialise rape or violence against women and nor would I. It is a moral affront to all civilised peoples that women are regularly degraded, abused and mistreated in society as second class citizens. Despite what Beyoncé claims, girls do not rule the world. In fact they are often victims of it. But much of what people get outraged by in the case of exploitation of females actually masks the real problems with our legal systems not supporting rape victims, and companies thinking it's OK to discriminate against women because they might have kids. I also don't believe that Tentacle Bento as a game is trying to trivialise something as serious as rape, I just don't! I don't know John Caddice in person, but I have had email conversations with him with regards to another of Soda Pops products in the shape of Super Dungeon Explore. Now I was critical of that product, heavily so in some aspects, and John conducted the conversation with decorum and intelligence. He struck me as a pretty straight up guy, who loves Japanese culture and all the weirdness that comes along with it. I expect Tentacle Bento is meant to be a parody of a weird Japanese subculture fetish, poking fun at a thing is not being the thing, but simpletons rarely get subtle distinctions.
Now I am a fervent supporter of freedom of speech on a number of ideological grounds, I'm exceedingly passionate about it as a lecturer once found out in a debate! So I defend Insert Coin's and Kataku's right to publish what they did, even if I think it was dumb in the extreme. I'm not going to get into my own personal reasons for me fervently defending freedom of speech and expression, just believe me when I say that I have good reasons that I do. This passionate belief of mine has often meant I've found myself supporting somebodies right to express themselves who I actually physically detest and abhor. There are no halfway houses as far as I'm concerned in freedom of speech, you're either for restricting freedom or you're not. Just because I believe somebody should have the right to say what they want to doesn't mean I have to agree with it, I think with any liberty comes a responsibility to not abuse it. By all means express concerns, and tackle what people use their freedoms to express in open debate. Just never make them take their expression underground and have to hide it, because that's repression, and trust me, that way lies trouble.
So what does all this mean for Soda Pop and Tentacle Bento? Well for one it's thrown a complete spanner in the works. I think it has also set a worrying precedent for Kickstarter itself. The Tentacle Bento campaign had been highly successful, it raced away to $30,000 or thereabouts and was well on it's way to reaching its third stretch target with 22 days to go. For a relatively small company like Soda Pop that was an impressive achievement and I'm going to say on that basis their campaign was a success... despite the project being pulled. So where now for Tentacle Bento? Well Soda Pop have moved the campaign to their own website. Where they have rapidly raced to $5428 already. So if you want to go support the project that's the place to go do it now. Thing with moral panic you see, is that often it just raises somethings coolness value and makes it even more desirable to a certain set of the general public, and often you raise awareness of it to astronomical proportions, far beyond what it would normally have achieved. Ironic hey?
Ito faction for Bushido
So has Indiegogo pulled GCT Studio's campaign because of cruelty to snakes? Thankfully no, but if I look at it long enough perhaps I can find something with the campaign to be self righteous and outraged about... perhaps the fact that not enough people have funded the project to get them up to their second stretch goal already! Come on people what's wrong with you? They've already reached their $15,000 first stretch target so everyone who signed up to receive the full Ito faction as a perk will now get Itsunagi for free, so that's awesomesauce. So although this campaign has already being successful, and I guess one might even say highly successful, I'm still going to urge some of you to go out and support it some more. Lets make sure that on day one when the Ito launch that they're not actually playing catch up with all the other factions, who have had wave upon wave of releases so far. Lets push for Ito parity!!!
Barracks army builder for Gruntz
Well I thought the $2222 target would be absolutely obliterated when I first saw the campaign, within a day or two it had raced to $2000 in no time at all. Surely it was going to be a doddle, the Gruntz community was in full swing and they were working their networks well. Then it stalled. No other word for it, I think it's exhuasted the initial support and is now slowly grinding on towards it's target. Probably because I don't think the perks were well defined and the goal arguably too low, IF a certain perk was offering enough of a fiscal yield to allow development of the software. Sure it's ticking over with the odd small donation here and there, and it's painfully close to hitting its target. It's just that they're likely to be limping over that target rather than striding beyond it. I do think though it's a worthwhile project that I'd like to see funded, so if you've thought about getting involved with Gruntz before perhaps now is the time to do it. Robin Fitton has been dedicated to his one man mission to give us a good game and he's not doing it as a business, he's doing it as a hobbyist who loves what he does. It'd be nice if we could all swing round behind him and show a little solidarity to a fellow hobbyist.
As you can see the first two projects have already been funded, and are well on their way to hitting some serious stretch targets, well sort of in Tentacle Bento's case. Tentacle Bento being a success, prior to the funding cancellation, wasn't that much of a surprise to me though, especially given Soda Pop Miniatures relative profile in the industry. They might be small, but they've struck a clear and bold unique path with their design ethic, and have made a name for themselves as many people like what they do. So I have to be honest and say I wasn't at all surprised to see them smash through their target so early on. They have a lot of fans and I knew they'd whip up enough support and money to make it to not only the initial target, but many more stretch targets besides. Even so, I was surprised to see that within 7 days they had not only obliterated their original $13,000 target, but also raced well and truly passed their first stretch target of $18,500 and had met their second stretch target of $25,000. That's pretty darn impressive performance if you ask me, and I'm sure we'll see similar levels now on their own website.
It's also pretty impressive that GCT Studio's have managed to make it through their initial $5,000 target to get their Ito faction made and then race to their first stretch target of $15,000. They're also not that far off of making it to their second stretch target of $20,000, that's a subtle hint people! Now I'm going to have to say I was surprised to see this Indiegogo campaign take off as quickly as it did, and to see it garner as much support as it has. There's no question that what GCT Studio's are up to deserves people's support, but they're not as well known as Soda Pop are and they're a pretty small outfit. So I'm really pleased to see that their campaign has been as successful as it has. I think the reason it has been as successful as it has though is primarily down to perks or offer levels they've created. In effect they've run their campaign as a pre-order service, and no doubt factored in the cost of including the product in the money they're getting for development as well.
That's the exact same process Soda Pop have used with Tantacle Bento. It is also the method most used by other successful campaigns. So what has happened to the Barracks army builder campaign for Gruntz? Well a number of things actually. First and foremost I'm not so sure their perks or support levels were going to be enough to entice people. The $9, $14, and $19 perks actually feature nothing 'physical' as it were. I've noticed that it's actually quite difficult to get people to sign up to campaigns that aren't offering a physical product, which is interesting. People like to get something 'solid' it seems for their backing. So the only other realistic option for most people is the $34 perk, which actually grants you a physical copy of the Gruntz 1.1 rulebook. There is the $999 perk, which is well, insane and out of most peoples reach, that's probably why there is also only 1 of them. Now the Barracks campaign will reach their $2222 goal of that I'm sure, but it does appear to have stalled after an initial growth at around the $2000 mark. The reason is there were only 45 of the $34 perk, and they went quickly.
This is where I think running these sorts of crowd funding projects can get a little bit tricky if you ask me. I fully understand the reason why they limited the $34 perk, because they wanted to have as much of the money pledged go to nebulous digital product, as opposed to providing a costly physical product (a rulebook) and thus eat into the funds for developing the actual software. Similar problems occur with other campaigns to actually develop a game or miniatures, you see similar tactics. But this is where careful planning comes in. If you know a few things about what you are offering and what will prove popular, and what people actually want you should base your targets off of that perk. If the $34 perk grants you less of a percentage to pay for development, then up your target value based off of that profit profile. Then at least if people go for the higher yield options it'll be a pleasant bonus... can you tell I've raised finance for projects via more conventional means before? It's not as easy as people think it is, and it's fraught with pitfalls, and I sometimes look at what people are offering as perks on these things, the projected targets and question whether they're selling themselves short. Any way I hope you all go out and support these projects because they're all pretty cool if you ask me. Peace out!