22 Cans, Peter Molyneux’s own studio (that’s makes this his third game company he’s set up by my count), are hard at work on a brand new God Sim game; Godus. Godus is the spiritual follow up to Bullfrog Productions’ game Populous, which was of course spearheaded by a young Peter Molyneux back in 1989. Spurred on by the success of many different games on Kickstarter they thought this was the perfect game to get funded. I agreed with them for a couple of reasons. Reason 1: A famous figure head (or is that Lionhead?) that is well known in the industry and responsible for creating a genre what it is today. Reason 2: said genre is a very niche market, that modern gaming publishers aren’t going to pick to develop. Reason 3: a follow up (of sorts) to a popular game franchise and reason 4: a direct link to the developers themselves with constant feedback about the content of the game; which has already affected what is being put in the game. It all sounds so right, and so familiar to other projects, but for some reason the Kickstarter project hasn’t captured the imagination of the gaming community.
The above video is the 13th update of Godus, the project is asking for £450,000 (~$724,140) but with currently only 10 days to go the project has only raised ~£246,109 (~$390,807) which is just over half way. Previous successful projects like Double Fine’s Adventure, Star Citizen, Planetary Annihilation and Wasteland 2 managed to hit their target really quickly (sometimes in just a matter of days) and then continue to steam roll past that to raise staggering amounts of money numbering several millions of dollars. So why hasn’t this project exploded like the others?
In the video according to Molyneux the project isn’t getting the money pouring in because people don’t know what they’re getting; so far there has been no actual game-play shown, only a couple of prototypes. His reasoning is that people are afraid to back something they know nothing about. However Double Fine’s Adventure didn’t have any gameplay shown, in fact Double Fine had nothing to show the world but Tim Schafer’s large hairy head and that managed to raise over $3.3million. You could say that it was an oddity, a one off, but Wasteland 2 got off the ground purely because of the love for the original (sure Fallout helped too) and ultimately raised $2.9million. Clearly people have not had issues committing to projects they know next to nothing about, provided they’ve released great games in the past, so what’s the problem?
Peter Molyneux is famous in the industry but is he famous for the wrong reasons. Time and time again he’s made bold claims that his latest game will offer something amazing or change the face of gaming forever. Do we all remember Project Milo? A tech demo for Microsoft’s Kinect that was going to be revolutionary; but in the end it turned into the unimpressive Fable: The Journey. Maybe people have simply had enough of Mr Molyneux, despite the fact he’s been refreshingly understated about Godus.
Mr Molyneux is also known for being pretty successful despite his over exuberance for his games and is rich enough to set up a studio with all his own funds. He also personally funded Black and White’s development back in the day, which cost around $6million. Maybe it’s this impression that Molyneux is rich and therefore people don’t think he should even be attempting to get other people to pay for this game, which is putting people off. So surely he has enough money to do it himself? Well not according to Molyneux himself; according to Kitguru he’s invested a lot of money into the 22 Cans and simply can’t fund the creation of the game himself. And according to Now Gamer he really doesn’t want to go down the publisher route because they simply wouldn’t fund the game as it now stands. But again it’s hard to say him being rich is the major factor when we’ve seen people like Chris Roberts, another highly successful game designer, raise over $7 million across several funding sites.
Is it the game itself then? The God Sim, a small category in the larger Simulation genre that doesn’t get a lot of love these days. Do people really want another game like this? Well back in late 2011 Ubisoft released a downloadable title called From Dust a God Sim which took a lot of inspiration from Populous. In fact From Dust was Ubisoft’s fastest selling game on the Xbox Live Arcade Market and managed to sell over 500,000 copies across all platforms in just four months. Then there was another Kickstarter Maia; which was recently funded with over £140,000, which might not sound like a lot but the people making it are a brand new indie studio and so didn’t have a previous fan-base to fall back on. As you may have guessed it’s a God Sim, and it’s inspired by Bullfrog Production titles such as Dungeon Keeper. The God Sim might not get the worship it deserves but God certainly isn’t dead, a lot of people want to play a modern game like those made by Molyneux in the 90’s.
Then there is 22 Cans itself, the only other game they’ve made is Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube? It’s a bizarre iOS “game” which sees players tapping on a cube for some reason. Apparently there is something deep within the cube that will be life changing, I’m guessing it’s a fortune cookie inspired message but others are guessing things like money and/or fame. The heart of the game then is the curiosity of what’s in the cube. It sold rather well but the user reviews of the game wildly vary, I guess it depends on if you like tapping at a box or not. In short it’s a social experiment not a game and maybe people think the studio won’t be able to pull off a full game. This is despite the fact the developers include highly talented game designers that have worked on multiple projects in the past. Look at Maia again; the guy behind the project, Simon Roth, has worked on other games but he’s really completely unproven when it comes to delivering a full game. So again it shows that people are willing to back a horse that not only hasn’t won any races but who hasn’t even entered a race before.
Another reason batted about is the fact the Kickstarter project is in Pounds Sterling (£), the currency of the UK. This is in accordance with Kickstarter rules that the currency must be the same as were the creator of the project is from, 22 Cans is based in Guildford, England and so much use Pounds. It’s been said that American backers (that make up the largest portion for game funding according to charts I’ve seen) are immediately put off by this strange little symbol next to total count. I must admit there is a certain pleasure I get when I pledge to American projects backing it with $30 only to have £18 taken from my account; so I image it’s rather disheartening to back a project with £15 and end up spending $24. But is this really what is putting people off this game, a different wiggly line next to these digital notes we work so hard for? The internet is a global community and we’ve all adapted to the idea that borders mean nothing in this digital world, I find it hard to believe that people who back games on Kickstarter are so put off by a bit of monetary conversion. There is also the matter of extra shipping costs but as most of the low end tiers are digital, and have no such extra costs, I find it hard to factor shipping into the equation myself.
One other possibility is that the gaming community has lost interest in Kickstarter itself. According to Kickstarter 2012 was the “Year of the Game” with games ended up raising more money than every other category. Also those that back games in Kickstarter are more likely to back other projects. But what have Gamer’s seen from the process? So far none of the projects named in this article have been released yet. I’m not saying they should be; making games is a complicated process and one of the great things about Kickstarter is that a publisher won’t be pressuring the development team onto getting the game out by a set date, the dwindling money will to that instead. To the end user though they’ve seen very little come from these projects and maybe they’ve become slightly jaded due to lack of results. That and it’s around that holiday season and people are tightening their belts. If this the case then it’ll be interesting to see how new projects do next year.
I think all these things are factors but they’re not the deciding factor. The real reason why I think this project hasn’t taken off is because of the pitch. The above video was the original pitch on Kickstarter and it’s rather bland isn’t it. It just doesn’t get you excited for the game, and it’s not funny. In some ways it would have been better if Molyneux had gone off and promised insane extravagances. Sure people would have been annoyed at the end but perhaps more people would have been excited for the project in the first place. Instead we’ve carefully and calmly looked over the project and talked about it like it’s a piece of art rather than something to be played with an enjoyed. I’ve followed every update and clearly 22 Cans are trying very hard to get gamers on side but they all lack that oomph.
It’s all very well attempting to appeal to the logical side of the human mind but if you’re going to be selling something you’ve got to make it sound amazing. Planetary Annihilation immediately springs to mind, a game where you smash celestial bodies into other celestial bodies; the trailer pitch was musically scored with a loud and exhilarating beat and coupled with a highly talented voice actor it gave you that primeval and completely illogical tingling in the back of your head. Quietly talking about “past glories” or releasing head shots of the development team and what they had for lunch may be interesting for some but it’s not very exciting. So in that vein of thought I’ve patched together a fake trailer for Godus which is altogether more action packed and 100% less accurate…must like Molyneux of old.
I’m sure you’re agree that was awful, and two out of the four games in that “trailer” didn’t even involve Mr Molyneux but hopefully it captured a bit more of the imagination. The thing is I really want to play Godus. It’s because it’s a type of game that just isn’t made anymore and nobody is better suited to create one than 22 Cans. I’m excited about it; it’s just a shame that nobody else seems to be.
If you’re interested check out Project Godus on Kickstarter.