Crowdfunding & Psychonauts 2

It has been announced that Psychonauts 2 is in the works, and that it is being crowdfunded. Wait. Did I miss something? Although I never played the first Psychonauts, plenty of people did. According to Wikipedia:

Although the game was first cited as the primary contributing factor to a strong quarter immediately following its launch,[51] a month later Majesco revised their fiscal year projections from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million,[52] and at the same time its CEO, Carl Yankowski, announced his immediate resignation.[53] By the end of the year, the title had shipped fewer than 100,000 copies in North America, and Majesco announced its plans to withdraw from the “big budget console game marketplace”.[54] Schafer stated that by March 2012 the retail version Psychonauts had sold 400,000 copies.[55]

So the game initially caused a very strong quarter, but going into the second quarter the figures were revised from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million. The game sold so poorly that the CEO of the company resigned? That’s fine; I accept that, and way to take responsibility, but that raises the question: What makes them think it will be a good idea to make another one?

No sequel should ever be crowdfunded. The argument about Psychonauts not being successful financially just goes to show how bloated video game development budgets have become. Final Fantasy XIII, of course, sold millions of copies and was considered a failure by Square-Enix, as was Tomb Raider. As Jim Sterling routinely points out, publishers would rather have no money if they can’t have all the money, “some of the money” is not enough. If they make a game that is only profitable by $1m, they consider it a failure.

Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic remains the most expensive game ever made; it was so expensive to make that there was never any chance that Bioware would recoup the cost. I don’t remember the details now, but in order for The Old Republic to be successful, they needed a ridiculous number of paying accounts over the course of two years. Actually, that only caused them to break even. The Old Republic should go down in history as the biggest fuckup in gaming, beating out Atari’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial by a wide margin.

Atari spent an obscene amount of money making E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, of course, and a sizable chunk of the millions of dollars went to George Lucas simply for the license. Much more was spent on advertising and publishing; millions of copies were made. The game itself was rushed out in something like 5 weeks. And Atari has never recovered from that enormous fuck-up that caused the scales to fall from the eyes of the gaming public, making us realize, “Shit. These games actually kind of suck.”

And while the gaming industry is thankfully putting the money into game development itself (except in the case of Square-Enix, since all their money goes to making pretty movies), the fact remains that they haven’t learned from Atari’s or Bioware’s fuck-ups. Just think about what it must mean that they incurred an $18m loss on a game that was already on sale.

Maybe Psychonauts was pretty good. But if they can crowdfund its sequel to the point where they can make a suitable game, it really will go to show how bloated the first game’s budget was. While I applaud Double Fine Productions for at least offering stake in the profits to investors, the bottom line is that it shouldn’t be necessary; no sequel should ever be crowd-funded. If it wasn’t successful enough for a sequel to be made without resorting to crowd-funding, then there is no reason to think the sequel will do any better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like really talking about it, because the idea is abhorrent. Crowdfunding exists for people to get their first creation made. Under no circumstances should it be used to make sequels and follow-ups; this undermines the entire point. And with fucking pre-orders and season passes already blurring the lines and making AAA publishers basically ask for crowd-funding, this “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” bullshit the gaming industry is obsessed with needs to stop.

Market forces dictate that if you make a product and sell it, and you don’t sell enough copies of that product to cover the costs of making a follow-up, then you fucked up. The market has brought you before the courts, you have been tried, and you have been found wanting. Bow out and come back when you’ve got a new idea. Tim Schafer is just using crowdfunding as a “Get out of fucking up free card,” and he shouldn’t be rewarded for that. If you liked Psychonauts and want to see more, great, but don’t give your money to Double Fine Productions. They’ve already demonstrated that they lack the financial sense and appeal to truly survive in the industry. They’ll be back in two years asking for more crowdfunding to make Psychonauts 3.

It’s not strictly necessary that Double Fine Productions make a game that would be Psychonauts 2. Look at Mighty Number 9 and how it comes from the creator of Mega Man. It is undeniably the spiritual successor to Mega Man. They didn’t come before the gaming community and say, “Look, people, we know we screwed that last one up. But if you’ll donate a bunch of money to us, we promise we won’t do it again. So if you’ll pay us today, we’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday.”

Because that’s what it really is. It’s not “We’ll give you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” It’s “We’ll sell you a hamburger Tuesday if you pay us today.” Fuck that, people. don’t let them get away with it. They fucked up. They did that all by themselves. They’ll have to come up with something else to fix their fuck up. They can’t just come before the gaming community and start begging for money, not after fucking up so badly that their previous game recorded millions of dollars in losses.

You dun goof’d, Tim.

And then there’s this:

tim schafer