Kickstarter seems to produce more bad games than timeless classics. No matter how exciting the prospect, no matter how good the team, and no matter how great the idea, the end product usually ends up being lackluster. Yooka-Laylee will be the newest game to come out from the crowdfunding site, yet odds are the game will end up being a flop. I think we are going to have another game for the overbooked Kickstarter funeral home. Here’s why.
Backers Are Not Customers
“But how could Yooka-Laylee fail!?” screams the reader. “It was the fastest game to be backed. It raised million!” Yes, the speed and amount of money the game raised was astounding. However, this premise that the rate of funding indicates a successful end product is fundamentally flawed in that it mixes up backers and customers.
A backer is someone who is willing to put money up for the game before the game is even close to completion. Now, think to yourself: will most people buy a product before they even know what it’s going to be like? With crowdfunding, you are buying an idea. The people who backed Yooka-Laylee were investing in the idea. They loved the idea of a new Banjo-Kazooie game and were happy to throw their cash at the pitch. When fans backed the game, they had no idea how good the game actually was. Games like Mighty Number 9 prove that even though the idea sounds great in a pitch, it doesn’t necessarily make a good game.
The backers are the people who would buy the game no matter what. Everyone will sit on the sideline. While some may be interested, they will need more than a concept to want to purchase the game. Kickstart is unique in gaming in that it turns customers into capital investors. The upside is it means you most rabid fans will ensure the project gets made. The downside is that to make the sales, you have to convince a cold market to buy your games. Although the issues with Kickstarting games are outside the scope of this article, the fact remains that just because you can fund the game through a crowdfunding doesn’t mean it will be an instant success.
Where Did The 3D Platformers Go?
Did you ever wonder why there are no more 3D platformers without “Mario” in the title?
Back in the days of the N64 and Playstation, there were plenty of 3D platformers. They were everywhere, then they just disappeared. Did publishers and developers move on to a new fad? To determine if Yooka-Laylee will be successful or not, we have to ask why the genre when dark in the first place.
See, platformers were popular titles in the 2D days of the NES, SNES and Sega Genesis. Mario made Nintendo a household name and Sonic made Sega competitive with Nintendo who, before, owned more than 90 percent of the market. Like FPSes of the mid-2000s and open-world games now, everyone made platformer.
When console went to 3D, platformers were the first genre brought over. But as time went on, it became apparent that platformers aren’t great in 3D. 3D removes a lot of the precision that 2D platforming had. As a result, the 3D platformers had to radically change. Super Mario 64 focused more on exploring a level and finding a star as opposed to navigating a path and making it to the goal. Sonic Adventure added the homing attack to compensate for it being harder to jump on foes. Of course, in a 2D game, it makes the game too each and not that fun.
Rare came into their own during the N64 days by expanding on the idea of Super Mario 64. Rather than get to a goal, the idea of game like Banjo-Kazooie. The focus was more on finding things rather than reaching a goal. While novel, this concept eventually got tired. Donkey Kong 64, for example, was panned for having too many things to collect.
In the end, the 3D platformers that stuck around were because they were the cream if the crop. Other genres, like racing and shooting, worked better in 3D. In time, these games crowded out the 3D platformer. The genre has become survival of the fittest. The reason some series stuck around while others didn’t is because they were good enough to hold their own. Rare’s style of platformers fell out of style as customers weren’t that interested in collecting MacGuffins.
Lack of Interest And Bad Reviews
So we’ve established that backer demand doesn’t mean market demand (just look at all the market duds with successful Kickstarter campaigns), and the reason for the genres despite was a change in the times. With that in mind, we can get to the root of the problem: Poor reviews and a general lack of interest.
First, the game has already been receiving lackluster reviews. From Metacritic, the game has a 67 on the PS4 and a 72 on the PC. Now, game reviews alone won’t result in poor sales (just look at titles like Wii Sports), but it doesn’t help when interest in this game was already so low.
First, look at the Google Analytics. Naturally, Super Mario Odyssey and Sonic Forces created more buzz when they were first shown. The brand name is the reason for that. However, both of the games won’t come out till later this year and Yooka-Laylee comes out this week. As of the week of April 2nd, the game is only doing slightly better in search results. It’s not a good sign that your game that is coming out in a few days has as much buzz as games that are nowhere near their release date.
Here is a comparison of Youtube. Above is the Yooka-Laylee rap, a video that was backed by Kickstart backers and published on numerous websites. The other is a video by Youtube users MisterMetokur, which is discussing the JonTron fiasco. MisterMetokur’s video only has about 23,000 fewer views than the rap. This video remains one of the most popular videos for the game released in the last month. It’s doing better than reviews and previews. People are more interested in the fiasco than the actual game. This is a huge problem.
The poor reviews will only lead players who were on the fence about the game to sit out. Remember, the backers, the warm market, already gave Playtonic their money in the form of a capital injection. Those consumers who could have been swayed to buy it now have a good reason to skip it. The game isn’t coming out on a Nintendo console for quite some time, and, let’s be honest, Nintendo Switch owner were the ones who were going to buy this title. Despite this, the game still doesn’t have a release date for the Nintendo Switch. Eventually, better games like Super Mario Odyssey will come out and steal the show from Yooka-Laylee. It doesn’t help that Super Mario Odyssey has just as much interest and months away from release.
I’ve spoken previously about the JonTron fiasco, and you can see my thoughts here. All in all, I don’t think JonTron’s removal will be the root cause of the game’s failing. The game would have failed regardless due to poor reviews and a general lack of interest. What the JonTron fiasco did do was ensure that Playtonic as a company is doomed.
Consider what Playtonic did. They removed JonTron because they didn’t agree with what he said despite some fans probably agreeing with JonTron. Keep in mind, some people probably backed the game because of JonTron. Of course, the company’s response was to refuse refunds and lock discussion on the topic. Heck, the company is releasing a patch just to remove JonTron from the game. Backers were not happy with how the company handled the situation and didn’t like the answer they were given. What Playtonic eroded all their goodwill with fans. Why back the again if they are going to do this?
The End Result
If Yooka-Laylee fails (and it most likely will), who is going to support Playtonic? Investors and publishers won’t because they can’t make sales. Fans won’t because Playtonic cares more about politics than fan interest. Yooka-Laylee isn’t going to sell enough to build up capital. All that is really left is for the company to either make small indie games or update their resumes. In the end, there doesn’t look to be a future of Playtonic. I don’t really feel sorry for them because it was their fault.