A Kick for Kickstarters: Battletech

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Every successful video game crowdfunding campaign needs a good pitch, as anyone starting one knows all too well. But it’s always tough for a development team to sell a concept to an audience without anything concrete to show, and it’s becoming more difficult over time. Blame this on campaigns where this strategy went horribly awry after their funding period, with Project Phoenix (with nothing to show over two years later) and Unsung Story (with nothing over 19 months later) being prime examples. And while Mighty No. 9 isn’t on par with those, the main game doesn’t come close to matching the art style promised through the campaign’s concept art. Comcept learned this the hard way when they realized the same tactic didn’t work with the Red Ash: The Indelible Legend campaign this past summer, especially since it happened before MN9 released.

Like any other phenomenon, exceptions exist. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was recently funded despite also having nothing but concept art because people trust IGA to make a competent game after producing plenty of Metroidvania Castlevania titles at Konami. (Though early gameplay was shown off-screen near the campaign’s end, it was funded well before that.) People’s desire to stick it to his former employer by making the campaign overly successful also helped, something its organizers clearly counted on when they made Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter’s involvement one of the stretch goals. Now another one is currently running in the form of BattleTech from Harebrained Schemes.

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Despite its campaign having zero gameplay footage, it reached its initial goal of a mere $250,000 within hours of launching, and made over $1 million in its first full day. It’s similar to Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained in structure, where all it required was pushing the right nostalgia notes.

Fans of mechs in video games largely aren’t being served right now, especially outside Japan. And that goes double for anyone who wants a turn-based mech game. The creator of BattleTech (and MechWarrior) realized demand existed for a new installment after two decades, and that underserved audiences have a history of flocking to Kickstarted projects for revived properties people have nostalgia for. That especially applies when they involve the creators of those older properties. Luckily for him and Harebrained Schemes, he was bang on.

Having good concept art depicting characters that will (hopefully) appear in the game also helped, along with others showcasing its opening story and world. The stories and designs wouldn’t be out of place in a 90s sci-fi game. Two pieces of concept art also show the look they’re targeting for the game, and considering the amount they’ve already raised despite having 30 days to go, they should reach that.

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Harebrained Schemes is also demonstrating how a company should return to Kickstarter for future projects. They also developed the recent Shadowrun games, two titles made through budget acquired through crowdfunding. Both were critically acclaimed and sold well among the PC audience, which means people are confident in this not only becoming an actual game one day, but also a quality game. To emphasize a point made above: This was the key mistake Comcept made with Red Ash.

As of this writing, the campaign is sitting at over $1.4 million, nearly six times its initial goal. A number of stretch goals have also been reached to add more features, including expanded mission objectives and environments, a full single-player campaign (beyond the skirmish-driven base game they were only asking $250,000 for), origin stories, and voice acting. It’s yet to reach goals for 3D MechWarrior Portraits, an expanded Mercenary Campaign (an alternative single-player quest considerably more open-ended than the main campaign), and a PvP mode at the $2.5 million level. Hey, at least there’s little chance of the PvP mode suddenly taking precedence over the promised main quest here, unlike one title in particular.

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It’s easy to tell Harebrained Schemes knows precisely how to approach crowdfunding campaigns, after having run three incredibly successful examples. They know what backers want, and delivered enough pictures and information to entice them, and inform them of the project they’re contributing cash towards. They also didn’t come to Kickstarter with an overly ambitious idea that it could hit serious setbacks if they didn’t raise enough money/

It’s likely they have good stretch goals planned beyond the ominous “To Be Announced” after the Mercenary Campaign goal, but before the PvP one, and they should reveal them in a short time to maintain momentum. Though they’re planning on delivering this in May 2017, a realistic estimate (these guys really know what they’re doing), again, don’t be surprised if it slips from that date, like nearly every other game-related campaign. They’ll be releasing more info on the gameplay and assorted features in future Kickstarter updates, so keep an eye open if you’re interested.

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