The Ninjabot

Kickstarter Fouls: Why the Red Ash Kickstarter Failed Despite Succeeding

Posted on August 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm by Victor Chaves

Red Ash

As most that follow Kickstarter stories have heard, some big projects like Bloodstained, Yooka-Laylee, and Shenmue 3 have made big splashes in not only getting the game funded but also having an insane amount of extra content get paid for as well. These moments are fantastic as they allow for developers who were previously hindered in creating their dream projects to get the leg-up needed to make something they and the fans have always wanted. Then there are oddities like the Red Ash Kickstarter, which is a project that is headed by Keiji Inafune in order to make a spiritual successor to the Mega Man Legends series.

At first blush, this Kickstarter is another dream project that fans should be clamoring over; Mega Man Legends 3 was famously cancelled even when a playable prologue was created, and thousands of fans lamented over the fact that the Legends series would never conclude even when Keiji Inafune has publically stated that he would love to make the game if Capcom asked him to. There is even a still active Facebook page with ~100,000 people properly titled “100,000 Strong for Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3” (of which I am on as well) that continues to protest the cancellation.

So why has this Kickstarter for the successor yet to reach even 10,000 backers? At the time of writing there are around 6,000 (me included) making up a total of $480,000 which is slightly over half of the $800,000 goal. Keep in mind, this closes in less than a day.

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In reality, there are a ton of factors as to the probable cause of why Red Ash is a public failure, first of which is that the game Keiji Inafune Kickstarted prior to Red Ash had yet to have been released! That game titled Mighty No. 9 is a game much in the spirit of Red Ash where Keiji Inafune wanted to make a Mega Man-styled game when at the time that style of game wasn’t considered profitable; that Kickstarter broke their goal in the first day and eventually ended with over $3.8 Million (with a goal of $900,000)! With so much expectancy with Mighty No. 9, it only makes sense that people are not willing to part with their money when the initial promise of a game was made and yet to be fulfilled. Furthermore, the fact that Red Ash is Keiji Inafune’s 2nd Kickstarter game only serves to infuriate prospective backers as Kickstarter is meant to get a project on its feet and by extension, the company behind it (Keiji Inafune’s company, Comcept). The fact that Inafune is asking money when he already accepted $3.8 Million that he has yet to answer to, makes Red Ash a doomed Kickstarter from the get-go.

However, there is more that has essentially doomed the project. If you searched on Kickstarter the words “Red Ash”, you’ll find two Kickstarters, one for the game and one for the anime. What this essentially means is that Inafune is asking us to have backed three different projects when any faith consumers had of his projects has yet to have been delivered. Furthermore, Keiji Inafune announced his connection to an entirely separate project that was announced at E3 two weeks prior to the Red Ash Kickstarters named Recore for the Xbox One. How this is also a bad thing is that Inafune’s name is everywhere, and yet there is no recent consumer product in hand that can back up the storied name.

The Anime

Concerning the Red Ash anime Kickstarter for a moment, there is no doubt that animation is an extremely expensive endeavor, but why is it that in order for us to even watch the anime in HD, the person needs to back at least $94 to get the Blu Ray? On top of which, this would only occur if the campaign reaches its second goal of $410,000 (which it is now wallowing at $136,000)! To expect the consumer to pay over $90 to maybe get 20 minutes of HD animation is such an astronomical expectation that one can only assume that this Kickstarter was built to fail. Yet the terribleness doesn’t stop there! If you pay the $94, but the Kickstarter doesn’t reach $410,000, you don’t get a Blu Ray version! The only way according to this Kickstarter, that you can reliably and legally get the anime (if it even gets fully funded!), is to back at the $24 tier for an SD quality download (the year is 2015, we should ONLY be getting HD). Even as I type this out, I can’t believe this to be true.

Now to be fair, the Red Ash anime Kickstarter has updated to be a bit fairer, where now if you back at $94 you are guaranteed a Blu Ray of the anime, and if you back at $24 you are guaranteed an HD download of the anime. The problem is, Kickstarter does not allow the campaign owners to modify the backer tier information list, so anyone looking into this campaign will more than likely not see the most up-to-date information. Even with this knowledge, one should not expect people to buy a $94 blu ray for a 12-minute anime when one can use a streaming site for an eighth of that price to see months and months of anime. I can even talk about the director not being reliable (it’s not Inafune), but at this point I’ve gone on too long about the anime.

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The Game

The Red Ash game Kickstarter, much like its anime counterpart, is also only a “part one” of an entire story made up of a total of four parts. What makes this abhorrent is that for one, the Kickstarter does not do a good job explaining that this is split into four different parts, in fact the title, video, nor tiers explained that this was planned to just be the prologue until the reader scrolled quite a bit down in the wall of text. Next, (and this is entirely supposition) I need to ask what makes these other four parts not open to being Kickstarted as well? There is no evidence to say this would happen, but the fact that there are three Kickstarters under Keiji Inafune’s name feels like he will keep increasing that number any time there is a new project at Comcept.

Even the Kickstarter videos between Mighty No. 9 and Red Ash highlight what is wrong with the latter campaign. Watch the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter video here, then watch the Red Ash Kickstarter video here. Notice that Mighty No. 9 started with Keiji Inafune, a legendary designer breaking out from a company only concerned with Street Fighter, at a moment in time where he is asking people for help in making a game. The video shows him wandering through arcades and asking the audience point blank to help him make Mighty No. 9 with him. “Let’s make this game happen — together.” This video is a personal plea to make a game whose gameplay is something everyone understands; millions of people have played Mega Man, so not only do people respond to his earnest plea, but people immediately understand what type of game they are supporting.

Comparing Campaigns

The Red Ash Kickstarter is completely opposite, as it starts to introduce new characters in an anime-style storyboard action sequence that fails to communicate to the audience the purpose of the Kickstarter. Keep in mind, this video is for the game (the anime Kickstarter doesn’t even have any animation)! As the game Kickstarter video continues, Inafune finally appears and explains that the concept of Red Ash is to “explore an anime world.” This doesn’t communicate what the game is supposed to be. Although old fans know that this is a spiritual successor to Mega Man Legends with the word “legend” used liberally and a kicked can as well as other references to a cancelled game (which is Legends 3), people nowadays have no connection to that series and therefore have no inkling to what kind of game Inafune wants to make. It isn’t until 3:48 in the video that Inafune says “Action RPG”, something most people are able to understand on a general level, but that is still not enough. The rest of the video goes into Inafune reacting to visual designs of concept art, and finishes with a 2nd part of the earlier storyboard animation.

So now that we’ve seen the video, I have to ask once more what exactly is this game? If you never played Mega Man Legends 1 or 2, would you have any idea of how the game is supposed to play? Mega Man 9 & 10 came out on every console and the classics have been rereleased to death. People recognize Mega Man. The Legends series has not been rereleased, and therefore the game has easily left the zeitgeist of common gaming knowledge. The fact that Comcept and Inafune did not plan at the very least a small gameplay experience to explain what Red Ash will be like demonstrates a carelessness that only results in failure. Only Kickstarters that effectively explain what the final product will can become successful, and Red Ash absolutely does not explain what the game is.

The Updates

We’re not done though! How about the updates to the Red Ash video game Kickstarter? In their July 17th update, about two weeks since the campaign started, Comcept made the announcement that backers could now get the entire game, not just the prologue. The price, $79! That is $20 more than the maximum retail price for games nowadays, and that is a DIGITAL ONLY COPY. Furthermore, the campaign was allowing backers to only pay $49 to get the full game for a window of less than 11 hours (as a backer myself, the update email was sent 1:43 PM, and the upgrade ended at midnight). Now let’s look at other 3D action/adventure games that were Kickstarted and what their prices were for a digital copy of the full game: Shenmue 3: $29. Yooka-Laylee: $24. Star Citizen: $30. That $20-$30 range is a sweet spot, and seems to usually be the most selected tier range in a gaming Kickstarter, and it makes sense why these three Kickstarters mentioned have succeeded while the Kickstarter asking for $79 will not.

Finally, in this amazing chronicle of two terrible Kickstarters full of bad choices and designs, lies the most crucial detail: Despite the fact that Red Ash is absolutely not going to make the $800,000 goal, a Chinese company named Fuze is completely backing the project up to the prologue! What this basically means is that all the Kickstarter funds are now going to the part of the game that is not the prologue. What’s confusing is that the earlier $79 full game price announcement was guaranteeing the full game, yet since Fuze has started to back Red Ash, the Kickstarter itself has quietly stopped mentioning the full game, and now it is pretty much undetermined if the people that paid $79 will get the actual full game or not. I’m pretty sure Comcept doesn’t understand what is happening either.

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Now that we’ve chronicled the progress of these Kickstarters, what can Comcept and Inafune do to make these projects succeed? It’s incredibly simple. For one, cancel both Kickstarters. It’s really hard to care for an anime when people do not know the characters or the story. Furthermore, the game Kickstarter is such a mess and uninformative (and in the end, confusing) that the game will not be funded. Since Fuze is supporting up to the prologue of the game now, if Comcept wanted to make more they would need to have a Kickstarter showing actual game play footage. This is an absolute minimum if they are to expect any sort of success. There are people that back Kickstarters if they are just ideas, but those Kickstarters ask for a minimum total amount of money and give cheap access to the final product. Cheap access is another thing, people do not want to go invest nearly $100 into something they don’t know. The product must be fully accessible at the $35 or less, and that is not a rule made up, that is looking at every wildly successful Kickstarter and seeing the same factors that qualify for success: Game Play and Cheap Access. Mighty No. 9 was a wild success that was an outlier, it had cheap access but no gameplay to speak of that was supplanted by the creator of Mega Man basically stating that he is making a Mega Man game. Do not expect this success when you also take away cheap access and expect the Mega Man creator and some anime storyboarding to convince others to part money.

Question: Should I (have) Backed the Game?

I will admit that even though both of these Kickstarter campaigns are absolute messes, I still backed the game, as I still remember Mega Man Legends. Furthermore I took part in a song parody protesting Capcom to make Legends 3 (guess who I was!), which means I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t back at least back up to the $25 level. To everyone else considering, I’d say wait for the final product.

Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to see him jouzu Nihongo o shaberarerimasu.

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