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How not to run a Kickstarter campaign: The rise and fall of Mighty No. 9

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The website Kickstarter was created in 2009 with the goal of helping creative projects come to life. The rise of the site has allowed many games developers to escape the shackles of corporate interference and crowd fund projects they want to make; it has allowed series like Shemue to rise from the ashes and has helped fund successors to games like Castlevania.

Apart from the Pebble smart-watch, one of Kickstarter’s earliest successes came from the funding of Mighty No. 9, a spiritual successor to the classic Mega Man series.

Mega man is one of the most recognisable gaming characters. First debuting in 1987, Mega Man went on to spawn numerous sequels and spin-offs, meeting critical acclaim across the series’ lifespan.

In 2010 its creator Keiji Inafune left Capcom (the company responsible for the games). It is alleged to have been a hard break-up and Capcom subsequently cancelled three Mega Man games in development.

But Inafune returned with a new company, Comcept, in 2013. He wanted to fund his game Mighty No. 9 and had a goal of $900,000. The campaign offered stretch goals (extra content for the game to incentivise investors to donate more) if the game exceeded the funding goal, including multiplayer, a documentary of production and ports of the game to all consoles and handhelds. The original goal was smashed and the game received $4 million in donations; however the extra content it had already promised did seem troubling, even at the time, as it was more than most normal games included.

Mighty No. 9 was given a release date of Spring 2015. Despite already massively exceeding their goal, the crew behind the game continued to ask for money for things like downloadable content post-launch, as well as voice acting for the game. In early 2015 Inafune declared that the game was ‘pretty much finished’. However in April of the same year it was announced it would be delayed, with the Saints Row developers, Deep Silver, now publishing the game.

The setback was blamed on the many ports that had been promised. The game was delayed even further until February 2016 due to online modes not being ready, which themselves had been promised as stretch goals. But Inafune promised it would not be delayed any further.

Mighty No.9 was eventually delayed a third time to a vague Spring 2016 launch window, with the blame once again being placed on online components. It would eventually release even later, on June 21st 2016.

Despite immense promise, it released to largely mixed and negative reviews. The game’s test footage in 2013 looked incredibly detailed but the final product’s levels, enemies and backdrops seemed downgraded and cheap. Kickstarter backers had trouble accessing their codes for the game and the Xbox 360, MAC and Wii U versions have been delayed indefinitely. The game’s rocky road to launch and its bad reception is a disaster in itself, but more problems were made by Inafune throughout the process. 

After the original 2015 release date had passed, a new Kickstarter was launched by Inafune for a brand new game, Red Ash, based on a spin-off of his Mega Man franchise. Many people were, rightly so, annoyed that Inafune was launching another Kickstarter when his last one had already suffered one delay. This resulted in Red Ash not reaching its funding goal but four days before the window of contribution closed, the project was completely funded by a Chinese company ‘Fuse’. It then was exposed that Comcept had been asking for funding from other companies, and were using Kickstarter to gauge interest in a Red Ash game.

Inafune's ambitions led to Mighty No. 9 being a huge failure. He was completely out of touch with why people felt such goodwill towards him and his previous work. Game creation costs a lot of money and many of the things he was attempting would’ve required far more funding to fully realise. Starting up another project, while his previous one had been delayed and it eventually being funded by a corporation, ruined any positivity felt by fans towards him.

Kickstarter has been used to create some really great and innovative games; whether it be Divinity: Original Sin or Superhot, it has allowed creators to directly respond to people's wishes. Inafune and Comcept have shown how not to launch a Kickstarter campaign and hopefully others will learn from their mistakes.

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