Cartoonish arbiters of gaming culture Penny Arcade have taken to Kickstarter in an attempt to conjure up revenue in order to go ad-free for a year, giving participants no significantly tangible rewards, with Twitter following and Xbox LIVE befriending offered up for hundreds spent.
Clever use of a business model that has become prevalent in the last year in this industry, or the shameless bastardisation of something pure and good?
Opinions are split on the matter. At the time of writing some 2,080 backers have already contributed $144,245 to the project, hailing the initiative as a good thing. Penny Arcade themselves have been instrumental in highlighting exactly what going ad-free will mean.
“It is at its core a return to the concept we had eleven years ago. Back then we considered it begging but today it’s called crowd funding,”Mike Krahulik , referring to years when Penny Arcade could not attract advertisers and survived on donations.
“I don’t want you to get the idea that Penny Arcade is any kind of trouble. Honestly if this Kickstarter doesn’t work nothing here will change. The reality is that we can continue working for advertisers but if we can, we’d rather work for you.”
He expanded upon this in a statement to Eurogamer, admitting that they didn't really need the money, but asserting that it would free up time for the two creators, and allow them to create material for their fans rather than sponsored strips for publishers and advertisers.
“[Business manager Robert Khoo] projected what we would get from advertising in a year and he said ‘this is the low end of what we would need and this is the high end of what we would need.’ That’s what we’re asking for on Kickstarter,” he said.
“There were definitely years where we did a lot more than we’re asking. The project will fail or succeed and that will tell us if it was a good idea or not. Arguing about it right now is kind of silly. Just see if people want to do it or not. That’s the whole reason we did it right? We can talk about it amongst ourselves, or we could just put it up and ask them and see.”
Of course, this being the internet, just as many folk have questioned (to put it mildly) the ethics of this entire project, and fear the precedent that such an initiative might set for the future. The admission of PA not needing the money - in stark contrast to the hundreds and thousands of Kickstarter projects that really do - has been criticised, with many disgruntled more by the platform for this project rather than the project itself.
Considering that funding one's entire business contravenes Kickstarter's T&Cs does make it a little suspect, and one can't help but wonder that if PA had dropped this initiative on their own site no one would have made a fuss.
Moreover, PA weren't exactly whoring themselves out to advertising execs in the same way that development studios might see their creative visions compromised or crushed by overbearing publishers, with their pickiness over promotional material and sponsored strips widely known.
Then again, there's the usual case to be made that if you don't like it, don't pay a thing.
What do you guys reckon? A shrewd call by PA that'll reward fans in the long run, or corporate begging spoiling a good thing? Let us know in the box below.