American McGee's Spicy Horse Loses $1.7 Million On Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

American McGee's Spicy Horse Loses $1.7 Million On Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

Akaneiro Demon Hunters gameplay

American McGee says Spicy Horse has no choice but to reduce the development team working on Akaneiro: Demon Hunters to just two people.

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters raised a little over $200,000 on Kickstarter in early 2013 and used that to create a Japanese-themed ARPG take on Little Red Riding Hood. The net result was actually pretty good - I reviewed it here - but it was also incomplete, lacking core features like a crafting system and co-op multiplayer, all of which, along with Android and iOS versions, were "guaranteed" by a successful Kickstarter campaign.

But nearly a full year down the road, none of those features have been implemented and it doesn't sound like they're going to be, either. "Development on Akaneiro started during the early months of 2011. Since that time, we've maintained a development team averaging 15 people/month on the project. In total, around 360 man-months have gone towards development, bringing our investment in dollars to nearly $2 million USD," Spicy Horse boss American McGee explained in a Kickstarter update posted today. "In that same period, we've generated roughly 300kUSD in revenue - this includes funds collected via the Kickstarter campaign, F2P purchases in-game, and one-time purchases via Steam. In simple math: We've spent $2 million, we've made $300k, we're 'in the hole' $1.7 million."

Because of that, McGee said Spicy Horse must "radically alter" its approach to Akaneiro, which in layman's terms means cutting the core development team to just two people. They'll continue to work on the game but obviously at a greatly reduced pace, while the remainder of the studio focuses on its other project, The Gate.

"This isn't the first time in our 8 year history we've faced this sort of challenge. It's not the first time we've had to reduce staff on one of our games. It is different because of the demand for transparency that comes with being a part of Kickstarter," McGee wrote. "In providing transparency like this, I am asking for your understanding and I am hoping for your support."

As good as Akaneiro is, it's nowhere near complete, which might explain at least in part why it remains in Steam Early Access, which surely didn't help its chances for success. And with only two people now on the job, it seems extremely unlikely that those features promised by the Kickstarter will ever be implemented.

Source: Kickstarter

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That's generally how the production of media is supposed to work: People give you money for your product AFTER you finish producing it! They need to finish the game before they complain about having lost money. It sounds like they didn't mean to spend $2 million on it.

I hope the gamers who have paid money for this get something worthwhile, or this ought to be a warning to future customers/investors of the dangers of early access offers.

One of the reasons I'll never fund anything on Kickstarter. I don't have money to just throw away, and I don't trust companies to not fuck it up either.

This has nothing to do with Kickstarter and everything to do with American McGee. I wouldn't trust that guy further than I could throw him.

Well, duh!, an unfinished game won't generate you lots of revenue.

It'll be a tremendous shame if this game bombs in the end, I dig the music and art style, but I'd definitely wait until the gameplay gets more refinement and it actually has the features they promised to deliver in the first place.

Headlines like this remind me I'm living in the future.

People with names like "Katniss Everdeen" and "Aeon Flux" aren't far off, folks.

American McGee is one of the few developers that needs a major publisher funding him. His best games were EA published sadly. The cult following of the Alice games got to his head and every other game he's made has been crap.

Amir Kondori:
This has nothing to do with Kickstarter and everything to do with American McGee. I wouldn't trust that guy further than I could throw him.

I would disagree. It may not be Kickstarter's "fault," but it should most definitely serve as a warning to prospective backers of any project that shit happens and sometimes the road ahead isn't as smooth and clear as it's made out to be.

The "Risks and rewards" of Akaneiro's Kickstarter:

"Because the project is an an advanced development state, the bulk of the risk has been overcome already. Bringing a faithful version to tablets will present some challenges, but with support from technology partners like Nvidia, we expect to clear those without too much pain. The remaining effort will be focused on content development and delivery of well-understood features. That being the case, we feel the overall risks are quite low."

And yet, here we are.

There are too many kickstarter games. I know theres know way to quantify that; but, we're in the heady days of a new wild west frontier.

Kickstarter shines for Niche experiences. I want space-themed city builders and isometric RPGs. Where else do I go but kickstarter? McGee's entry doesn't APPEAR to me to be all much of a niche entry. And now, it looks like an unfortunate albatross.

Andy Chalk:

Amir Kondori:
This has nothing to do with Kickstarter and everything to do with American McGee. I wouldn't trust that guy further than I could throw him.

I would disagree. It may not be Kickstarter's "fault," but it should most definitely serve as a warning to prospective backers of any project that shit happens and sometimes the road ahead isn't as smooth and clear as it's made out to be.

The "Risks and rewards" of Akaneiro's Kickstarter:

"Because the project is an an advanced development state, the bulk of the risk has been overcome already. Bringing a faithful version to tablets will present some challenges, but with support from technology partners like Nvidia, we expect to clear those without too much pain. The remaining effort will be focused on content development and delivery of well-understood features. That being the case, we feel the overall risks are quite low."

And yet, here we are.

Exactly, "and here we are". Personally I think American McGee's actions lately have shown he puts the bottom line ahead of anything else.
I am not saying Kickstarter is anything other than a caveat emptor, be prepared to get something you didn't expect or even nothing at all type of service. It is 100% that and at this point in time we've had enough examples that backers should be fully aware of that fact.
In this case American McGee completely lied in his Kickstarter and has shown again gamers do not deserve his trust.

*sigh*

I recognize this is probably pie-in-the-sky thinking, but is it really too much to ask that people pledge to make games that they can actually conceive of making if they reach their Kickstarter goals?!

Is every game-related Kickstarter campaign launcher assuming they're going to be Double Fine or inXile levels above their goals? I could kind of understand this sort of woeful misunderstanding of the road ahead from little indie teams that maybe only have a couple of Flash or Android games under their belt, but companies that have actually released large-scale commercial products seem like they should know better. Maybe that's the real hazard of trusting a "big name"- they got their recognition on the basis of game design, but never had all that much experience dealing with the logistics of realistic budgets and making payroll. Ironically, backers might actually be better off backing smaller-scale indie projects from nobodies who are more skittish of reaching for the sky and asking for the moon with regard to other people's money.

Perhaps I'm frustrated in part because I feel like if someone handed me $200k (minus Kickstarter fees), I could probably come out with an actual game within a year. I certainly know enough people with design and programming experience. It probably wouldn't be Akaneiro- but then, it probably wouldn't be $1.7 million in the hole, either.

I hope I'm not the only one who read the title and imagined it related to McGee blowing the game's budget betting on horse races.

Andy Chalk:
It may not be Kickstarter's "fault," but it should most definitely serve as a warning to prospective backers of any project that shit happens and sometimes the road ahead isn't as smooth and clear as it's made out to be.

It's a warning we shouldn't need by now, but somehow there are still people who think "backing a game on Kickstarter" = "guaranteed a finished product exactly like what's projected".

The main problem with the game i found was the obviously horrible pay to win strategy that was implemented. The micro transactions were horrible, and the game took every opportunity to show that it was designed that to progress at any kind of reasonable rate, that you would need to buy currency.

That's what turned me off the game, made me not throw any money at it.

Path of Exile is the ARPG that gets the micro-transaction model correct. I threw way more than retail cost of a game towards GGG and is the ONLY game i've put money into for cosmetic things.

Akeneiro's pay model was horrible.

Shame really, the game had a lot of potential and looked amazing, and i like McGee's work for the most part.

Pros: lovely art style, insane detailing on characters, pretty easy to pick up gameplay.

Cons: drops system seems to avoid actually granting your character drops they can actually use (much less generate bonus stats that actually make sense), game enforces a repetitive grinding cycle to maximize drop chances, anything remotely useful in the stores either costs way too much or is sold out almost immediately due to understocking versus demand, and there's zero reason to use the cash store, especially when the game itself is not too fulfilling after the first few runs. Money drops are also lacking in general, although this is probably because they expect the player to be a hardcore grinder. This is the easiest way to break interest in a casual game.

Characters are somewhat unbalanced as game favors tank builds over the others (especially with zero multiplayer, meaning that there's no reason to have a dps character when you're still going to be buried in a stream of 20 grunts within seconds). Skill variety is shallow (not that there's gonna be a lot of depth when you can only hotkey like, three skills?) and there's not much reason to work beyond specific builds as they are significantly more effective than others.

Barebones story brings shame to the artwork.

On a lesser note, the game also fails to push its artwork by never actually zooming in closer to things like bosses or your character at specific moments for heightening drama and spectacle, but in light of the systematic flaws, it's not as much of a big deal.

tldr....they COULD fix this thing with just two people (not withstanding the larger changes it would require to rebalance some of the issues), but they have to recognize what the issues are and actually address them, instead of using the typical short sighted strategies that failing games adopt before dying out completely

Andy Chalk:
I would disagree. It may not be Kickstarter's "fault," but it should most definitely serve as a warning to prospective backers of any project that shit happens and sometimes the road ahead isn't as smooth and clear as it's made out to be.

While I don't disagree with this, I think Amir Kondori is correct that it's nothing to do with Kickstarter. The problem is simply that people are still just people. Some are overly ambitious, some are bad businesspeople, some are just plain stupid, some are unscrupulous, and so on. In the past, these kinds of problems and failures happened all the time. There are huge numbers of terrible games that were rushed or never finished properly, often precisely because the people pitching them or trying to make them just didn't plan it all through properly. Even more ended up being cancelled without ever being released. The only difference with Kickstarter is that it makes these failures more visible - instead of paying a bit extra for all games so that publishers can fund the ones that turn out to be unprofitable, we can actually see the money we gave directly to someone being wasted. The effect is identical, we just tend not to notice in the former case.

So sure, it's a good warning to backers that not all projects will pan out. But that's not in any way unique to Kickstarter. No matter what funding model you use not all projects will pan out, and it's always going to be the customers who ultimately pay for that. And it's worth bearing in mind that publishers are full of people whose entire jobs consist of trying to figure out which projects will be worth backing. While warning them can't hurt, expecting the general public to be any better at it would be somewhat optimistic, to put it mildly.

I have a question! Why was this guy even trusted? Alice was great but was that reason enough to blindly throw money at some shady project he was looking to fund?

Amir Kondori:
This has nothing to do with Kickstarter and everything to do with American McGee. I wouldn't trust that guy further than I could throw him.

It seems like the issue is going to become a common one with people who ask for handouts on Kickstarter. The idea seems to be that you can just go "gimme money" and expect things to work out. And since people support them, it reinforces the notion.

Pescetarian:
Headlines like this remind me I'm living in the future.

People with names like "Katniss Everdeen" and "Aeon Flux" aren't far off, folks.

I'm surprised there aren't people named Katniss Everdeen already.

I'm a fan of Kickstarter as a platform, warts & all.
Broken Age & Banner Saga were delightful & I couldn't be happier that I backed them.
Believe it or not, I get a lot of enjoyment out of my Ouya, but bare in mind though that my positive experience may have to do with my perspective on it (Of course it's not competing with Sony/Microsoft; it's a cheap android device with an open root & Towerfall. Works for me)
Molyneux had me grinding my teeth when the words "free-to-play" started flying around after I'd already decided to pay him, but the game was functional & I can't say I expected any different from the whole situation.

All of that said, I steered clear of Akaneiro as soon as I saw McGee's name

Zachary Amaranth:

Amir Kondori:
This has nothing to do with Kickstarter and everything to do with American McGee. I wouldn't trust that guy further than I could throw him.

It seems like the issue is going to become a common one with people who ask for handouts on Kickstarter. The idea seems to be that you can just go "gimme money" and expect things to work out. And since people support them, it reinforces the notion.

The game was released. All the backers can now play akaneiro demon hunters. The game is still being improved and developed, there is a two man team working on it as stated in the Kickstarter post this article is based on. Not that I am in a rush to give American McGee any credit, I am not, but this is hardly a failed Kickstarter, this is more so a failed game.

If people are trying to point to a reduced support team on a game that is available to download and play today as some huge failure of the Kickstarter platform, well, that leaves me a little flabbergasted. Personally I think that a few people who predicted that Kickstarter would die after a couple of high profile failures are kind of defensive about the fact that it didn't happen.
If anything Kickstarter is growing and allowing some really interesting games to get made. People are not as stupid as you think they are, the community has been very good at picking out the purely fraudulent projects and at this point backers are cognizant of the risks inherent in backing a Kickstarter project.

Amir Kondori:
I am not, but this is hardly a failed Kickstarter, this is more so a failed game.

Two years and it still isn't delivering multiple, promised features of the Kickstarter. That sounds like a failed Kickstarter to me. In any sense that matters, at least.

Kahani:
So sure, it's a good warning to backers that not all projects will pan out. But that's not in any way unique to Kickstarter. No matter what funding model you use not all projects will pan out, and it's always going to be the customers who ultimately pay for that. And it's worth bearing in mind that publishers are full of people whose entire jobs consist of trying to figure out which projects will be worth backing. While warning them can't hurt, expecting the general public to be any better at it would be somewhat optimistic, to put it mildly.

Amir Kondori:
I am not saying Kickstarter is anything other than a caveat emptor, be prepared to get something you didn't expect or even nothing at all type of service. It is 100% that and at this point in time we've had enough examples that backers should be fully aware of that fact.
In this case American McGee completely lied in his Kickstarter and has shown again gamers do not deserve his trust.

People have asked me in the past why I continue to exhort caution at the end of every news post about a Kickstarter project, and this is precisely the reason: Because as much as we're familiar with it now, things still go wrong. In this particular case, I don't think anything short of a built-in mistrust of McGee could have prevented backers from getting involved, because it certainly looked good, he's a "name" developer and the Kickstarter made it clear that the bulk of the work was done and very little could go wrong. As we've learned, those promises were based on assumptions that turned out to be way off-base (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/131846-Spicy-Horse-Sheds-Light-On-Akaneiro-Demon-Hunters-Stumble) but that's something that could happen with any Kickstarter that doesn't provide a detailed budgetary breakdown - and how many do?

Too many people fail to grasp, or just refuse to recognize, that Kickstarter is an investment, not a preorder, and investing is risky - and if you invest more than you can comfortably afford to lose, you're setting yourself up for heartache.

 

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