Penny Arcade launches Kickstarter to wipe out advertisements on site

Popular site draws controversy as it seeks $1 million to create 'ad-free' experience

One of the largest gaming media sites in the world, responsible for two major conventions, a slew of games and one of the most influential web comics on the net is asking fans for $250,000 to make the site completely ad-free for a year. Penny Arcade, running for just over eleven years now, has posted a Kickstarter, postulating that the act of removing ads would free up a considerable amount of time for creative pursuits.

Said Kickstarter has drawn mixed reactions from fans and media personalities alike, who wonder just how effective such a ploy can be.

Penny Arcade creators Jerry 'Tycho Brahe' Holkins and Mike 'Jonathan Gabriel' Krahulik believe that should ad revenues instead be replaced by crowd-sourced funds, they in turn could focus more heavily on expanding the business of creating a gamer-centric community and business. The site, which originally started as a simple web comic, has started to work more heavily on producing its own games and content.

The scheme is quite simple; the Kickstarter is asking for a 'humble' $250K to wipe out ads on the front page. From there, multiple tiers of funding levels exist, which will start to eliminate more and more advertisements.

Should they hit their goal of $1 million, all ads will be completely pushed out of the site for one full year. Penny Arcade explains why they chose to go after Kickstarter, saying "We've committed to a pretty shocking reconfiguration of our company, and we're going to need all hands on deck to do so. Their Pledge system streamlines this process considerably. It's also incredibly transparent, with a bright green bar that goes up in real time so you can see what is happening."

Of course, the goal seems lofty. Krahulik, Holkins and the rest of the Penny Arcade team have been active on Twitter, answering questions and making statements about their decisions. A tide of negative criticism has arisen, calling for the removal of the project due to it not meeting Kickstarter's Terms of Service.

Penny Arcade has punched back, saying that they cleared the project through before attempting. As of writing, the Kickstarter has hit just over $88,000 with over 1,250 backers.

Should things not get funded? "Things stay how they are now. That's fine."

Stay tuned for our upcoming interview with the team at Penny Arcade about this project and what it means exactly for the company and gaming media at large.

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Latest comments (11)

Chris Tilton Composer, Chris Tilton Music5 years ago
Have they not heard of a Pay Pal donate button? That route seems more appropriate.
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Wayne Gibson UK Marketing Manager for 5 years ago
As much as I like PA I dont believe this is in good taste from such a popular site and in my opinion at least isnt was Kick Starter is all about. I mean do they honestly expect their fans to shell out $1 million a year to keep their site ad free?
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James Wells Gaming Contributor - 5 years ago
I agree with Wayne- very tacky move on PA's part. They don't make enough money from their conventions and merch and video games?
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Spencer Franklin Concept Artist 5 years ago
Sorry, as much as I love these guys and PA, this is just really lame and extremely tacky on their part, and I am more than a little surprised that they even considered this... definitely a loss of respect for using this platform to fund such a self serving endeavor. As someone above mentioned, Paypal Donate button...
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James Verity5 years ago
I take it Penny Arcade give all their products away for free with no profit? .... no, I didn't think so...
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Alex V EIC, NGN5 years ago
I agree with the comments here. Seems innapropriate for both PA as well as Kickstarter. Why not go with a classic "paid membership" like IGN and Gamespot used to do? Pay a small fee and get an ad-free experience.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
The best way to protest is to simply not pay. If Penny Arcade and Kickstarter are fine with it, then they have ever right to do this sort of managed system. And it's not like there's not donation rewards... very few sites have the luxury of asking to get ads removed and I can understand why they do it, because it takes both time and money, and they'd clearly rather be doing other projects than worrying about the monetary upkeep of the site.
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Darryl Linington Owner/Editor, ITF Gaming5 years ago
I was considering doing the same with my site . I run the site using funds from my day job and at times it can be tough. We are one of South Africa's largest gaming websites; however, we don't seem to score any ad support or revenue from ads. The current ads on my site are generally from barter deals, for example: we get to keep certain review hardware after it has done its rounds with the rest of the media companies.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darryl Linington on 12th July 2012 7:51am

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Gabe and Tycho have said that the reason they want to be able to go ad-free is they don't like taking money from an advertiser and then potentially ripping into them with critical commentary. It doesn't sit right with them, so the only option is for the whole site to go ad-free rather than giving some people the option to turn off ads for themselves(which many do already using AdBlock).

I don't see anything wrong with it; if you don't like it, you don't have to back it - and if it meets the funding goal anyway you still get the benefit of an ad-free experience and potentially the interesting-sounding projects they've been teasing for stretch goals.
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Wayne Gibson UK Marketing Manager for 5 years ago
They should setup a 'Sponsor' system like Rooster Teeth has or some sort of yearly subsciption package with varying degrees of advertising used depending on the plan with added benefits. These could be reduced and/or priority on PAX tickets, special comic prints signed by the PA staff sent out to top lvl sponsors etc. Simply put they are now an established business/brand in the gaming industry and really should be behaving like one in reference to business practices. In my eyes it just seems like a very lazy way to milk the teat of their fanbase. Little effort for maximum financial gain.

Kick Starter at its core seems to be designed essentially to get projects off the ground which would normally have problems acquiring traditional means of funding. PA has 2 successful conventions, a charity, a website a successful brand of merchandise etc. I dont see why they need Kick Starter. If any other gaming site tried to do this most if not all the people supporting PA right now would be screaming bloody murder.

If Gabe and Tycho feel bad about taking money from advertisers and then ripping into them perhaps they need to look at their own moral business practices instead. It just sounds like a poorly veiled excuse for 'Your products shit but we'll still take your money anyway.'
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It just sounds like a poorly veiled excuse for 'Your products shit but we'll still take your money anyway.'

And that's exactly why they don't want to do that? So... they could just not take any advertising money and raise the cash to run their projects from another source - like maybe reader donations via Kickstarter, which is a good method of taking money for a project while ensuring that enough is raised to make it worthwhile and that donors get some kind of reward in return.
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