Avellone: It doesn't matter if Project Eternity is a flop

Obisidian Entertainment's creative director on the joys of Kickstarter

Outspoken Obsidian Entertainment creative director Chris Avellone has revealed some of the high and lows he's encountered on funding RPG Project Eternity through a Kickstarter campaign, including the reduction in pressure on hitting sales targets post-release.

"Actually, it doesn't matter if it's a flop, although I don't believe that it will be," he told Gamasutra.

"The nice thing about Kickstarter is that people have already paid for the title. So anything else that happens after that is great, but we know what our budget is, and practically speaking, that's all we're really focused on: 'We're going to make a game for this amount of money.'"

He explained that unlike normal development, post-release sales were a bonus. The real focus was on making the best game possible for the people who had already opened their wallets.

"We already have the backer support. They've already paid for it. That's our end destination. If it ends up getting released and selling a lot of copies, great. If it sells enough where we can support future instalments, we'll absolutely do that. If it doesn't make much of a profit, and we did want to do another instalment, we'd probably take it back to Kickstarter."

Of course Project Eternity, a successor to Planescape: Torment, had no trouble finding backers on the crowdfunding site. In fact it hit its $1.1 million target in a single day. It then went on to raise a total of over $3.9 million.

"Hitting the funding the first day was awesome and also scary at the same time, because we were like, 'Oh my god, we have to figure out these stretch goals a lot faster than we'd planned for,'" admitted Avellone.

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Latest comments (13)

Josh Meier5 years ago
I feel like it does matter. If the game flops, they most likely won't be getting any more funding if they try to kickstart another game later on. While I don't doubt that they can make a good game, it's a bit unsettling that they seem to believe it doesn't matter if the game sucks or not.

They'd be better off going into development without that mindset.
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"Actually, it doesn't matter if it's a flop, although I don't believe that it will be," he told Gamasutra.
"The nice thing about Kickstarter is that people have already paid for the title.
This is such a abhorent way of designing a product or mentality. KS does not incentive the developer to work any harder to produce a polished product? Perhaps the KS methodology should be altered to release funds in trenches on a regular basis upon achieving milestones.
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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games5 years ago
"The real focus was on making the best game possible for the people who had already opened their wallets."

I think all that he is saying is "letīs not make a game with a broad appeal". They already have the money to make the project that they wanted for the people that wanted it. If the game doesn't go outside the scope of those people (read: flops), but it is still a great game for that target audience, then they still have succeeded on their mission.
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Rod Oracheski Editor, Star News5 years ago
He isn't speaking about quality, just sales. A lot of high quality games have been sales flops, but with Kickstarter that doesn't matter as much.
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Craig Bamford Writer/Consultant 5 years ago
Seems like if the game is good, but doesn't get a lot of popular sales, a successful second kickstarter becomes MORE likely. The backers know they've backed a quality game, and they'll want to do more. They aren't investors, after all, they're patrons. They want products, not profits.

They may well also want to support a developer that THEY have a stake in, but which has been rejected by the broader market. A lot of Kickstarters seem to be built around backers' frustration that certain genres and creators are being ignored by the market. A poor-selling-but-excellent game would only reinforce that frustration, so it seems like it'd make it MORE likely that they'd back the "unjustly-forsaken" creator.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Craig Bamford on 3rd December 2012 5:22pm

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Zidaya Zenovka Blogger, Writer, freelance artist. 5 years ago
He's saying that he'd rather focus on making the game the best game it can be for the people who put money into the game. As long as they're happy, that's all that matters. It's a good attitude because odds are, if those people are happy, they'll spread word of mouth and you'll have even more supporters the next time around. Who knows, you might even get them to back something they might otherwise have had no interest in.
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Hugo Trepanier Game Designer, Behaviour Interactive5 years ago
Regardless of the final quality of the product or number of sales, it looks as though they're mostly using Kickstarter as a pre-ordering system. I thought this was against the idea of backing projects but I guess that's really the only incentive for most people.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 5 years ago
I think what he says is sales are not that important, as they already know how many people will pay for their game. The ones who already paid for it. If they can sell it to more people, all the better, but it does not really matter.
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Jeffrey Ates Critic/Writer/Enthusiast 5 years ago
I think when he said flop, I think he means a flop in regards to the amount of copies sold to warrant a success and break even on the development cost. Since they have the funds and know the limit, they don't have to worry about how much they can invest into a game since they already sold a ton of copies before its even made.
And while I am also a contributor to the kickstarter, I contributed since, if they are able to create an amazing game that sell's well WITHOUT the corporate bullshit, having all the devs properly rewarded financially and the community getting a game they always wanted, this could mean everything to the future of the industry already suffering from homogenization in an effort to kill sale's records and make investors and CEO's rich, not the artists who make the content.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Ates on 3rd December 2012 6:36pm

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James Berg Games User Researcher, EA Canada5 years ago
"Of course Project Eternity, a successor to Planescape: Torment,"
The game isn't a successor to PS:T. Chris has spoken at length about that particular subject (and many of us fans didn't like the answers :p)
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
As long as it's NOT another Alpha Protocol (which was a good idea executed badly - oh, for another year in development on that one!), I'm gathering the game will do fine.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 5 years ago
Yeah, as per other comments, the Josh and Chee, assuming he was building on that, really misunderstood what "flop" means. You can't "flop" in terms of quality. You can flop in sales numbers or perhaps review scores (though I've never heard it used in that context).

Most people just say "it was rubbish/crap". :)
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T. Elliot Cannon Game Designer 5 years ago
Wow, What's up with the photo selections lately? Is it teen journalism awareness week?
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