A quick search of Kickstarter itself will reveal some of its greatest successes, one of which is the Coolest Cooler. This nifty little device is like a mobile beach party. With its media dock and built in speakers, you can rock out to your favorite tunes (mine are from the 80s). Of course, it’s also a functioning cooler, so you can keep Reinhardt happy with copious amounts of cold ones! Well… Ok, I said I’d show off some fantastic products that likely never would’ve come to fruition were it not for Kickstarter, but I can’t help that this one was hit with delay after delay, nor can I help that many people complained of the poor quality of the item (if they even received it at all). It just serves as a reminder of the axiom, “Let the buyer beware.” Remember, with Kickstarter, you aren’t actually buying any items. You are supporting ideas. Don’t fall for the hype (a good way to calibrate your hype bullshit meter is to watch E3). Be smart, and be sure you know what you’re supporting before you do it. Again, I’m not anti-Kickstarter (I’m a backer myself!). I just don’t want to you end up falling for the 2018 version of the Nigerian prince scheme.
And speaking of cameos, Shovel Knight himself will be making one in my personal favorite Kickstarter project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night! Like I said, I have no beef with Kickstarter as a concept, and I’m an occasional backer myself! When this campaign launched in May 2015, it sought $500,000. By the time it ended, it had racked up over 11 times that amount, making it the highest funded video game campaign to date. Interestingly enough, the game that broke that record (Shenmue III) is right up there. But unless you haphazardly scrolled past it, you already read about that game.
But this isn’t to say all resurrections are bad! Remember Reading Rainbow? Children of the 80s and 90s certainly do! Hosted by Lavarr Burton (another Star Trek +1! He played Jordi LaForge in TNG!), this was a staple show of PBS and schools the country over loved using it to expose young minds to the wonders of reading. Just between you and me, it worked! And the fact that Kickstarter managed to get this show back into production, complete with its beloved host, makes me happy.
Now we arrive at one of my favorite Kickstarter successes: Mega Man Pixel Tactics! I briefly mentioned Pixel Tactics in my Gen Con 2016 article, and it’s true that regular Pixel Tactics is a Kickstarter success in its own right, but as fun as the base game is, I think it was all building to the Mega Man variant. I love it! The strategy gameplay is easy to learn and the game is quick enough to get in multiple plays per session. Better yet, there’s a perfect blend of luck and skill. Best of all, the artwork is comprised of all the 8-bit sprites we know and love from Mega Man 1-6, 9, and 10!
What’s with all these ridiculously expensive board games? Be ready to drop a Benjamin for this next one… Based on the infamously difficult video game, we have Dark Souls: The Board Game! Again, the price tag is prohibitive, but from what I’ve heard, the mechanics are great, just expect a lot of down time. The game takes a turn after each player takes a turn, so if you have a group of 4, you don’t get 1 turn for every 4; you get 1 for every 8. Sort of like Ani-Mayhem if you ever played that.
Despite my nostalgic love of 8-bit, technology really has progressed a lot since then. We now stand on the threshold of true virtual reality, in part thanks to the success of the Oculous Rift Kickstarter. Even if you prefer the Playstation VR, you owe at least a little something to Oculous, as it, appropriately, kicked off the marketability of virtual reality as a concept. Of course, the idea has been around a long time. Remember the disaster that was the Virtual Boy? Hopefully not… Anyway, elements of VR have been bandied about since the Civil War era (yes, really)! You could even argue that the View-Master toys we all grew up with (which debuted in 1939) are a form of VR, and even if you doubt that, nobody can deny the importance of stereoscopic 3D images when it comes to virtual reality. In fact, in 2015, View-Master partnered with Gulag to produce the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer. But I bring all of this up to say how Oculous, in 2010 (though the KS was in 2012) was the major player the fledgling industry needed in order to make VR the reality it is today.
And next we come to an invention I’m seriously considering ordering for myself: The Duchess Gaming Table. Of course, you can play games on basically any table. All you usually need is a flat surface. Hell, you could even play on the floor if you so desire. But this is so much more than any regular ol’ table. It has built-in cupholders! Ok, that’s not exactly the selling point (though a cool perk nonetheless). What really sets it apart is the inlaid play surface. This keeps your dice right where they belong: on the table. And the surface of the table itself is also important. It’s soft with just enough give to make it easy to pick up your cards. It’s sort of like a hybrid between a playmat to your favorite ccg and a Las Vegas gaming table, but priced such that you can afford one! While I’ve heard that there have been some issues with items getting damaged in transit, the creator (boardgametables.com) seems to be doing a bang-up job getting out replacements. That service, in addition to the product, is selling me on this. It may just be the perfect addition to my own game nights!
This led to those backer rewards and stretch goals getting cooler and cooler. Of course there’s the obvious stuff, like extra characters and difficulties. But what about the roguelike function that got added? Or the classic mode? Or, my favorite, the 8-bit retro prequel? For backing one amazing game I already know I’m going to love, I get 2? Yes, please! I’m loving the Curse of the Moon bonus game! Bloodstained is the perfect example of how to run a successful Kickstarter, and, at least so far, how to deliver the goods afterward.
Without getting too deep in the muck (yet), I feel the need to defend this game. As if to prove Gamergate true, many so-called gaming “journalists” attacked this game and its director, Daniel Vavra. Why? Because he’s pro-Gamergate. Yep! It comes full circle! The way so many so quickly circled the wagons to destroy this game instantly told me everything I needed to know: that I had to have this game! Interestingly, when you talk to people who actually *gasp* PLAYED the game, you find Pravda's idiotic criticisms instantly null and void. Especially the claims of racism. It’s 1403 in Bohemia. OF COURSE THERE ARE NO BLACK PEOPLE, YOU FUCKING RETARDS! But it was never about racism or even historical accuracy, was it? You stupid idiots decided in advance that you wanted to bring this game down a peg. In that case, mission failed.
And now, on with the show! This is one for all you outdoorsmen! A tent is practically a necessity, right? But it’s not always fun to have your buddies all cramped together either. Enter the Crua Clan Tent System! For starters, the extra insulation can let you “rough it” while staying comfortable. But what really sets this system apart is how it affords you some privacy. The Crua Clan Tent system is to a tent what a house is to a bedroom! You like your travel companions enough to journey with them, but that doesn’t mean you want to do EVERYTHING with them. Let’s say it’s a bitterly cold night (and that aforementioned insulation just isn’t cutting it), so you decide to snuggle up to your lover to “prevent hypothermia.” Now you can do so! Each singular tent can partition off from the rest, while still connecting to them! There’s even a “living room” area! This is a really fun idea that needed the Kickstarter or it may not have seen the light of day. I wonder if Noct and his friends would get an experience bonus staying in one of these…
I’ll even bring up the success stories I don’t personally like, ‘cause that’s the kind of guy I am! I always enjoyed Mystery Science Theater 3000. Like many of you, my friends and I are quick to quip all over the obvious (and not so obvious) flaws in movies. We have an entire section of this very site devoted to movies and occasionally tearing down really bad ones! The show ran its course, but many fans *ahem* felt like the show still had a lot of life left in it. Thankfully, there’s Riff Trax! Brought to you by the minds who brought you MSK3K! Then I heard the original series (thanks to Kickstarter backers) was getting a resurrection on Netflix. I was puzzled outright, considering Riff Trax is a thing. Then I watched an episode… It somehow managed to be both nerd pandering and pedantic at the same time. I’ve seen enough. Still, I’m sure some people out there (with worse taste than me!) like it, so I still consider it a Kickstarter success.
At any rate, I know this is the game I’ve thrown the most money at! Take it, Iga! Take it all! Watching the venture unfold was like a game in and of itself! It started on May 11, 2015, seeking half a million dollars, which would represent 10% of the total development cost of the game. Four hours later, that goal was met! Like any good KS, there were plenty of tantalizing stretch goals, which were similarly reached almost instantly. It got to the point that I was constantly F5ing the page just to see what the next stretch goal would be. Then, with the next refresh, it would be met. It was crazy! I genuinely wonder how many of those goals were originally intended and how many they had to come up with on the fly to keep those donations pouring in. It was glorious! And the most telling part of the story is how that half a mill represented only 10% of the dev costs. But since this game shattered all expectations, the KS alone ended up generating enough revenue to otherwise fully fund the game!
Oh, and if you remember the Cosplay Deviants from that Gen Con article, they fully funded their 2018 calendar through Kickstarter (twice over).
The Banner Saga takes the best parts of Final Fantasy Tactics/Tactic Ogre, Shining Force, and Fire Emblem, wraps them up with beautiful hand-drawn animation, and serves it all up to you with a side of fully orchestrated score! There are three games in this series. Rather, there will be on July 24, when the final entry releases, and all three represent Kickstarter victories. While none of the games represent runaway successes of Kickstarter campaigns, and none of them made huge impacts in terms of sales or review scores, they’re still significant. These games almost certainly never would have seen the light of day without the KS platform, and they represent one of the best kept secrets in gaming! They are simply beautiful to behold. The look, the sound, the story, and the gameplay all combine to create a stunning work of art. Give these games a try. You won’t regret it.
‘Cause I like ya, I’ll bring up another Kickstarter victory that doesn’t quite jive with me. Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual sequel to Banjo-Kazooie. Even if you’ve never heard of it, the titles alone probably clued you in. Banjo, kazoo, ukulele? Even the spellings and hyphenated titles. Anyway, this game is a mediocre collectathon that can’t even hold a candle to Super Mario 64, and may have been best left in the decade from whence it came. And, yes, uber-nostalgic me just said that. But I’m sure some of you guys liked it. At any rate, 73,206 of you backed it!
or as dirty as you want!
This next one begs the question, did it really need a Kickstarter? Pillars of Eternity was developed by Obsidian and published by Paradox. Obsidian is responsible for such games as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Alpha Protocol (a severely underrated game). So why did they turn to crowdfunding? Believe it or not, after South Park, Obsidian nearly went bankrupt. In fact, were it not for the successful campaign for Pillars of Eternity, as well as its positive reception afterwards, there’s a realistic chance Obsidian wouldn’t be around now!
Another somewhat niche, yet extremely satisfying experience, is Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A realistic, period correct, first person RPG, this game, in many ways, delivers (womp womp) the experience Shenmue attempted to. It’s worth noting that this game did not launch a Kickstarter campaign for funding, but it instead needed to prove demand to an already heavily invested backer. Nevertheless, it’s still a huge success for the platform, as the game’s peak player base was actually higher than Witcher 3 and Skyrim!
Here’s another one for all you 80s fans. Yes, this one’s a stretch (no, not a stretch goal), since it was on Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter, but you get the idea. It’s Dragon’s Lair the movie! It’s also important to point out that the successful campaign was not for the movie itself, rather it was to produce enough content to convince a major studio to fully fund the movie. Keep in mind, that this could still fail if none of the big fish bite. It’s also in the gray area of ethics, seeing as how it’s, at least in part, collecting real money from people as a means to not only produce something, but to also show studios execs that there’s a demand for it. Having said all of that, I loves me some Dragon’s Lair, and I really want another animated classic from Don Bluth while he can still make them, so this goes in the good column.
Let’s move on to something we can all agree on: Ghostbusters. … Not the reboot… Cryptozoic, makers of seemingly every deck building game under the sun these days, secured the funding it needed through Kickstarter to produce a Ghostbusters board game. The game features high quality (and in some cases, large!) pieces and they’re designed based on the work of the Ghostbusters IDW comic artist, Dan Schoening. But be warned; this comes at a price. The MSRP for this game is 80 simoleons. The game looks like a lot of fun, but that price tag has kept me from trying it… at least so far. More recently, Cryptozoic also ran a successful Kickstarter to get a Ghostbusters II board game off the ground.
I hesitate to include this next entry, as it doesn’t actually exist yet, but Shenmue III is the most funded Kickstarter video game to date, and the 6th most funded Kickstarter project to date. While the first two games really haven’t aged well, they are fun in their own right. Just be prepared for some extremely stilted dialogue and animations. Regardless, this is one I’m personally anticipating!
Next up is the Scanadu Scout. This little device was basically a portable medical diagnostic machine. Does that sound like a Tricorder to you? You’re reading this site, so of course it does. It is important to note that the item no longer actually functions, but it did work while it was supported, and it definitely gets a +1 from me for the Star Trek reference! I am Captain Curt, after all!
Ahem! Sorry about that… Moving right along, we have a game with no controversy (real or imagined) whatsoever, Shovel Knight! If you ever enjoyed the NES, or even if you didn’t, this game is amazing! It’s like a buffet line of NES all stars! You take a little Zelda II (the primary inspiration for the game) and a whole lot of DuckTales (Woo!) for your core gameplay. Then, add some Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse to get the proper aesthetic. Slather on a heaping helping of Mega Man for some kickass music. And finally, finish with some Super Mario Bros. to taste. And, yes, you’ll find all sorts of other inspirations throughout the game. Depending on the platform, you may even spot a cameo from another game!
It can be as clean...
Another entertaining offering enabled by Kickstarter is Joking Hazard. On the surface, it looks like it’s yet another in the already done to death Cards Against Humanity clones, but give it a chance because it really is its own beast. For starters, it’s more visual than linguistic. And, honestly, who among us hasn’t wanted to create our own comics? You are reading The Culture Cache, after all… In this game, that’s your job! And I challenge you to find any other game where you can win by making characters crucify each other for shitting on the floor!
And yet another in the shock-humor subgenre is Bears vs. Babies. Brought to you by Elan Lee and Matthew Inman (of Exploding Kittens fame), this game tasks you with Frankensteining together the best bears you can in order to fight the ever increasing horde of babies. Like Kittens, this one leans hard on The Oatmeal for its own brand of humor. Unlike Exploding Kittens, this game just didn’t do it for me. They managed to capture lightning in a bottle with Kittens, but it looks like lightning never strikes twice (unless you count Imploding Kittens). This game’s premise is just too thin, and, to be frank, I’m groaning (not a typo) weary of the constant shock-humor being shoehorned into everything now. When everything is shocking, nothing is. But maybe that’s just me. At any rate, the game was fully funded, with its Kickstarter campaign reaching 25643% of its goal.
The last time I told you about Kickstarter, it came across as much more negative than I intended. My only goal was to raise some serious questions in a humorous way, nothing more. I have no axe to grind here, and to prove it, this time around, I’m going to show off some fantastic products that likely never would’ve come to fruition were it not for Kickstarter.
Well, now that we’re talking about gaming, I’d be remiss not to bring up one of the most all time successful Kickstarter projects. Exploding Kittens broke records. Tomix already covered this game, so I’m not going to bore you with the details, but this blend of Russian Roulette, humor, and cardstock really is a ton of fun! But odds are good you’ve already played this game already (and have fallen in love with everyone’s favorite palindrome, Tacocat), so you already know that. Nevertheless, it’s one of Kickstarter’s most well known ventures, so I had to mention it.