Why Project Rap Rabbit will fail
Last month the creators of the PS1 classic Parappa the Rapper, a game deeply loved by its fans until this date, announced their new project, Project Rap Rabbit, nearly out of nowehere. Launching a Kickstarter campaign at the same day, NanaOn-Sha and iNiS J probably thought to get their latest rap battle, rhythm something project funded in an instant, similar to the skyrocketed Mighty No. 9 some years ago, alltime fan favourite Shemue 3, recent indie surprise Blasphemous or Pillars of Eternity 2, which actually had the same funding goal, and many more. However, if we take a look at its Kickstarter campaign we´re presented with surprising sight, after two thirds of the campaign, it only collected 140k of its initial funding goal of 855k pounds. Of course, the question arises how this could happen, what´s the problem of Project Rap Rabbit, why were others so successful? So, let´s take a deeper look at not only this particular one, but also at kickstarter campaigns for games in general.
Overall, Project Rap Rabbit´s failure can be explained by two problems, one more specific to the campaign itself, while the second one is something every game on kickstarter has to face.
Problem 1: From a bad Announcement to a bad Kickstarter
On 15th May 2017 NanaOn-Sha and iNiS J surprisingly revealed they´re working on a new rhythm game together and hoping to get the ball rolling through Kickstarter. Surprisingly, they were not alone, accompanied by the UK based publisher PQube (the same company that published Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 in Europe) they opened the Kickstarter gates to their 855k pounds (approx 1,1 million dollars) funding goal. After the initial run to the “Back this project” button, collecting around 120k during the first 24 hours, the stream of money quickly stagnated. Even tho big sites like IGN or Kotaku wrote about it, at no point could it create any sort of hype, carrying it to it´s pretty high goal.
So, let´s take a look at the previously mentioned Shemue 3, a sequel to an unsuccessful yet beloved series as well, with an even higher goal of 2 million. Despite the fact it may have been highly anticipated since years, Shemue 3 nailed one thing: Its Announcment. On E3 2015 they surprise announced it on Sony´s press conference, giving them the exposure and audience they need, to reach as many as possible. Project Rap Rabbit on the other hand just got a rather unspectacular reveal, almost sneaking onto Kickstarter without building up any hype. Especially because it doesn´t have the fanbase of Shenmue 3 or other games.
It may only be a minor piece in the whole puzzle but still worth mentioning, in order to understand what´s wrong with their approach to Kickstarter. Not only was the way and time they announced their campaign pretty unspectacular, resulting in some late coverage of bigger gaming magazines, the announcer itself was also a bad choice. Instead of NanaOn-Sha and iNiS J revealing it by themselves, PQube assumed all the marketing work, like every publisher would do, and here the first bad impression emerged. “Why do they have a publisher in the first place and still need our money?”, was the first question that came in my mind, leaving a bad side taste in my mouth. In the first place, mostly because Kickstarter wasn´t a place for developers with publishers to fund their game but for little indie studios, lacking the money to bring their ideas to life.
These two problems combined created a pretty bad first impression even before we opened their campaign. However, that could still be bad marketing and the project itself convinces us an… well, let me stop you right there, Project Rap Rabbits biggest mistake … is its presentation.
If you briefly skim over the whole page, you´ll be presented with an extensive, illustrated concept … but nothing more, no gameplay, no screenshots, no songs, no voice acting, nothing except promises and ideas topped by the same in video format. Nothing more than vague concepts, how it could work and look, praising of NanaOn-Sha and iNiS J, as well as more artwork, sketches and more concepts! A campaign, that asks for 1,1 million dollars for making a game of a nearly dead genre, without showing the things, (music) games define. Especially because they tried to fund a rap rhythm game here, they needed things to really show, that these things still work in 2017, and failed.
In a time where Parappa the Rapper Remastered shows how old the gameplay actually is and how much nostalgia influences us, as seen in the reviews, they needed to proof that they still can make a great modern rap rhythm game and failed relentlessly. Finally, they actually showed some gameplay a week before end, leading me to the thought, that it was quickly thrown together, in order to save their Kickstarter, otherwise they could include it from the beginning as well, probably having a way bigger impact then. Sadly, the whole gameplay was just a big concept art as well, no real time 3D graphics as announced nor actual GAMEplay, just take a look for yourself:
Yet, why is it necessary to show more than a concept, a vision, a capable team and a fitting announcement? Why is it necessary to show gameplay, to hype the Kickstarter and to be more than a promise? To explain this, we have to talk about where it initially began, where Kickstarter is now, basically, a little history lesson is needed in Project Rap Rabbit´s second problem:
2. Problem: Kickstarter´s past, present and future
When Kickstarter first became a thing it was full of little developers wanting to realize their dream game, without being bound to their publishers will or just able to develop a very niche-y game. Originally, Kickstarter was a place for little independent devs, until 2013, where the famous Kickstarter campaign for Mighty No.9 by Keiji Inafune went up. Wait, before you write a rant comment about me using this overused “meme” and bash it into the ground for being the reason for everything bad in this world again, let me clarify this: I don´t belive Mighty No.9 is the sole reason for Kickstarter´s problems but maybe the one most present in media and peoples mind, making it one of the most referenced projects to date, that´s why I´m using it as an example.
Taking a brief look over the nearly 4 years old page, we see pretty much nothing else than concepts and artworks as well. Carried by Keiji Inafune, more of a businessman than a creator (thanks Kamiya for these words), Mighty No.9 hit on our nostalgia as well, promising a rebirth of Mega Man, a great artstyle, gameplay, pretty much the wet dream of every gamer. Similar to Project Rap Rabbit, no gameplay or anything resembling a game was present. Followed by delay after delay, a partnership with Deep Silver as publisher, a second Kickstarter named Red Ash, being one of the shadiest projects till date and last but not least, an awful excuse of a game named Mighty No.9.
During and before Keiji Inafune´s various campaigns, delays and giant amount of funding something interesting happened: More and more games crawled onto the quickly growing Kickstarter platform, leading us to gems like Pillars of Eternity or Wasteland 2, hugely funded and highly anticipated. Campaigns as these gave Kickstarter the growth it needed in the gaming industry, resulting in a run of little indie studios on the site, clustering it with both, good and bad games, similar to modern Steam in a way.
Wherein 2012/13 a game seeking funding over Kickstarter was unique, it´s almost part of our daily life nowadays, leading to less and less coverage of big sites for them. Due to the lack of overview and interest in Kickstarter, developers need to either have a really interesting game (seen in Blasphemous) or come from a big name in order to be featured on gaming sites. Yet, the fear of journalists recommending games to their readers, that can´t hold their promises like Mighty No.9 also plays a role here, there are just too many risks to take as a site with a big name.
All these factors lead to quite a desperate situation for little indie developers, who just want to get their dream funded. Gone are the days, where Kickstarter was new, replaced by a quickly stagnating interest in the platform, both by consumers and journalists, as seen in modern studies. Many big developers already fled from the flooded platform to alternatives like Fig. A reason why Shenmue 3 was announced at E3, the biggest gaming conference in the world, and we rarely see big Kickstarter projects anymore.
We don´t know what will happen with Kickstarter in the future, maybe it will be flooded with more and more indie games until it collapses, leaving dozens of dreams unfunded. Maybe we will witness a rebirth in some way, guiding more consumers and money to Kickstarter again, who knows. For now the platform has hit a new low, having failures like Mighty No.9 attached to it, while other good examples are simply forgotten.
In this mist of lacking interest, distrust in Kickstarter campaigns and unreliable time schedules of game developers, we have Project Rap Rabbit. A Kickstarter campaign that seems to have traveled in time, originally coming from 2013 with its raw concepts, ideas and promises, seemingly ignoring what happened in the past years and the reasons for it. Being launched in a time where the prime game of the creators is ripped apart for being old and clunky and a distrust for Kickstarters involving publishers is bigger than ever, there was no way it would be off to a good start. Combined with the lack of any gameplay and obvious lack of evaluation time, as well as prototyping, even tho they have a publisher.
Questions after PQube´s role are left unanswered, a lack of substance being present in every sentence of the campaign and selling points only consisting in trusting the skill of developers, something more than often abused till now, Project Rap Rabbit seems like a naive child, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If they would have had time to actually build a few minutes long prototype, flesh out their concept and mechanics, were more open about PQube, Project Rap Rabbit would maybe be funded or had a better start. It´s sad to see a big project going down in such a way because of so many stupid mistakes. Just looking at it makes me sad, making me wonder why this happened, leading me to writing this article here and maybe you could also learn something here too, or just had an opportunity to spend some time.
That´s it, that was my little investigation into the possible reasoning behind Project Rap Rabbits failure, I didn´t cover anything, for sure, yet I covered the things I found important, not only for this particular project but Kickstarter as a whole. So, until the next little post on GameSoulz!