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Project Phoenix is the Next Big Video Game Kickstarter

PhoenixThis story comes from a tip sent to us by eagle-eyed reader (and sometime contributor) Eric R., who knows our predilection for all things Kickstarter.  Eric directed our attention to Project Phoenix: Japan’s Indie RPG.  He thinks that it just might be the next big video game Kickstarter.  I’m inclined to agree.

For those not in the know, JRPGs are simply Japanese Roleplaying Games, a subgenre of RPGs exemplified by classic series like Final Fantasy, Xenogears, and Chrono Trigger.  They often have complex characters (with rich backstories that matter not a whit in the context of the game you’re playing), and decidedly non-Western storytelling elements and motifs.  JRPGs are among the most popular games in the world.

Project Phoenix is a melding of the minds between an international team of developers and game industry professionals (with a not inconsiderable Japanese representation), to produce an ostensibly “indie” JRPG title.  In fact, Creative Intelligence Arts (CIA for short) was founded apparently for the sole purpose of managing the Kickstarter and seeing Project Phoenix to fruition.  Hiroaki Yura, the game’s creative director (and CIA’s founder) has brought together a cadre of industry peers to achieve his vision.  Among them is legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame.  You can guarantee the music will be amazing.

So, what of the game?

That’s an excellent question, and one I wish I could answer.  The fact is, there isn’t much to it besides some concept art and assurances that there exists a developed storyline.  Oh, and we know the protagonist is a girl angel named Ruffles.  So there is that…

No, Project Phoenix appears to be very early in the production phase, consisting mostly of a framework of ideas and a story.  The good stuff—the programming, the modeling—that all comes after the project, which is why CIA is advertising a “mid 2015” release date.  If you plan to back, consider this one a long-term investment…

As of this writing, the project has already drummed up $300,000 in just two days (not a record breaker by any stretch, but definitely not bad), quickly outstripping it’s $100,000 goal.  Yes, you read that right, it’s very modest $100,000 goal.  Despite all of this talent, the project monies are said to be earmarked solely for costs associated with 3D modeling, and that those costs start at $100k… Apparently, everyone mentioned on the project page have “day jobs” and will be working for points on the back end… yeah… right…

Before the ellipses really start to pile up, let me elaborate on the ways this bothers me. First, I have a problem with projects that seemingly lowball their costs to ensure funding (in much the same way I dislike Indiegogo projects that get guaranteed payouts, even if they don’t meet their goals)—it’s disingenuous.  Even if the “real cost” of the 3D work is $100,000, there are plethora of costs and overhead expenses that affect EVERY project (and every business).  I’m not saying that projects necessarily need strict accounting of backer dollars, but I do insist that project creators be real in describing the costs they expect to encounter, and the realer they are, the more likely I am to give them my money.  My second gripe (which connects to the first in an oblique way) is the idea of volunteer labor from industry professionals.  I grok the idea of taking points rather than a payday (it worked for Carrie Fisher, that’s for sure), but they’re also going to donate equipment?  Personal resources?  These are (some of) those hidden costs I’m talking about, and the answer is no, they probably aren’t.  Which leads me to suspect that CIA is aiming low to guarantee funding, but hoping for a lot more.  I much prefer realistic appraisals and realistic goals that account for the cost of doing business.

Going back to the idea of industry professionals collaborating on this: I think it’s awesome that so many talents have agreed to come together to make something bigger than any one of them could achieve alone, but the prospect of this being something they do in addition to their “day jobs” is worrisome.  Consider Harebrained Schemes recent success, Shadowrun Returns.  That was a title that came out more or less on time and fulfilled every promise—and it was a number of people’s full time occupation for the duration.  Even throwing out a two-year timeline, and accounting for the experience of all involved, expecting a busy team of working professionals to turn out a AAA title in their spare time is laughable.

I think it’s really cool to see a big project like this coming out of Japan.  It may mark a sea change in where crowd dollars come from (I hope they advertise the hell out of this Kickstarter in Japan…).  However, I think I’ll be withholding my money from this one.  There is just too many little things (and some big ones) that make me think I’d just be washing money down the drain.  That said, after the recent Doublefine Debacle, the video game crowd funding community needs a win—maybe Project Phoenix is just the dark horse to do it.

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This entry was posted by Chris Avery.

2 thoughts on “Project Phoenix is the Next Big Video Game Kickstarter

  1. Looking at the stuff they have for stretch goals, it does seem like they deliberately lowballed in order to drum up initial excitement by rapid overfunding. I mean, their stretch goals are at $300k, $650k, $1.025m, and $1.65m, and provide functionality like “full modelling of the cities and towns” and “fully explorable overworld…” You know, the things that these sorts of games USUALLY have as a minimum.

    I’m curious about the “Empire of Alexander’s national interests” that keep them from announcing the lead programmer until “late in the development process”. Oh, but he’ll be joining the Unity team.

    Unity. The system that’s either free or $1500. But they need $1.65m in order to make some of their functionality? AND I have to wait until 2015 in order to play it? Yeah, not only will they not get my money, but I think the people who have pledged theirs are misguided fools.

    I wish I could get even just 2% of them to back my Kickstarter. It’d more than double our backers, and our students would get crazy good equipment.

  2. I completely agree with you Brian, on all your points. That said, I’m okay with strech goals being few and far apart. However, this is a clear case of stretch goals becoming too central to a project’s thesis.

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