If you've ever funded a Kickstarter, you'll know the crushing pain felt when the game you've put your hard earned money into is a disaster. Having said that, you'll also know the overwhelming pride felt when the game you've put your trust into is a masterpiece. Of course, putting cash into an unfinished product is always a risk, but this will never stop the longing fan from putting their hope into a project. Sometimes Kickstarters will appear too good to be true and, sadly, this is regularly the case. However, for every failed project, there is a knight in shining armour ready to use his shovel to dig you out of the hole you're stuck in (yeah, that's right).
Let's kick this off with the facts and figures.
First announced in September 2013, Mighty No. 9 was funded a total amount of $3,845,170. Taking a step back a few months to March 2013, Shovel Knight was announced and funded 10% of Mighty's mega value, giving Yacht Club $311,502 to work with. Mighty No. 9 saw its long-awaited release in June 2016- 30 months after its initial Kickstarter date. Whereas Shovel Knight made it's debut onto our platforms in June 2014, 15 months after its Kickstarter began. Those are some pretty interesting numbers to look at. So, where did each developer choose to put their fans' money? Well, let's find out.
Funding a game becomes complex when you can't physically see what your money goes into, but the possibilities are hugely widened when you're given almost 4 million dollars to work with. As a general rule, money is divided between salaries, licensing, voice acting, music, advertisements, software and much more. As Mighty No. 9 was one of the poorest examples of marketing in a while, those bills clearly didn't go there. We all felt ashamed by that "anime fan on prom night" trailer. So the big question is, where did Keiji Inafune's team put all of that money? Well, nobody knows for certain. Sure, a lot of it went into actually making the game, but if Shovel Knight was made with less than 10% of that funding, how didn't they do so much better? Rumours speculated that the money potentially went towards an animated TV series for Mighty, however these were denied on the game's website.
Development money from Yacht Club's side was easily trackable, due to their frequent posts on social sites. Yacht Club kept fans consistently updated on Kickstarter page and other forms of media, ensuring the consumer was aware that their money was in safe hands. After Shovel Knight's launch, free DLC was then given out to people who had already purchased the game, showing any money that was left over or made in profit was used to give players more of what they loved. Yacht Club didn't have a particularly huge budget, but the finished product they provided is immaculate.
Not only is Shovel Knight bursting with creativity and personality, but it was made by five people.
That's right; five people made this gem. Take a guess at how many people worked on Mighty No. 9. Go on. Here's a hint, it was a lot more than five. Another fact to honour is that a whole bunch of people who worked on Mighty No. 9 are ex-Mega Man developers, so you can see why incredible things were expected. Boasting a large team of experienced creators is most likely the reason people freely handed their wallets over to Mighty's Kickstarter.
Oh, and by the way, over eighty people worked on Mighty. Just think about that.
Upon Mighty No. 9's release, I'm sure we all heard Keiji Inafune's quote "it's better than nothing" in regards to the negative press surrounding the game's launch. As someone who pre-ordered Mighty (then cancelled their pre-order after seeing those explosion animations), I'm sure it's fair to say that the course of this game's development ran less than smooth. Nobody really knows what went on between developers Comcept Inc. and co-developers Inti Creates Co. Things could have been genuinely tough in the studio; it just seemed as though nothing went right. This is the total opposite of Shovel Knight's development. Yacht Club kept us updated from start to finish and upon release everything seemed to go as planned. No delays, faults or failings on their part- it was all smooth sailing for Yacht Club. Maybe that's where their name came from.
In terms of delays, I lost count of how many days Mighty No. 9 was pushed back. At times, it felt like the game had been secretly cancelled, they just didn't want to admit it and give the money back. The delays never seemed to come with genuine explanations either, just poor excuses from tired developers.
The important thing to focus on, overall, is the core gameplay mechanics. What's a few cringeworthy adverts worth if your game is top tier? After a long personal debate, I gave in and picked up a copy of Mighty No. 9. Oh boy, did I try to love it, I really did. When a game is torn to shreds, you begin to feel sorry for it and attempt to desperately search for it's redeeming features. It's a shame because it's so close to being a a good game, but it's just a few miles off. On the flip side, Shovel Knight is personally one of the best video games I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Using the beautifully classic NES colour palette, this game provides players with an exciting and wonderfully designed adventure. Without delving into too much detail, if you can make your game that much of a success using just an armoured dude with a shovel, then some other development teams clearly have a lot to learn.
It'd be sweet to know what went so wrong for Keiji Inafune and his team. I'd love to sit them down and talk it out, but the reality is we'll never know what happened. It's so strange that two games that come from such similar situations have had this much of an opposite outcome. Although Mighty No. 9 isn't the worst game to exist, it's definitely not the spiritual successor to Mega Man fans had hoped for. Perhaps Inafune tried to do too much without enough careful planning, and sadly it does reflect upon the game.
As for post release, well, the outcome is clear. Shovel Knight was even rumoured to be a playable character in Super Smash Bros. a while ago. That's how much of a big deal this game became. The little hero even got made into an amiibo! As for Mighty, I don't think we'll be seeing him on an amiibo base any time soon. It'd be unfair to comment on copies sold as of yet, due to Mighty No 9. being out for significantly less time, but i'm just gonna throw it out there anyway that Shovel Knight sold 1 million copies as of April, which is a pretty big deal as it was Yacht Club's first ever game. It's also worth knowing that not all backers of Mighty No. 9's Kickstarter got their copies on time - some received it days after release (and some poor souls haven't even got their physical copies yet), which definitely added insult to injury.
No matter what went wrong in the process of making the game, or how much money it had funded, as long as it lives up to expectations and keeps promises made, things should turn out pretty positively. Nobody can pin point for sure the moment Comcept Inc. realised they'd fallen behind, but it's just certain that they knew they had.
Putting money into an incomplete project is always a risk, so if you've waited around to see the initial outcome first, then good job. However, if you funded a fair amount into Mighty No. 9, and are left feeling poor and betrayed, then I'm sorry for your loss. Both games have been released on most platforms now, so if you're still wondering which one to buy, get both! Then take Shovel Knight's shovel to dig a big hole to bury Mighty No. 9 in. I'm kidding. But seriously, only one of these games is worth your time and funding, and it's pretty clear which one that is.