This is apparently controversial to say on Tumblr, but I’m a big fan of Penny Arcade.
I like almost everything they create, and there’s a real sense of community behind their work - their forums catalogue a large amount of my misspent teenage years and beyond, and I’ll be heading to their event of the other side of the world at the end of the month for the fifth year running. So, you’d think that their Kickstarter project, Penny Arcade Sells Out, would be something I’d jump at supporting. But, I haven’t. And I don’t think I will.
Mike Krahulik (AKA Gabe), one of the founders and the artist of the strip, responded to this blog on Twitter, and I’d recommend giving it a read. It’s an examination of the fan response so far, and it hits a few things right on the nose - namely, that ads on the site seem like an odd thing to rail against. I am certain that it’s something that PA as a business feel is a burden, but I am surprised that they think that it’s a burden on their readers as well - in a poll a few years ago, Robert Khoo, the “Business Guy”, pulled opinions from readers about what they knew about the ad policy on PA, and the results seemed to show that the vast majority were aware that ads on PA could be trusted - that it was known that Mike and Jerry (Holkins, the strip’s main writer) personally vetted every game or product advertised and that its appearance on the site was an implicit endorsement. It could even be said that it added value - an advertisement seen on Penny Arcade was a recommendation, not a nuisance.
So, then, the article asks; is Sells Out backwards? If it’s a project for the fans, should the goals not line up with their wants? And if their don’t care about (and, even, enjoy) the ads, why fund to remove them?
So many of these stretch goals are content that I would love to see as separate projects on Kickstarter. I want to fund the return of the DLC podcasts. I want to fund a new Automata story. I want to watch Strip Search and I would get a Twisp and Catsby book for the little people in my family in a heartbeat. I don’t particularly mind or care about Jerry cosplaying as anything, though, and I can take or leave the Lookouts, and even the ads.
So, whereas I’d happily have given money to Penny Arcade for some of the individual pieces, now that the project’s been funded, it puts me in a very odd position as regards whether I chip in to it. The leaderboard ad will be removed, there’ll be a new Automata strip, and Jerry will cosplay as whatever. This is certain. Okay, great! So if I don’t fund it, that’ll happen. And if I fund it with the intention of putting money towards Strip Search, the advantage of Kickstarter falls apart - that’s no longer a pledge, it’s a simple donation with a goal, because my money will be taken whether the Strip Search goal is hit or not. And that’s not Kickstarter at all, as many people have pointed out over the last month.
I think this would have been a far better project both for PA and the fans if they’d listed multiple Kickstarter projects. The revival of the DLC podcasts was one thing to be pledged to, and that would be a certain amount. Maybe you’d get a CD collection of a season, or the previous episodes, or deleted content from the previous episodes. A stretch goal, then, would be ad removal from one page of the site. Then there’s be another project, that I could pledge to, for the Automata strip. And again, a stretch goal would be the removal of ads on another page.
If they fund every project, every project gets made. If they hit the stretch goal on one only, then only the leaderboard ad is removed. If three or so, all the ads on the front page, and so on.
I think I even would have paid more with this model. I’d have paid maybe $100 all-in for the projects I’d want to fund, whereas I’ve yet to fund Sells Out - because I’m not actually paying for anything I want.