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High-profile Kickstarter games see delays, port cancellations

Engadget Engadget 9/09/2016 Aaron Souppouris
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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, was crowdfunded to the tune of $5.5 million last year, with an ETA of March 2017. It promises to be a spiritual successor to the Castlevania series, but this week, project lead Koji Igarashi (known colloquially as IGA) personally announced via Kickstarter that the game will now be pushed back to "the first half of 2018." The delay, IGA says, is because the game is currently at risk of not "meeting [his] quality standards." To that end, he's adding additional developers to the team, who will hopefully be able to put the project back on track. He also offered his apologies to anyone affected by the delay.

Separately, Hyper Light Drifter developer Heart Machine updated its Kickstarter, informing backers that the planned Wii U and Vita ports of the game are canceled. Speaking directly to backers, Heart Machine-founder (and director of the game) Alex Preston spoke about a need to prioritize his own health -- he has a congenital heart disease which served in part as inspiration for the game -- after several years of solid development. Despite his best efforts to complete both ports, the task proved impossible, he said, and after missing many treatments, he's making the call to cancel development. "I'm sorry," he told backers, "[but] I have to prioritize my own health right now."

Explaining why these ports were so problematic, Preston said the Wii U port was down to issues with the game's engine, GameMaker: Studio. Despite promises made, GameMaker owners YoYo Games and Nintendo couldn't come to an agreement that would allow a native port on the system. The Vita version, meanwhile, was not performing to an adequate level despite "months" of work attempting to optimize it. The team will continue to push ahead with updates and fulfilling other rewards, with a large update planned in the coming weeks. Backers who requested a Wii U or a Vita copy of the game will be able to choose between other supported platforms or a refund.

Hyper Light Drifter backers' responses to the news have been varied. There were many delays leading up to the original release earlier this year, with quality issues and Preston's health largely to blame. The cancellation of the two ports after a three-year wait has provoked anger from some backers, and that's understandable. But for every angry response, many more encouraging comments can be found.

For Bloodstained, backers have made comparisons to another high-profile not-a-reboot, Mighty No. 9. A spiritual successor to Mega Man, it was plagued by multiple delays. The original "Spring 2015" date was only pushed back in April 2015, then the "September 2015" release date got switched in August 2015. The final insult came when a February 2016 release date was only scrapped on January 25th, 2016. But while Mighty No. 9's developers were slammed hard for missing their targets, backers of Bloodstained have so far been more understanding. That's partly down to this being the first delay, but also due to IGA revealing the news six months in advance, and a generally being better at communicating the development process in general.

Bloodstained and Hyper Light Drifter are but two examples of a wider trend: troubled Kickstarters. For every successful project, like Republique, there's a game that never materialized or failed to deliver on all of its promises. Mighty No. 9 was one such game. The 2D platformer was supposed to be a retro-modern fantasy, bringing the Mega Man series back to life. But the game was near-universally panned, and fans' disappointment was compounded by the fact it had been delayed so much.

High-profile failures have tarnished Kickstarter's reputation, and made it harder for games to get funded. But there's a lesson consumers are beginning to learn. It should be clearer than ever that you're not buying a game when you're backing a project like Bloodstained. You're giving money to a person or a team that wants to try and make something, because you want them to make it. If they're successful, you'll get what you asked for. If they're not, you might get nothing. Head into every Kickstarter with that attitude, and only part with your money if you're willing to accept the risks.

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