Friday, July 13, 2012

I might do it to if I were famous and talented

I honestly thought that this was a joke when I first heard about it. After watching the intro video on the kickstarter page I am still not convinced it isn't.

The entire 'kickstarter' fad has taken me be surprise. Spending money on the promise of something you might be able to put your hands on later feels about two steps away from buying lottery tickets. The argument could be made that at least these lottery tickets are supporting a cause, product or company that the purchaser believes in rather than the government, but it is still spending dollars on something that is far from guaranteed.

The Penny Arcade kickstarter is a different beast entirely. This is product that already exists, is of reasonable quality and is free. The creators of the product are asking for people to pony up cash so that they can change the way that they do things, remove ads from the main page, and this will somehow free up time for the creative team to put out work that the they have been holding hostage. I really am not sure how to take this, because I enjoy the product, but it feels like a step backwards as a business.

The kickstarter video shows Jerry (in a very scripted moment) lamenting the days when they did not know how much money was going to come in on a monthly basis and they had to rely on theirs fans to eat and pay the rent. These were the days before Khoo. Khoo is the financial brains of the operation, and I doubt the boys would argue that. He has allowed the creative people to be creative and built it up from two nerds to a business. Why take the step backwards to relying more directly on the fans for financial support? Advertisers buy space on the main page because Penny Arcade pulls in exactly the right demographic. All the fans have to do is show up and the money rolls in. Asking the fans to actually do something more than just be there is a risk.

Or is it? Remember, Khoo is the financial brains here. This would not have even been let out of the room if he didn't think it would work. Setting the bar as low as they did ($250,000) guarantees success. There is no way this mark will not be hit. Penny Arcade, the business, had almost no chance of losing anything, but gains nothing either. I do not understand how being free of ads on the front page magically creates more time for Lookouts comics. The people who draw and write the jpegs are not the same people who preview the ads. These same jpegs are being used as carrots to pull in money with the promise of their return.

So there is nothing to lose here and nothing to gain. Why do it? Perhaps it is Khoo humoring the boys, letting them stroke their egos just enough to keep the three weekly comics coming in. Maybe Jerry feels like he has sold out to the man by making a pretty good living off of ads and wants to re-sell out to the public. Maybe Mike really likes to yell at ducks.

I don't understand it, but I do worry that they may be squandering the good will and disposable income of the faithful when they don't need to. Save that shit for a rainy day.

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