Howard Phillips, the former face and bowtie of Nintendo of America, has an idea for an educational game that basically takes traditional flash cards and reworks them into a puzzle game, making them more effective via science. Lots of websites reported on Howard and his game, Know-It-All, back in September when he launched a Kickstarter page for the project. Unfortunately, when the funding period ended a month ago on October 24th the project fell rather short of the $50,000 goal, meaning people will have to remain morons for the foreseeable future. All hope is not lost, however, as Howard has noted on his Facebook page that he’s seeking other avenues to get the project going.
So, what happened?
Video game projects on Kickstarter became a high-profile topic back in March after Double Fine raised almost three-and-a-half million dollars for a planned adventure game, eight times the amount for which they were asking. Since then a number of game projects have been successfully funded, including the rousing success that is Boss Monster, and a new Shadowgate game, which as of this writing has a couple hours to go and has met the funding goal with a little extra. Of course, Howard’s game is not the first to fall short of funding, either, and here are some things that may have contributed:
No exciting rewards below the $100 level
No physical rewards below the $100 level
Howard & Nester fans are not crazy people
Howard Phillips fans are generally Nintendo fans
MECC shadow conspiracy/fear of reprisals from Carmen Sandiego
All of the reward tiers below the C-note mark generally reward people with extra copies of the iOS version of the game, names in the credits, and access to the forum and voting on some of the game’s included content. That’s great and all, but there’s something about an educational game from someone who has worked in some degree on games before where I trust them to know better than me what needs to go into the game, and it’s the type of game where I don’t feel a strong need to be part of the process. I imagine a lot of people might feel the same way.
Kickstarter works as an alternative to traditional investment because of a few things. There’s less risk involved since your money only get taken if the project gets all of the asked-for funding. Related to this, you don’t get a monetary return on investment, which means the primary motivators are either helping bring a project to fruition that you want to see completed, or getting cool shit in the mail as a thank you. Buttons, keychains, facsimile autographed photos, any number of cheap little exclusive tchotchkes could have provided that psychological incentive of something tangible for throwing money at the Internet.
Scratch that, Howard & Nester fans are generally also Nintendo fans. But they probably aren’t as fanatic as disillusioned fans of LucasArts’ glory days who want to see Tim Schaefer make a new Grim Fandango. Teaming up with the Brawl in the Family guy and offering prints of the special Know-It-All comics was a really cool idea, but wasn’t enough to get people frothing. The game itself, while it looked good and fun and all of that, just also isn’t exciting in the same way a follow-up game in a long-dormant series happens to be. Even if it were a sequel then it would still only garner the buzz level of, say, a new Picross, where everyone who plays it loves the hell out of it but there’s just not a lot there to hype up.
I know I’m a weirdo for not yet having a smartphone, but leaving that aside I feel that having a 3DS or Wii U version of the game at least in the hypothetical consideration stages and making mention of that wouldn’t have done any harm to the fundraising efforts.
Because if one game could teach you *everything* then these guys would be out of business. Cabela already took the shoot-everything-that-moves demographic from them, and thanks to the failed military helicopter project everyone these days already knows what an osprey is. As for Carmen, my knees hit the floor when she even glares at me. I ain’t fucking with that.
Good luck with Know-it-All, Howard. I look forward to trying out the game one of these days even though I already know everything.
(Header image: Panel from the Nintendo Power, Vol. 24 Howard & Nester comic. Taken from the Howard & Nester Archive.)