Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the little game that could.  It completely knocked its Kickstarter goals out of the park and it is continuing to surpass its funding with more and more donations every day. The title received all of its funding through an investor and through Kickstarter but was never picked up by any publisher, despite the massive interest in the game. The reason behind this was that the game was considered too difficult to market and it wouldn’t be worth the effort of investing because “People want wizards and dragons” but maybe it’s time that publishers realise they ought to be taking more risks with projects and Kingdom Come: Deliverance is their wake up call.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance certainly is a bit of a niche title. You play as a knight/thief/bard in a Medieval Europe setting but the catch is that the game is more realistic than what you expect as it will not have any magic, mythical monsters or over the top weapons/armor. What the game does have, however, sounds incredibly interesting:

We’re mixing the freedom and mechanics of Skyrim, the setting of Mount and Blade, the storytelling styles of The Witcher and Red Dead Redemption, and the tough combat dynamics of Dark Souls into a single, gorgeous package.

That’s certainly a lot of great buzz words here. The games that have inspired the project are all incredibly loved but the thought of mixing the best elements into one project certainly gets gamers buzzing with anticipation.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s Kickstarter success is no huge surprise. It was good idea that was presented with a unique hook, fantastic visuals, solid gameplay and all presented by a team that are incredibly passionate about the game. The game was funded with the help of Kickstarter with an initial goal of £300,000 that was funded in just under 2 days. Before all this, a Czech private  investor worth over $1.5 billion decided to kick a few bucks to the developers to help drive the project forward. Warhorse, the developers, decided to take this a step forward by putting the project forward onto Kickstarter as a way to show that there really was a big audience interested. The investor was impressed and decided to give more funding to the project. Kickstarter acted as the catalyst for the Kingdom Come formula and helped the game secure even more funding. Yet why did this incredibly ambitious project take to Kickstarter to be publicly funded by those interested, instead of being picked up by a publisher?

Warhorse, the development team behind the game, stated in their Kickstarter that they planned to build a prototype of the game using their initial investor’s money and then pitch it to a publisher. Despite how great the game looks and plays, they encountered a major issue with many of the publisher’s marketing teams. They said that the marketing team were unhappy with the game and that it was “Too niche. There’s no magic. People want wizards and dragons.”  The game was rejected largely because of its main feature as “there is no easy box for marketing to pigeonhole it in.” Instead of being deferred from continuing the development, Warhorse Studios left it up to the public to decide with this Kickstarter. Basically, this whole Kickstarter project acts as both an asset to the development team to show their investor that people want to play this game but also acts as a giant middle finger to those publishers who said that no one would buy it. The fact of the matter is that publishers were afraid to take the risk with this game and that’s a big problem in a franchise where creativity and ambitious ideas flourish.

However, that is not to say that all publishers are conservative. One of our favourite publishers in recent times is good ol’ Ubisoft. Ubisoft is guilty to some extent of playing it safe with their titles but last year, the publishers did something incredibly risky that many people imagined was a complete joke. A website and trailer was released in April 2013 that showed off  a game that was Far Cry 3 meeting “a VHS version of the future “.  The title Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon was a DLC expansion about futuristic cyborgs in a dystopian 2007 served up with a coat of neon and a huge amount of 80’s references. It was so far removed from the initial Far Cry 3 that it took everyone by surprise but it still went on to sell over 1 million copies which is just under a quarter of what Far Cry 3 sold.

A DLC expansion that essentially borrows the framework of the main game but turns the experience into something original is a good example of risk taking publishers should be aiming to do instead of attempting to just add micro-transactions. It doesn’t take as much effort as the main game because most of the work is already done, all you need is a good story and a good theme in place. As a publisher, you ought to curry the favour of your customers by releasing more genuinely good content rather than taking away from the whole experience with in-game transactions.

That’s just an example of the “small time” risks publishers ought to be taking. Other examples of risk taking on new IPs for Ubisoft include Child of LightValiant Hearts, The Division and the obvious one, Watch_Dogs; All of which have great concepts initially but are still taking time to form into proper fully-fledged games. Ubisoft are a shining example of how publishers should act and should try to be risky. In terms of investing into a fully-fledged game, I can understand why publishers are cautious. At the end of the day, the videogame industry is still an industry and the goals of any industry is to make dollars. Billions of them. Making money for publishers is like gambling in a casino. If you win big playing blackjack, you wouldn’t immediately take your chips to the roulette table to test your luck. You stick to what you know. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of “annual releases” in franchises because the publishers are comfortable with the franchise. For example, the Call Of Duty franchise is an annual release because the publishers know that chugging out a game per year is a guaranteed 10 million copies sold which is a guaranteed half a billion revenue. It makes sense from a financial standpoint but as a consumer, it can be frustrating if you’re looking for something new.

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But what do developers do when they have a great idea and no funding? Go to Kickstarter. If you don’t know what Kickstarter is, I’ll give you a brief explanation. Kickstarter is a site where you pitch a project/service and received funding anonymously through the internet to create the proposed idea. Many games have actively been funded through Kickstarter such as Star Citizen and Broken Age. Kickstarter has funded a lot projects that many publishers would pass up on for being “too niche” or “too limited” in the scope of reaching as much of an audience as possible. If you see a title on Kickstarter that interests you, feel free to act as your own publisher  and directly invest in it and cut out the middle man. No longer will you have to hope that a successful publisher picks up the ambitious title but you can just simple invest your money right there. However, a publisher would still be much appreciated if the developers want to send the title to as many different platforms as possible and not just PC only. We need more publishers to pick up ambitious titles rather than just through Kickstarter because there’s a lot of great games going under the console gamer’s radar as there’s simple no other way to play it.

The success of Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s funding shows that as long as the core concept is interesting, the money will come. More publishers need to realise that as long as the initial idea is solid and gathering interest, it will pay off in the long run. Investing in the little guys with good ideas will lead to bigger projects with even better ideas. Kingdom Come: Deliverance gained its funding and is already underway with enough money to fulfill the project, which is outlandishly cheaper than other triple A projects. Publishers like big sales and titles but releasing risky titles that have been gaining momentum is a sure fire way to satisfy both the company’s need to make money and fans of video game’s need to see something brand-new in this franchise that is often over-saturated.

We want your opinions on the matter! Should publishers play risky business and have a gamble on lesser-known titles that should rightfully be given a chance? Or is it up to the developers themselves to Kickstart the game? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on the forums and be sure to check back for some more engaging editorials.

  • ambaryerno

    We NEED more risky titles like Kingdom Come. The constant retreads of CoD and Battlefield is getting monotonous, and when the biggest “innovation” they can make to the series is…a dog…it’s just one big joke.

    There was a time when developers and publishers believed that a game WOULD NOT sell if it wasn’t fresh and unique, even in franchise titles. It’s why Zelda 2 was so radically different from the original Legend of Zelda. For all the flak they’ve gotten, at least Nintendo still seems to understand that concept, trying original ways to tweak the formula for even their long running series like Mario and Zelda by taking the familiar but putting a fresh spin on it. Do they always work out? No, but the effort stands out compared to every Call of Duty looking, playing, and essentially being the EXACT SAME every time.

    We need that same attitude throughout the the gaming industry again. Stop giving us the same crap dolled up in a new package. Every MMO and fantasy RPG is pretty much exactly the same. It’s boring. Give us something unique like Kingdom Come or Mount and Blade. Something that stands apart and treads new ground.

  • Leviathan

    Why can’t #steam pick it up n make a mod that adds new classes and NPCs and races?

    • Leviathan

      Besides realistic lifestyle is awesome! Majic is not necessary nor dragons with everything else this game offers. It’s the last game we’ll ever own….til come out with something else awesome lol

  • That guy from the net

    wowowo, hold there, Battlefield has the whole levolution thingy, new game modes and options and such, as well as its not an annual release. As for the Kingdom Come, already pledged 30$, its gonna be sweet.

  • Millan Singh

    You know this article lacks a link to the actual campaign…

    • Nathan Hughes

      Seems like we had a hyperlink error in the article. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • Jan Smejkal

    Also Ubisoft greenlit a very niche game – dungeon crawler Might and Magic X. Only thanks to the then-recent success of Kickstarter games. It seems that Ubisoft is the only one of the big players who wants differentiate their income and not only keep milking the same few franchises.

    • http://www.onlysp.com/ Nick Calandra

      I think 2K and Ubisoft would have been the biggest possibilities for a buyer for Kingdom Come. Just seems like it would fit their business models in my opinion.

      • Terminus

        I don’t think Daniel Vávra, head developer of this game, would even talk to them. He created Mafia and wrote story for Mafia 2 but Take2 kept talking into development process and in the end released Mafia 2 before it was ready, hence cutting the story and several endings to one. That’s why he left 2k Czech and created Warhorse.

  • k99

    I think what we wittness here is the evolution in distribution.
    A decade ago, noone could even imagine such a tool like Kickstarter, that would one day fund the good ideas. That’s the pro: the backers invest relatively expendable amount of money to allow the developer to give it a shot. Kickstarter more or less replace the job of publishers’s marketing dpts. The con for a backer is the idea might not really be the “good” one (and for the developer, he failed to market his really good idea properly). But right here is the charm: at the cost of minimal risks the backers actually CREATE the marketing analysis up to the degree the marketing specalists would never reach. Then the burden of making quality product is now really up on the developer. This is very good; because the market will get purified from the inside out.
    Summarizing: this “direct-to-enduser” business model is waaay better. To fund a project, it takes small money from many (backers), rather than big money from one (publisher). Developer is no longer manipulated by the one money-owner. Is self-motivated to create the product the backers will like. Creates own promotion for future projects. Building its brandname.
    In that perspective, publishers’ role has been historically fulfilled. Private money should get transferred to the creative people this way in all entertainment industries; cinematography, music, sports too.