Shadowrun Returns developer Harebrained Schemes LLC received an unexpected backlash after it announced a donaters-only mission as its newest Kickstarter incentive on Saturday.
With Kickstarter raking in millions of dollars for an increasing variety of upstart gaming projects, the web site has become a popular new platform for “crowd-funding” games which would, for one reason or another, be hard to pitch to a publisher.
Most of these Kickstarter projects offer pledge tiers with scaling prizes and group prizes for reaching certain landmarks in order to encourage users to donate to their project.
With Shadowrun Returns already going over its $1 million dollar goal, Harebrained Schemes announced a new donaters-only mission featuring prominent characters from the Shadowrun universe as a way to incentivize further funding. The exclusive mission will tie together the stories of the first two Shadowrun titles and will only be available to those who backed the game on Kickstarter.
However, many of the game’s backers came out against the practice of giving away exclusive content to the funders.
David Trafford, a backer of Shadowrun Returns, made the following comment against this practice.
I love you guys, and I love the generosity of thought behind the “backers-only mission” – but I’m with the majority here: I don’t need, or require, an exclusive mission. We’re helping fund Shadowrun because we love it, and we want everyone else to be able to love it as well – in its entirety. You don’t need to reward us; giving us back Shadowrun is already our reward.
Benjamin Green made a more sweeping protest against the exclusive mission:
We discuss, we support, we build, we modify and even fix games long after they’ve ceased being supported officially. We’re a community through and through and while exclusive content might be a sales point for the console audience, here the word exclusive only means one thing: We won’t get to share that experience with others.
The reason you had so much pressure for a Linux version in the first place was because we didn’t want to leave anyone behind, even when many of those who wanted it were in fact Windows users (myself included). The power of the PC platform has and always will be, the community. So please keep that in mind and you’ll find that that the community will respond in kind.
A user by the handle of “pkt-zer0” also weighed in against the backers-only DLC:
Not fond of the idea of backers-only sidequests (and I’m a backer myself). Sure, you could make it a DLC for others, but instead of selling the game in pieces, how about just giving the most awesome experience you can to everyone who bought the game? Be generous towards the players (ALL of them), the same way the backers have been generous towards the project.
Harebrained Schemes has yet to respond to the criticism. The studio has previously offered exclusive content for backing the project in the form of a unique special ability only available to those who support the game at the $30 tier or higher, but this is the first time that the community has made a major outpouring against the practice.
Gaming Bus reached out to Harebrained Schemes for comment but did not receive a response at the time of press.
Analysis: Kickstarter is a great platform, and “crowd-funding” is my new favorite ridiculous buzzword. That said, the platform is relatively young in terms of how long the gaming community has been using it, so many companies are still trying to figure out the do’s and don’ts of treating gamers as their investors. That means that there will be company gaffes. It’s important how the community reacts to them as the precedents created here will be critical in deciding how future projects will develop.
To me, I’ve never liked exclusive content. Back when the pre-order DLC craze was hitting its zenith, I remember being frustrated and annoyed with the fact that I either had to pony up for the game now or be denied future content. It felt cheap, it annoyed you, and it soured your relationship with the game before you even had access to it. If you buy a game, you should receive the entire game, regardless of when you purchased it.
That’s why I’m glad people are coming out against Shadowrun Returns‘ backers-only mission. It’s setting a precedent against exclusive content and putting the impetus on developers to start including everyone again. I love Kickstarter, I’m a huge fan of what it’s doing and how it’s doing it, and I’d really like to see it get off right by not locking people out of content if they don’t donate within the funding timeframe.