All the signs were there. Only a week ago I posted that things looked grim for Smed’s startup studio. Sadly, they were the embodiment (even if unintentionally) of what’s wrong in the early access and crowdfunding models.
Hero’s Song looked fun. I never played it because I wasn’t willing to take the risk, but I wish I had at least been able to try it out. I think it contained many ideas that I would have enjoyed, and I wish they were able to finish and support it.
Smed stated in his announcement on Pixemage’s website that he’s wanting to refund people. That’s classier than what most would do in this position which is simply disappear.
I hope both developers and players can learn the signs of trouble. While not always a guaranteed sign of failure, only a tiny bit of thought is required to evaluate the risk.
Rushing to early access isn’t a PRO, it’s a CON (pun intended)
If a studios is relying on early access to continue funding development, then they are probably already screwed. Early access should be a nice boost to the coffers, but in no way the only feasible options to keep the doors open. This is a sign that a studio is poorly managed.
Does it look like it should have been made by a smaller team? Then maybe it should.
Another big red flag I think people forget about is that in 2016 games can be made by really, really small teams. Does it look like the team is burning cash and hiring way out of their league compared to the type of business model they’re building? Are they boasting staff and resumes over showing gameplay? Chances are the game isn’t going to speak for itself.
Do the promises match the expected deliverable?
This one is huge, and should be used as a metric for measuring even projects with AAA budgets. If it sounds to good to be true, and too good for what you expect, then proceed with caution.
Was the first crowdfunding a huge success?
If so, there’s probably enough interest for the studio to have a proof of concept and obtain additional funding. If the studio fails to achieve their first round of crowdfunding, then proceed with EXTREME caution. Chances are very good that the company lacks many things ranging from a game people actually want down to the ability to market their game.
Best wishes to the team at Pixelmage Games. I hope you all find new opportunities to succeed.