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Publishers Tried Exploiting Obsidian's Kickstarter To Keep IP Rights And Profits

You know that awesome upcoming party-based RPG from Obsidian, Project Eternity? Well that game was funded 100% from the gaming community. Gamers wanted to see it happen and Obsidian wanted to make it happen. You know who else wanted to see it happen? Big publishers. In fact, they wanted gamers to fund the development of Project Eternity and then keep the rights and profits for themselves. Awesome.

The news originated from the Kickstarter backers comment section where backers were asking Obsidian's CEO Feargus Urquhart about the project and the industry. The comments were later archived by users on the forum of Obsidian's website where larger gaming sites took notice after a Neogaf post.

So what really happened and what did Urquhart say to get this thing into the news channels? Well, a user began asking about the gaming industry...a dangerous question by any stretch of the imagination, questioning why popular games like Wasteland 2, Adventure and Shadowrun are ignored by big publishers when they've proven to be such hugely popular brands with the community. Urquhart responds, saying...

We were actually contacted by some publishers over the last few months that wanted to use us to do a Kickstarter. I said to them "So, you want us to do a Kickstarter for, using our name, we then get the Kickstarter money to make the game, you then publish the game, but we then don't get to keep the brand we make and we only get a portion of the profits" They said, "Yes".

“WTF?” There, I said it for you. Let's move past the gaping mouths, furrowed brows and explicit monitor ranting.

The big question to follow from every single website was “Which publisher was this?” presumably so that doors could be knocked on and nuts could be squarely kicked.

Gaming Bolt seemed to search for an appropriate response, simply saying “How messed up can the gaming industry be?” And Destructoid settling with “It is predictable, pathetic and just disappointing”.

I couldn't agree more.

Urquhart makes a very strange justification (explanation?) of why these smaller games don't get published by larger houses, saying...

As for games like this, I think they will consider it, however so many of them support traditional distribution and sales forces that it's hard for them to consider games that would only ship digitally. It then gets pushed to their digital divisions, who have very small budgets (less than $500K).

This seems to either be an antiquated viewpoint compared to what big developers and publishers have been saying all year long or Urquhart knows something we don't (which is more likely the case) and the whole talk of an all digital future is just smoke from the big pubs. I'd like to imagine that if the future is all about digital distribution then funding smaller but highly anticipated projects like Project Eternity would be the way to go to start reeling in the old-school skeptics.

Also, a $500,000 budget is chump change compared to what some bigger companies spend on colossal failures such as Prototype 2, Syndicate, Bodycount, Operation Flashpoint: Red River, Vampire Rain, Too Human, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and every other self-proclaimed AAA title that failed at retail. The fact that a publisher would even consider extorting the process of game publishing by using gamers to fund the project and then publishing it to reap the profits is almost worse than every other seedy thing EA, Capcom, Ubisoft, Activision and the rest have done in the past.

For sure, this definitely opens my eyes and it means that perhaps gamers should be a lot more inquisitive about the Kickstarter projects they back so as to make sure they're not secretly funding a game for a publisher who's simply looking to cut corners and cash in while putting in zero effort.

Heck, we already have EA who will be distributing Kickstarter games via Origin and making money after the games release, so basically it's just free money for them with zero risk. It's disgusting because the whole point of Kickstarter is to get away from the bonds and shackles of the mainstream publishing arena, the very bonds and shackles that caused Obsidian to layoff employees because they didn't get bonuses due to not hitting the contractually obligated Metacritic score.

You can learn more about Obsidian Entertainment's Project Eternity by visiting the Official Kickstarter Page.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.