Penny Arcade took to Kickstarter earlier today to see if it could fund the company based on crowdsourcing rather than advertising dollars.
Based on many of your responses, a lot of people were not terribly pleased by this move. To some it sounded like the rich asking for more or an abuse of the Kickstarter philosophy.
We caught up with Penny Arcade co-owner Mike "Gabe" Krahulik to discuss the reaction around the situation.
First and foremost, Krahulik was adamant that the goal would only offset what's been lost from advertisers. In other words, the staff would not start raking in tons of extra dough.
"He [Robert Khoo] projected what we would get from advertising in a year and he said 'this is the low end of what we would need and this is the high end of what we would need.' That's what we're asking for on Kickstarter."
Krahulik admitted it could fluctuate some, but "there were definitely years where we did a lot more than we're asking."
Some would argue that getting rid of ads on the site is a bad thing because Penny Arcade has often prided itself as a space that only runs ads for games that it would recommend. Simply by appearing on the outlet, it gained Penny Arcade's official seal of approval. Would people miss the ads, because they served as suggestions for games that may not have appeared elsewhere on the site?
"I think when it comes to advertising ours are among the best," said Krahulik. "If we are advertising a game it's because we want you to know about it. With that said, if the ads go away, that stuff just gets moved to the news post and now we just talk about games."
Because Mike and Jerry don't deal on the business side anyway there was skepticism if this would really bring about more content. Krahulik assured us that it would.
"It would definitely give Jerry and I a lot more time... All the comics we do every year for videogames - those are advertisements. Companies pay us to create six to eight page comics based on their games. Again, we only do it if we like them."
"If we're not creating projects for publishers, then that gives us time to create projects for us and for our readers. We just updated our Kickstarter page about information for our Lookouts project. Now all of a sudden we have time to do that comics story, and a Lookouts story, and it can run alongside the normal comic... The time that I would spend making an eight page comic for a game - I'm not doing that anymore. I have time to make an eight page comic for the Lookouts."
One concern brought up was that the reward tiers were disingenuous. "If there is any signifier of a shameless Kickstarter, it is 'I'll follow you on Twitter' as an actual reward tier," wrote twitter sleuth Superannuation.
Krahulik explained, "Those rewards are not designed to equate to the value of the pledge. You're pledging for an overall goal of an ad-free Penny Arcade and these other extra contents, right? The reward is just something that you get at that level. You're not literally spending $500 for me to follow you on twitter. That's ridiculous. You're spending $500 because you want to support this cause and you want to push it towards its goal. It just so happens that at that level I will follow you on twitter."
He also mentioned that a lot of Kickstarters fail because they're overzealous with their rewards. "A lot of Kickstarters run into problems - and I've heard this personally - where they make the rewards so awesome that all the money that they pay in for the budget they spend on rewards."
The only bonuses that seem like they could be taken seriously are the ones upward of $5000 that grant a meeting Penny Arcade creators Krahulik and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins. When asked if there was any concern that this could take advantage of unstable fans, Krahulik said he hadn't thought about it. "I guess we'll find out when we get to that lunch." he said.
Ultimately, he responded to the cynicism with humour.
"Cynicism on the internet?" he laughed.
"I don't care. The project will fail or succeed and that will tell us if it was a good idea or not. Arguing about it right now is kind of silly. Just see if people want to do it or not. That's the whole reason we did it right? We can talk about it amongst ourselves... or we could just put it up and ask them and see."
As of right now the ad-free Penny Arcade Kickstarter is at $97,676 of its quarter million dollar goal with 35 days to go until the deadline on 15th August.