Areal Kickstarter Suspended

Ridden with controversy ever since the Kickstarter project started, with less than 2 days to go Areal has been suspended by Kickstarter

The controversial kickstarter project Areal, started by West Games as the "developers of the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series" has been suspended by Kickstarter after hitting and exceeding it's funding goal of $50,000. The problem that most people noticed was that the funding went from $40,000 to more than $60,000 despite only having added 2 more backers (which meant that some of the backers of the project changed their pledge to a higher amount).

When asked about its Kickstarter closure, West Games boss Eugene Kim offered the following statement to Eurogamer:

"Our Kickstarter was suspended without any warning. As per Kickstarter's policy, we cannot contact them to find out why. Areal is the spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., in terms of our vision for it and in terms of the team that we have (which includes Alexey Sytyanov, the lead game designer and screenwriter for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.).

"People also need to take into account that Ukrainians and Russians are in an information war right now, and as a Ukrainian developer, we were subject to constant hostility from Russian Kickstarter accounts (we even got death threats). There are over 16,000 comments on our Kickstarter, which is unprecedented for the amount of supporters that we have, and a lot of our comments are hate filled. Some sites, in light of this, chose to report based on sources from direct competitors or from the myriad of comments based on lies. Others chose a neutral ground, because of the confusing situation around us, and still others wrote positively about us. All in all, more than a 1000 news results come up when you type in 'Areal Kickstarter' on Google.

"After vice news wrote an article about us, people started contributing every minute, but Kickstarter was afraid of the controversy surrounding our project, so they suspended funding. We set our base goal at $50K; even with two days left, we raised more than $64,000, and our competitors were doing everything that they could to stop that. Kickstarter is a business, and that was their decision. We were not warned, we do not have a say in the matter, we cannot notify our backers, we cannot message our backers, and we can't post updates anymore. That is how Kickstarter chose to act.

"We are the creators of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and we know that we can make Areal even better than that series, because of advances in technology, gameplay mechanics, and story. We need your support to make that happen, so we have opened up a website wherein we will continue to raise funds. We ask all supporters of Areal who read this, to please head over to our site and contribute there. PayPal is used for safe checkout, but you do not need a PayPal account to donate. Thank you for your understanding."

For a project that had around one thousand backers there was an amazing amount of comments (more than 17,000). A lot of the comments called out certain backers for being "trolls" and could have been an attempt to spam out questions/feedback from them.

One of the issues that came out at the start of the project was that the development team did not have a lot to show to the public. What they did show was just a trailer showing off some of the assets which was in Unity when they claimed to have a proprietary engine. There was also concern that some of the concept art looked like they were from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The funding goal was also judged as very low for a game which was supposed to offer an open world shooter (compare this with another failed project on Kickstarter, Yogsventures which was just a sandbox adventure game which raised around $650k and yet still failed to be developed and you can see why a lot of people were skeptical that this project could be achieved with such a low amount of money).

The development team ran a "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit and most of the pointed questions were either ignored or answered with a generic answer. 

From the kicktraq website, we can see some interesting data from the charts below:

Take a look at the pledges per day for the last few days and compare that to the amount of backers per day for the last few days. Now let's compare that to another successfully funded game (for example purposes I will use Yogsventures which was successfully funded but turned out to be a failure in the end):

In these two charts you can actually see that the amount of pledges per day is proportional with the number of backers per day.

While we are at it, let's take a look at a few success stories from Kickstarter (here I will use Shadowrun Returns and Divinity:Original Sin)

For Shadowrun Returns:


From Divinity: Original Sin:

We can see that the trend remains the same, that is for your pledges to increase significantly you need a significicant increase in the number of backers too!

How does a project get suspended on Kickstarter? From the FAQ on Kickstarter:

"A project may be suspended if our Trust & Safety team uncovers evidence that it is in violation of one or more of Kickstarter's rules, including:

— Misrepresentation of support, through self-pledging

— Misrepresentation or failure to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator

— The creator provides inaccurate or incomplete user information to Kickstarter or one of our partners

— The characteristics of the creator account overlap with the characteristics of backer accounts that pledged to their project

— A party related to the creator is posing as an independent, supportive party in project comments or elsewhere

— The creator is presenting someone else’s work as their own

— The creator is offering purchased items, claiming to have made them"

We will not be able to know from Kickstarter what was the reson as they do not reveal the reasons behind a suspension.

Currently the team is asking for donations on their own web site. I added links to two of their trailers (featured on the Kickstarter page) below, have a look and decide for yourself the feasibility of this project.

Published Jul. 23rd 2014
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