During the great Kickstarter rush of spring 2012, when every classic series from Leisure Suit Larry to Wasteland was getting a second lease on life thanks to crowd-funding, one of the biggest success stories was Shadowrun Returns. Shadowrun pen-and-paper RPG creator Jordan Weisman and his new studio Hairbrained Schemes set out to raise $400,000 to develop a new PC/mobile game in the series. By the time the Kickstarter campaign wrapped up at the end of April, Hairbrained had raised $1.8 million for the game and planned to release it in January 2013. Now the game won’t be available until May 2013 at the earliest.
In a Thanksgiving update on the Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter page, Hairbrained announced that the game would be delayed precisely because the studio had raised so much more money than it expected. With additional funds came a lot more content.
“We’ve backed off our original delivery date of 2013. It might’ve worked for the scope of the game we originally envisioned but as our ambitions (read that ‘feature list’) grew, so did the time we needed to deliver,” reads the message, “Plus, we made a big move from our original top down camera to an isometric point of view and that took serious R&D time. Right now, according to our estimates, we’re looking at May or June.”
Shadow Returns is just one of many Kickstarter-funded games expected out in 2013. Camouflaj’s République, InXile’s Wasteland 2, and Double Fine’s still unnamed collaboration between Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer are just a few of the projects that collectively raised millions of dollars from enthusiastic fans, all of which are due out next year. With those Kickstarter campaigns long since completed, these studios are now getting into the thick of development and are getting a more realistic sense of when their projects will actually be finished.
That’s not to say that Shadowrun Returns’ delay is the start of a guaranteed trend, but it’s very likely that many Kickstarter-funded games are going to miss their estimated release windows. While crowd-funding is a blessing for the development of creative video games, one draw back is that wholly independent studios aren’t overseen by anyone. That’s great because there’s no pesky publisher insisting that the developer ship a broken game, but on the other hand those that contribute to the campaign have to take it on faith that the project they paid for will actually be finished.