What are video games these days? Once upon a time consumers used to peruse the glass cases of department stores or the wire racks of their local game retailer where some chubby, glasses-wearing nerd behind the counter would harass you for buying a strategy guide. The days of those awkward over-the-counter interactions are a thing of the past as consumers typer their credit cards into mindless digital distributions services like Steam and GOG. Not only has the means of distribution changed, but the products themselves have changed. It used to be if you bought a shitty Frankenstein game for the Sega Genesis that was your own dumb fault, or if no one bought the wuxia-inspired RPG Jade Empire the franchise was dead forever. Nowadays, the uncertainty of purchasing a game is totally different. Customers can buy games with the promise they’ll get better, they can directly support the funding of their favorite resurrected series through Kickstarter. If you’re particularly excited about a title you can pay full price for the promise of a game in November and then have that same game delayed until May of next year. Maybe you’ll get half of game now, then other half when it’s ready. Man, the future is awesome and confusing.
Things like Kickstarter and Steam Early Access used to be exclusive to online audiences who have a compulsion to type their credit card information into any open boxes which ask for it, but now the same experience is going to be available for retail customers, including whiny kids, hormonal teenagers, and people who believe the internet is how the government reads your mind. Recently, UK retailer GAME partnered with the Kickstarter-funded Planetary Annihilation to provide boxed copies of the game which is currently on Steam Early Access. Costing 10 more of whatever made-up currency they use in the UK (isn’t it crumpets or crowned stags?) the boxed copy offers exclusive, but unfinished, content.
Not to be outdone by their British retail brethren, Gamestop decided to launch their own experimental program with Kickstarter called “Dream in a Box”. In this new business model, boxes with cover art from current Kickstarter project will be displayed at your local Gamestop. You can pick up your box, pay for the Kickstarter right there in-store, and take home a shiny I.O.U for a video game. It’s like buying a $20 lottery ticket, but you won’t find out if you’ve won until a year from now, maybe longer.
Gamestop CEO, J. Paul Raines, had the following to say regarding the new business initiative, “Look, people are idiots. They see a box with a picture of a game, they’re gonna think it’s a game. We put a little sticker on there that says ‘Funded with Kickstarter’, little fine print to cover our liability. I suspect we start selling a lot of ‘Dreams’ this year.”
The first Kickstarter project to move to retail will be Silicon Knight’s Shadow of the Eternals, a sequel to Eternal Darkness, which had already had two failed Kickstarter Campaigns. Not only can players purchase a box with an I.O.U ticket inside, but all other Kickstarter rewards, such as t-shirts, nameplates, birthday cakes, dinner with D-list celebrities, and pet tigers will be fulfilled through Gamestop.
“We have tons of preorder shit lying around Gamestop warehouses,” Said Raines, speaking on fulfilling the Kickstarter rewards. “What are we supposed to do with all of these Aiden Pearce hats lying around from Watch Dogs preorders? I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll sew a Shadow of the Eternals patch over the Watch Dogs symbol. BOOM! Kickstarter rewards fulfilled. Suck it, nerds. Your reward entitle you to a dinner with Dennis Dyack? We got his skype ID and Chilli’s gift certificate with your name on it.”
When asked about the dark union between Kickstarter and Gamestop, creative director of Shadow of the Eternals, Dennis Dyack, had the following to say, “It’s been pretty fucking humiliating trying to get this stupid game funded. Between development costs and the $3 million lawsuit from Epic, I gots some bills to pay. So if I can get this game funded by getting people to buy a game that doesn’t exist based on some badass-looking box art? I’m all about it.”
Kickstarter CEO, Yancey Strickley, defended the decision to reporters by saying, “I don’t know what the big deal is, we’re selling the same product that we sell on Kickstarter, except we’re just selling it in a store. Look, at Kickstarter we sell people stupid shit all the time. Certain people paid $500 for a new Amplitude game. It’s about as much as buying a new Xbox One that did nothing but play Amplitude HD. People obviously need ways to piss away their money, I am happy to provide them a service to do that. It’s their right as hard working, contributing members of the world to waste their money on whatever non-existent games they want.”
You can’t argue with such sound logic. After all, when you give money to Kickstarter online you get nothing but an email from the developers. Who wants a stupid email? Giving to Kickstarter while in Gamestop means you will walk home with an empty box and a cool ticket that says, “I.O.U One Game!” Not to mention your merchandise rewards are fulfilled on the spot and if Gamestop doesn’t have your reward on-hand you can pick out whatever ridiculous preorder crap they have lying around, like a poster which you will never buy a frame for and likely never hang. Either way, you’re sure to get the Gamestop experience where an employee tries to passive-aggressively get you to sign up for a rewards program and per-order whatever AAA title is coming out next.
Kickstarter and Gamestop aren’t done working together. If the “Dream in a Box” promotion is successful, consumers can look forward to getting their non-existent games even earlier. The duo are already talking about Kickstarter pre-orders where customers can give the companies a certain amount of money for a Kickstarter they want to happen, and if the Kickstarter campaign is greenlit, their money will automatically be applied. For pre-ordering Kickstarters, players will get pictures, hand-drawn by Gamestop employees, of what the game will look like when it’s done. These hand-drawn pictures will be specific to each region to ensure that each hand-drawn reward is totally unique.
As developers continue to use Kickstarter to turn dream-games into a reality and Early Acces to turn shitty games into good games, we will all have to adjust to a world where you pay for a game before it starts production and anticipate its non-existent release date. Thank god we have corporations making sure our money is going to the right places and truly looking out for consumers. Not only that, but while we wait for these games, we’ll be able to sport cool swag and hang awesome artwork to advertise our commitment to these titles which may or may not be good. No special edition concept art, no access to team streams? Do you even donate, bro?
*This article is written (obviously) in jest. Kickstarter isn’t appearing in Gamestop, Shadows of the Eternals is dead, and the UK clearly uses leprechaun gold for all transactions. I have donated to Kickstarters I was interested in and purchased games at Early Access on Steam. If you want to point out I’m a terrible person for sullying the good name of these corporations, please let me know in the comments below.