I backed Nox Archaist's second Kickstarter


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2 comments.

Last week, 6502 Workshop launched the second Kickstarter for Nox Archaist, an original 8-bit RPG for the Apple II.

As a teacher of crowdfunding workshops at every level from local libraries to graduate programs at Emerson College and Harvard University, I'd been invited to consult on this campaign several months ago. I gave them some advice, though mostly minor, as they'd already learned their lessons from their first Kickstarter.

That previous crowdfunding attempt launched in September 2017 and was cancelled a month later after raising $19,656, well short of its $43,078 goal. Using production and marketing strategies they outlined in the March 2019 issue of Juiced.GS, the team behind Nox Archaist brought their costs down to $8,500. The second Kickstarter hit that goal in under two hours and raised more funding in 8.5 hours than their first campaign did in an entire month.

The campaign's success is now a certainty; the only uncertainty was whether I should've backed it.

That's not a question of the game's quality, which looks amazing; the team's dependability, in which I am confident; or my own eagerness, which is evident! But I always think twice before backing a product that I'll ultimately be responsible for reviewing, or for editing a review of. Nox Archaist is a prime candidate for a Juiced.GS review or feature, and one could say that, by dropping $89 on the collector's edition boxed set, I have an investment in the game's success. I would counter that I'm simply preordering the game, which is less ethically complicated than a member of the press accepting a free review copy — but then, why preorder the game instead of just waiting to buy it when the finished product is made commercially available to the general public?

The answer has to do with the size of the Apple II community. There is almost no one making sizable (or any) profits off Apple II hardware or software these days; everyone does what they do for the love of it. The very first Kickstarter I ever backed was for Jason Scott's sabbatical. Shortly thereafter, when interviewing him for a Computerworld article, I asked him a question that had been lingering in the back of my mind: why should I have backed his Kickstarter, primarily to fund the completion of the GET LAMP documentary, when he'll be eventually make money off the finished documentary's sale? Jason acknowledged that this was a valid question, and if I wanted to judge a product by its commercial viability, then I shouldn't back such projects. But not every product that's valuable or important is also commercially viable, and a single person's pledge can make the difference between such a product existing and it not existing.

I want Nox Archaist to exist. Even if I never play it, I want to live in a world where Nox Archaist exists. Having spoken with 6502 Workshop's Mark Lemmert online and at KansasFest, I know Nox Archaist is something he's passionate about. He's made his investment; now he's asking us to match it with dollars.

If that means putting a disclaimer in an issue of Juiced.GS, then that's worth it.

  1. Steven says:

    Could I suggest that the fact you are pointing out the ethical difficulties of your predicament would tend to suggest that you have the cabability to genuinely separate your desire for the product to succeed with your desire to provide an honest review of it. You are definitely right to "think twice before backing a product that I'll ultimately be responsible for reviewing". If coming from the right person and if not involked often, then an open and honest upfront disclaimer will mean a lot to readers and give them the chance to consider your potential biases (or otherwise). I would put it to you that you are "the right person" in this case, for it obviously does concern you and are open to discussion on the matter.
    I would also point out that for the average person, it is not necessarily wrong to offer an opinion on a product one has purchased. Is your investment in the games success a real material benefit? What do you actually get out of it if it is a roaring success or a disasterous our flop? You do have the ability to sway the opinions of a select community, so in this case you aren't entirely an average person. But it isn't exactly an average community either and you potentially have a lot to lose from a dishonest review.
    Maybe the answer in your case is to ensure that a review is well balanced. Or maybe consider peer review! Have others review your review – maybe even those from other retro communities, who have no benefit either way.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post Ken. I would also add that in this case, there is no guarantee that there is going to be a "commercial" version available after the Kickstarter, simply because it's a group of volunteers doing ordering and fulfillment. So even though we're not supposed to treat Kickstarter like a pre-order, this is probably the safest way to guarantee a copy of the game.

    Kickstarter also adds an interesting flavor where the backers are in a real sense "part" of the project itself. You almost need to review the entire "experience", including the Kickstarter campaign, stretch goals, the community, the digital game itself, and finally, the 1980's experience of the collector's edition with its floppy disks, manual, cloth map, and feelies.