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Harmonix's  Amplitude  struggles highlight Kickstarter challenges

Harmonix's Amplitude struggles highlight Kickstarter challenges

May 14, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

"... Without this Kickstarter, there’s no clear path to getting Amplitude made or a clear scenario where we can afford to fund the team ourselves and release it. It’s not a ploy " with the current landscape, without your support, this game won’t exist."
- John Drake, Harmonix's director of publishing and PR

Earlier this month, Harmonix (Rock Band, Dance Central) launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking $775,000 to fund a sequel to Amplitude, its 2003 cult-hit PlayStation 2 music game.

The campaign is faltering. With just nine days left, it still needs over $500,000 to make its goal, as Harmonix encounters a rather special crowdfunding challenge: Some people think the studio is too successful to need a Kickstarter.

Today, John Drake, Harmonix's director of publishing and PR, put up a blog post clarifying questions potential backers have had about why the studio needs this much money to make the game.

It dismisses the ideas that Harmonix could seek publisher funding or that it has enough money from Rock Band sales -- or the studio's 2006 sale to media giant Viacom -- to self-fund the project. Drake also reveals that "the $775,000 of this Kickstarter is less than half of the project budget for the game."

"Even in the scenario where we raise the $800,000 or so on Kickstarter, we’ll be risking more of Harmonix’s money than we probably should -- all because we want to make this game so badly," Drake writes.

Most notably, Drake explains that the major money paid out by major media corporation Viacom to purchase Harmonix didn't end up in the company coffers. The company's early investors, not the studio itself, "were the primary recipients of 'all that Rock Band money' -- as well they should have been -- not the business of Harmonix that is trying to make this game," Drake writes.

Viacom snagged Harmonix in 2006 but sold off the studio for next to nothing after the plastic music instrument fad crashed. Viacom ultimately was ordered to pay $299 million to Harmonix investors thanks to a lawsuit between the companies over the original purchase deal.

The post highlights the difficulties many developers have been encountering with Kickstarter campaigns of late. Renegade Kid's Cult County struggled and ultimately failed to make its goal, while X-Com creator Julian Gollop's Chaos Reborn came close to missing its goal before ultimately succeeding -- surprising even its developer.

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