I’m not sure who Atari was trying to impress with with their recently launched investment campaign for a Nintendo Switch version of Rollercoaster Tycoon. This could have probably been a home run for the publisher if handled right. Who wouldn’t want a properly done RCT on the portable Switch? Instead, Atari chose the most bizarre and universally unappealing route possible. It’s hard to tell whether it’s supposed to be aimed more at unfeeling investors looking to make money, or actual fans. It’s all quite confusing and just plain weird and as a result, RollerCoaster Tycoon Switch is off to rocky start. Let’s talk this through.
It’s Not a “Kickstarter,” it’s a StartEngine Campaign
Whatever that is. The traditional model for online crowdfunding is to use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, or something similar, to encourage a large amount of people to donate a small amount, usually around the cost of the game. Companies will often entice prospective donors with perks such as increased access to the development process or some kind of in-game exclusive goodie. They may even have stretch goals that encourage further donations beyond the original asking amount. Such goals could include a promise of expansions, DLCs or even entirely new platforms. RollerCoaster Tycoon Switch seems like it would be a good fit for this model.
StartEngine, however, doesn’t work that way; it’s an investment platform. In the case of Rollercoaster Tycoon Switch, if you donate $250 or more, you will, according to the RollerCoaster Tycoon Switch’s campaign page, “earn your pro rata share of 50% of profits until you made 120% of your original investment; after which you’ll earn your pro rata share of 25% of profits until 18 months after the worldwide launch of the game, or the earlier termination of our license to market and sell the game.”
Sounds neat on paper if you’re willing to throw down $250 (which is a lot) but as Kotaku points out, that’s ONLY if they reach 2 million in fundraising. Which, as of Monday 1/29, isn’t looking too hot.
The problem is that there is very little incentive to donate anything less than $250, and this boxes out a huge portion of people that would be willing to chip in what they can, something that any other well-run crowdfunding campaign would want to see happen.
The Game is Going to Happen Either Way?
Maybe Atari just doesn’t care or want the average person’s money as strange as that is, because the game is already green lit and good to go. Further muddying this pitch is the admission by Atari that the RollerCoaster Tycoon for the Switch is going to release regardless of what happens with the campaign and that this is all just a test. Take it away, Atari:
“As a publisher, Atari has started the development of the game and will release it no matter what the outcome of the campaign, because it has the resources to do it. … From a big picture perspective, bear in mind we have a portfolio of more than 200 games. This Start Engine campaign is a test of alternative financing resources to see if this could be applicable to other games of our portfolio to accelerate our growth. For this test, we selected RollerCoaster Tycoon for the Nintendo Switch given the awareness of the brand and the growth of the Nintendo platform.”
I’m not a financial expert, but if you have the funds to make the game without additional investors, why seek additional investment with the promise of sharing profit when you don’t need to? This compounded with the recent suit of Atari by the developers of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and Planet Coaster, Frontier Developments, is leaving many visibly sketched out in the comments of the campaign.
So Little is Said About the Actual Switch Game
It wasn’t that long ago that Atari and series creator Chris Sawyer teamed up to work on RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic. So it’s certainly not pie in the sky to wish and hope that he would be the person in charge of bringing the series to the Switch. However, Atari chose to give the gig to Nvizzio Creations, the team that’s responsible for the pretty much universally hated RollerCoaster Tycoon World and RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch. The latter is much less-hated, but it’s still probably not what longtime fans would choose to be the foundation for the Switch game if they had a say in it.
While the campaign doesn’t really spend much time talking about what the Switch game will be like, it does spend a whole lot of time talking about how great RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch and Nvizzio Creations are, and only mentions the Sawyer and the original two games in passing. It’s safe to say given the choice of developer, and the focus of the pitch, that Atari wants to emulate the success of Touch as closely as possible. That doesn’t necessarily spell doom for the game, it still might turn out OK. But it’s still strange that Atari is spending so much of its pitch on something that isn’t going to get anyone that follows the series closely excited. In fact, it had the exact opposite effect.
The Comments Are Brutal
Again, Atari seems to have picked an approach that has just unnecessarily put fans on edge about the project (where a more secretive announcement may have built hype), and doesn’t seem to have really inspired investors either. So far 73 investors have donated $32,955. I’m not sure if Atari considers that good or not with 84 days to go as of 1/29, but it’s definitely still way short of $1.07 million listed on the StartEngine campaign page.
The fans are letting Atari hear it in the comments. They certainly don’t speak for everyone, but still, it further adds to the perception that the reveal of Rollercoaster Tycoon Switch, something that was likely a dream for many, has gotten off to a strange, bizarre, and extremely shaky (at best) start. We’ll leave you with some piping hot comments below.