The Replay crew got the idea for crowdfunding after watching the success of game veterans Tim Schafer and Brian Fargo in using Kickstarter to fund their separate games. The aim is to bring back the Leisure Suit Larry franchise that sold more than 10 million copies in the 1980s and 1990s.
The whole project is part of the retro trend to bring back beloved franchises to older games and win new fans as well. Lowe said the team will update the graphics, the music, the user interface, and the humor.
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“We’re bringing it into the 21st century onto PCs and tablets,” Lowe said. “And we want to do it without any pesky publishers telling us to dumb it down or make it tamer so we can get it into Walmart.”
In exchange for a $15 donation, you get a copy of the game. But if you donate more, you can get more personalized collectibles such as a link to a digital version of the original soundtrack, an art book, or even a role in the game’s development. For a pledge of $100, you can get a packaged mailing of the game and related assets, plus a Leisure Suit Larry brand condom (in its wrapper). If you donate in the thousands, you can get a Pervert edition, a Doggie style edition, a Drunk’s edition and more. The more you pledge, Lowe said, the more outrageous the prizes become. This way, Replay doesn’t have to give up a lot of equity to VCs.
Lowe created the original adventure game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, in 1987. He said the original Leisure Suit Larry was one of the most pirated games in history at the time and he knew that because he sold a lot more hint books than actual games at the time.
“If we were smart, we would have just printed the hint books and stopped making the games altogether,” he said.
Five more Larry games and other auxiliary titles followed. The last Leisure Suit Larry game that Lowe worked on was Love for Sale, released in 1996. But Lowe said he still gets fan mail about the original series.
The Larry franchise was most recently owned by Vivendi Universal, which acquired Sierra (via acquisitions of parent firms) years ago and then sold it to Codemasters, which published a title called Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust, in 2009. That game was done without consultation with Lowe and didn’t sell well. Critics hated it, with GameTrailers.com giving it a 2.3 out of 10 rating.
The new game got its life after Paul Trowe, founder of Replay Games, bootstrapped his Austin, Texas-based company in 2008 to focus on the digital distribution of games. Trowe was the first teenage beta tester at Sierra On-Line, the now-defunct publisher of the original series.
In 2010, he picked up the rights to Leisure Suit Larry, essentially grabbing it back from the “clutches of corporate America,” he said. Then he got Lowe to agree to recreate a new game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded. The actual developer will be Adventure Mob, a Tel Aviv-based game studio that will use the Unity Technologies game engine for cross-platform game creation. All told, a team of seven is working on the game, which could debut in October.
Since announcing the game in October, Trowe said he has been getting fan mail every day, mostly from nostalgic males who played the original game. The new title will run on the Unity 3D engine and will have beefed up graphics. At the time, Trowe was raising a $5 million round of funding from venture capitalists. But with the Kickstarter route, the company won’t have to give up equity, Trowe said.
The $500,000 target will let the company remake the PC game with 2D hand-painted graphics and animations. If it exceeds that goal, it can do versions for the Mac, Linux, iOS tablets, Android tablet, iPhone/iTouch, Android phones, XBLA, PSN, and cloud, plus foreign languages.