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The popular webcomic Penny Arcade ended its Kickstarter campaign today, earning $528,144 through the crowdfunding site.
This money will go mostly toward removing ads from the front page of Penny Arcade. While the project’s goal was technically $250,000, this only removed the top banner ad. They needed $525,000 to remove the second and last advertisement from the front page, a goal that wasn’t achieved until today.
Penny Arcade listed stretch goals (seen on the right) that went beyond the funds they were able to collect, including original comic projects and podcasts. Of these, five, including the original $250,000, were reached. At $1 million, it would have removed all ads from the site completely.
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The next stretch goal was for an original comic based on the Lookouts, a fantasy world focused on a group of Boy Scouts. This new strip would be focused on a girl troupe, called the Daughters of the Eyrewood. Although they did not raise the $550,000 they said they needed to fund the comic, they plan to do it anyway.
“We’ve decided that this Daughters of the Eyrewood story is too cool not to make, though,” said Krahulik in a news post today on Penny Arcade. “So, even though we didn’t fund it, we will be producing the Daughters comic and it will take the place of a PA presents project.”
It’s odd to use a project as an incentive to get readers to donate money, only to go ahead and make it anyway when it isn’t funded. Why was money asked for in the first place, then? Perhaps fans will be too happy that they’re getting the comic to complain. Still, if they really wanted to see the Lookouts strip made, wouldn’t they have funded it? That is the underlying theory of crowd-funding: If they want it, they will donate.
Mike Krahulik (also known as Gabe), the comic’s artist, said he was surprised by the number of people who didn’t want to see the ads gone from Penny Arcade. “I think we really underestimated how many of you actually like our ads, though,” Krahulik wrote in a news post. “I’d say the number one piece of feedback I got about the Kickstarter was, ‘I love the ads, don’t get rid of them!’ I have to admit, that was unexpected.”
The campaign was a target of criticism from a slice of Penny Arcade’s fans. Some didn’t believe that it really qualified as a project and that Kickstarter should not have allowed it. A commenter going by Carma wrote in response to an article on the subject at Eurogamer, “I can appreciate the idea — removing advertisers’ influence from gaming websites is probably a good thing. But Kickstarter is simply the wrong place for it. Why can’t Penny Arcade just ask its readers directly?”
Perhaps public perception toward Krahulik and his partner/writer Jerry Holkins (also known as Tycho) has changed. Once thought of as scrappy underdogs, they have become a victim of their own success. Another Eurogamer user, Captain_carl, wrote, “Even if it does succeed (the Kickstarter), it’s still stupid and sets a really bad precedent. ‘Kickstarter’ — the clue is in the name. It should be for kickstarting business ideas that can’t start otherwise. Things like great games, games consoles, wacky inventions, whatever. It should not be used by two millionaires so they can take adverts off their site for one year.”
Once a small comic run by two guys asking for donations, Penny Arcade has become a large business involved with multiple ventures, including conventions. The next Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) convention in Seattle sold out in record time. The 2011 PAX Prime had over 70,000 attendees.
Penny Arcade seems to be happy with the Kickstarter’s results. Shortly after the Kickstarted ended, Krahulik tweeted, “We did it! No ads on the front page! Thanks so much everyone!”
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