Kickstarting the Dreamcast
Redux: Dark Matters was the first big success for Dreamcast on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The campaign to fund the shoot-’em-up from retro developer Hucast Games raised over $53,000 in June.
The success of this campaign came as a shock to head of Hucast Games, René Hellwig. “Yes, we were surprised!” he says. “We were hoping to reach the original funding goal of $25,000, but we made double!”
For Hellwig, the Kickstarter experiment was fruitful, but not something he is looking to do again, at least for Dreamcast titles. As the pledge rewards were all for copies of the game, Hellwig feels he was really preaching to the converted. “It was a nice and valid experience, but we won’t use Kickstarter for Dreamcast projects anymore,” he says. “When we do a Kickstarter again we will aim at a big-scale market to reach a new audience.”
In terms of sales, Hellwig says that developing titles for the Dreamcast is definitely worthwhile. He already has a number of successful releases under his belt with the NG:DEV.TEAM, including side-scrolling shoot-’em-up Last Hope and last year’s critically acclaimed release, Gunlord. The latter having been awarded “Game of the Year” by YouTube channel Classic Game Room.
“With Last Hope [released on Neo-Geo and Dreamcast], back in 2007, we released Limited Editions and regular editions. The Limited Edition made a fair chunk of our money,” says Hellwig. The Limited Edition also sold out especially quickly. “I still remember when we accepted re-orders for the Last Hope LE on Play-Asia,” he says. “Five hundred copies sold out within five days. I’m still amazed by that.”
Going forward, Hellwig has both Redux: Dark Matters and recently announced shoot-’em-up Ghost Blade set for release on Dreamcast in 2013. “Developing games for new and dead platforms is our business,” he says, “but still a passion, as all great platforms need great new games.”
You can see Ghost Blade in action in the video embedded below.
What’s with all the shooters?
Looking at the array of upcoming Dreamcast releases, you spot a pattern — one that involves a great deal of shoot-’em-up action.
Jake Smith helps explain the intimate relationship between the Dreamcast and the shoot-em-up (shmup) genre.
“I couldn’t be sure and speak for everyone,” he says, “but I think the Dreamcast’s hardware, its ability to throw 2D sprites around over top of 3D backgrounds and scenery, or [display] full 3D shooters with ease, will certainly make it look attractive [to developers].
“From a gamers point of view, being able to get VGA-out from a Dreamcast hooked up to a rotated LCD monitor, with a nice heavy arcade stick for hammering the fighters and shmups, it sure is an attractive set up,” he says. “[Classic shmup game] Ikaruga is beautiful when played like this, even if it’s still just as hard!
“You can also throw in a scan-line generator for that full arcade monitor feel, which I’m always a sucker for.”
Aha! A role-playing game
Helping buck the shmup trend is Pier Solar HD, the other big Dreamcast Kickstarter success.
An HD-remake of the contemporary Sega Genesis role-playing game, Pier Solar, it raised over $230,000 on Kickstarter late last year. Developer WaterMelon Games is planning on bringing the title to Dreamcast, along with Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, Mac, Ouya, and iOS.
For WaterMelon president Tulio Adriano and creative director Gwenael Godde, the Dreamcast was key to the campaign. “It was the Dreamcast development that sparked the whole HD idea,” they say. “It was while Pier Solar was being straight ported to Dreamcast that we had the Kickstarter idea to bring it to the next level.”
Adriano and Godde are coy when it comes to talking about potential sales on retro systems. “If I release numbers I’ll probably be fired. [Laughs] I can tell you though that the level of demand is good enough that we keep releasing Pier Solar [on Genesis] over and over, and also have the opportunity to make new games such as those on the Magical Game Factory.”
Is Sega paying attention?
While Sega showed some interest in Sturmwind, it seems unlikely that the company will ever officially support the Dreamcast again.
WaterMelon has had no contact from Sega despite bringing new titles to two of its old platforms. “It’s hard to say whether they would have interest or not,” Adriano and Godde said. “I believe that news from our game probably never reaches the decision-makers of the company. I think that if it was my company and if I had fans all over asking me to license a development team that is honoring my company, I’d listen to them.”
Hellwig has also never heard from Sega, but he was pleased to see the company supporting Sturmwind via Destructoid Live. “They were giving it some air time and it was nice to see they were enjoying the game. That’s the spirit!”
As for Jake Smith, he can’t see Sega touching its own hardware again, given the problems it had last time. “As much as I’d like them to return with hardware,” he said, “the stakes are so high now, and consoles aren’t just about the game. Sony and Microsoft have shown how much the sharing and social elements will be embedded into their latest consoles, and like it or not, that’s what Sega would be competing against. Their current multiplatform approach, and acting as a publisher, is likely the reason they’re still in business, to be blunt.”
Whether Sega is still interested in the Dreamcast or not, the support is definitely there to sustain development on the console that just won’t give up the ghost.
Dreamcast console close-up via DAVIDSDIEGO/flickr, Dreamcast on wood background via bochalla/flickr, Dreamcast front image via bochalla/flickr, Dreamcast controller ports via resendejes/flickr, Dreamcast arcade controller image via Jon Gotlin/flickr, Dreamcast Divers 2000 series CX-1 image via driph/flickr, Pier Solar HD images via Kickstarter, Redux: Dark Matters screen via Kickstarter, Ghost Blade image via Hucast Games, Dreamcast Magazine and scanline images via Jake Smith, Sturmwind images via Duranik.