They’ve thrown in the towel… let’s talk about what went wrong.
First and foremost, I appreciate the fans of Robotech, Macross, Mospeada, and other anime that visit this site and check out my reviews. In no way is this post an attempt to antagonize anyone. I do find what just happened with the Robotech franchise very intriguing though and think it deserves a pretty close look. Investors have different strategies of picking the projects they want to buy into. Sometimes investments are philanthropic and I think Kickstarter does a good job tapping into that. Most investors though are looking for something more. So, in no particular order, here are the questions I felt the Kickstarter campaign failed to address:
1) Why didn’t HG fund the show from their own purse or traditional means? Harmony Gold is an established company, not a start-up. Potential investors are rightfully weary of established companies looking to crowd-fund new projects. Established companies have access to lines of credit (generally at reasonably attractive terms) and investors (yes, even private companies often have numerous investors). When it seems like your own company should have the $500K investment you’re attempting to crowd-fund it’s going to give people pause. Does HG not believe in its own project enough to fund it?
2) Can we trust Harmony Gold or is Harmony Gold a company we would want to give money to? HG has an image problem. First, this crowd-funding initiative was hot on the heels of the Palladium Robotech Tactics Kickstarter campaign that made way more than anyone ever expected and was certainly part of the inspiration for HG’s own campaign. However, as HG launched their campaign Palladium was simultaneously pissing off its backers by releasing the game after numerous lengthy delays at a convention to the general public after promising it to backers first. It was safe to say that Palladium hadn’t generated a lot of goodwill. Goodwill is not an asset that HG has much of due to the publicity around its numerous ‘cease and desist’ orders to retailers and fan projects (to mention nothing of the trademarking of the word “Macross”). HG has also done an excellent job of ostracizing the fan base on their own website-related forum where fans are continually chased away or banned for alleged indiscretions that are generally tantamount to ‘disagreeing with an overly involved moderator’. Banned fans aren’t likely to thank you with an investment in your crowd-funding initiative… though they still might watch whatever you produce for free on Youtube. Since we’re on the topic of ways HG has let the fan base down, might I also add: Toynami… search my site if the name alone isn’t enough for you to understand that merchandising letdown. While some of these issues are beyond HG’s control the Kickstarter campaign did nothing to address them.
3) What was HG’s plan to make sure this pilot would develop into a full season of animation? The Kickstarter campaign doesn’t adequately describe HOW HG will make the follow-up episodes to this $500K pilot. One assumes that they would shop this pilot to networks but did anyone believe a network would be eager to pick this show up? Were they planning more crowd-funded episodes? Did something related to a previous effort give them confidence a network was interested? The fanbase is already sick of false starts so outlining a feasible goal to completing a new series was a huge hurdle that needed to be cleared and they never approached it.
4) Speaking of false starts, what happened with Shadow Chronicles? At one point we heard that if Shadow Chronicles was successful it would receive sequel OVAs. Then we were told Shadow Chronicles was a runaway success. Allegedly the follow-up, Shadow Rising, was about to go into production when Warner Bros acquired the live action rights to Robotech. Shadow Rising was put on hiatus as the team at HG reasoned that if WB pursued a movie the franchise would draw more attention and be better suited to release a higher quality follow-up to Shadow Chronicles. It’s now clear WB will not be making a live action film but we were told Shadow Chronicles was successful so we should still be expecting Shadow Rising right? At Comic-con Tommy Yune stated that Shadow Rising was still in the works but for some reason now was the right time to start a completely different story and pinned that on Carl Macek adding that this was a secret Carl Macek project before his death. In the end, the question of why the next Robotech project isn’t a continuation of the most recent project needed to be addressed by the Kickstarter campaign and saying “Carl really wanted to do this” doesn’t adequately explain the abrupt change since we all know the dead are very patient.
5) How would Robotech Academy grow the Robotech fan base? It would seem sensible to expect an explanation from HG as to how the this new project would have broad enough appeal to lure in a whole new generation of fans, after all, that would be the first thing HG was going to need to explain to any networks as per bullet 3. Instead, Robotech Academy sounds like The Hangover II of the Robotech universe. Tell me if I’m talking about Robotech or Robotech Academy:
An unsuspecting group is suddenly hurled into conflict because, unbeknownst to them, they possess a relic of Zor. To escape this danger they attempt an experimental space fold which transports them to momentary safety but far from where they expected to go and with limited resources.
It got a little more original from there, and there was suggestions of tie-ins with the Sentinels storyline which excited some Robotech fans, but too much hinged on the prerequisite that the intended audience was steeped in Robotech lore. The majority of Robotech fans don’t even know about the Sentinels and those who do want The Sentinels, not a side-story of what happened to the children of the Macross Saga. We needed to know how this show would work for a new audience.
6) Instead of making a Sentinels spin-off, why not make The Sentinels? HG needs to stop pussyfooting around the rights issues and this would have been the perfect place to do this because they might have actually been rewarded with cash for their efforts! Had HG come out and said “Look, the original designs and characters from Macross
, and the original mechanical designs from Southern Cross are a legal minefield that we need to avoid so this is our best opportunity to depict the Sentinels arch” they may have been rewarded for their candor. Fans would stop asking about why there won’t be Valkyries in the new show or why the designs from a story that happens during the Masters arch look to be based on Mospeada. (edited, thanks for the comments guys to set me straight).
7) Robotech is an adaptation and generating brand new content is a very different beast; who was going to be responsible for the new character and mechanical designs? What were their qualifications? Rather than teasing some designs to be picked apart on the Internet, HG needed to tout the abilities of the team that would be working on this show. What had they done previously? Saying “From the team that brought you Shadow Chronicles” was bound to get a lukewarm response. If they could have said “Look, this is an expensive pilot episode because we’ve hired Mikimoto to do our character designs and Kawamori to do our mechs” that’d be another thing entirely. Yes, those may be unrealistic names to drop but certainly they could have put some names out there that would have inspired a lot more confidence.
Backers: 2284, pledged: $194,574
So, from my perspective, these were the issues that HG did an insufficient job of tackling and thus did not get the investment dollars they needed. Were there other issues that were important to you that I didn’t cover?