Lab Zero's Campaign for Action RPG Indivisible Gains Momentum

News of a possible extension, and a playable PS4 prototype, help push the promising but lagging project closer to reality.

Editorial by Jeremy Parish, .

If location is the key to great real estate, then surely the secret to a successful video game venture has to do with timing. Case in point, the baffling struggle faced by one of the most promising video game crowdfunding projects ever presented: Lab Zero's Indivisible, currently pushing toward its goal on Indiegogo.

Drawing equally on classic games like Valkyrie Profile and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as well as Lab Zero's own excellent hand-drawn fighting game Skull Girls, Indivisible should be all accounts be a runaway smash hit. If nothing else, the developer has put together one of the most polished campaigns I've ever seen. Indivisible features gorgeous art, and Lab Zero has offered extensive insight into how the game will work. This is no mere sketch-like proof-of-concept; in a remarkable world-first, it's actually playable, and not just one Steam Early Access. You can play it on PlayStation 4 right now (or later this week in Europe). Essentially, Lab Zero has done what Capcom promised by failed to do four years ago with the Mega Man Legends 3 playable prototype.

There is, I suspect, a certain amount of irony in that achievement, because Indivisible is struggling to reach its fundraising goal, and much of the blame likely falls on the more direct spiritual successors to Mega Man Legends 3. Comcept kicked off the recent craze for crowdfunding games that look an awful lot like older franchises that have lapsed into obscurity with Mighty No. 9, a Mega Man-like platformer whose success came about in large because jilted Mega Man fanatics saw it as such a glorious act of spite against Capcom.

While there's certainly still mileage to be found in this niche of classic revivals under a generic brand label—witness this summer's remarkable outcome for Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained—it takes more than just a good sales pitch and a good demo to find success these days. Gamers have grown wary of crowdfunded projects that fail to deliver the goods or even underperform to expectations, and perhaps the most visible example of this phenomenon is Mighty No. 9. Late, then further delayed, with a visually unspectacular demo that doesn't live up to the initial concept art many backers assumed would represent the final art, Mighty No. 9 has become emblematic of the challenges involved in crowdfunding. Despite publisher Comcept's promises of total transparency, the game has become something of a sore spot with supporters due to a combination of the above factors and the fact that most game players don't fully grasp the unhappy business realities of publishing a game—issues that have affected a number of other crowdfunded titles, including DoubleFine's Broken Age.

Just as mainstream have spun out to the extremes of costly AAA behemoths and modest mobile titles, games crowdfunding has grown increasingly polar in nature: Campaigns usually turn out to be either massive fundraising hits or massive fundraising flops, with very little space in between. Indivisible has been trending toward the latter, despite Lab Zero seemingly having done everything right. The developer has offered a frank appraisal of the costs involved in creating Indivisible—the $1.5 million goal is only a fraction of the total price tag, the remainder of which will be provided by a publisher should the crowdfunding pan out—which follows on the heels of their open communications about the costs of add-on material for Skull Girls over the past few years. They even went with the Indiegogo platform's "fixed funding" model, meaning that if they don't hit their goal, backers are out nothing.

Lab Zero has a great reputation, has made great games, and has bent over backward to keep Indivisible on the up-and-up. The game's struggles to meet its funding goals stand in uphappy contrast to the virtues of project and the excellent manner in which it's been presented. If ever you needed firm proof that crowdfunding is by no means a sure and simple guarantee of getting a dream project off the ground, Indivisible would be it.

Happily, despite the campaign's slow start—it's barely passed the halfway mark a full month into the fundraising drive—its failure no longer seems quite so certain. The game's prospective publisher, 505 Games, has offered to provide an extension for the fundraising campaign should it gain traction before its deadline arrives next weekend. This news appears to have given Indivisible a vital shot in the arm; its funding has accelerated considerably over the past week, and an extension just might buy the project enough time to hit its mark.

Even if Indivisible does hit its goal, though, its struggles bode ill for other prospective pro-tier crowdfunding projects. Lab Zero is a seasoned team running a professional campaign and asking for less than half of the total funding they actually need to make their excellent-looking project a reality. If it's been this difficult for them, it can only be more challenging for less-seasoned developers. A year ago, it probably would have been a slam-dunk, but timing is everything, and the era of sure things in video game crowdfunding appear to be drawing to a close.

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Comments 11

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  • Avatar for kevinbowyer34 #1 kevinbowyer34 3 years ago
    I'm down for some Valkyrie Profile looking stuff!
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #2 ojinnvoltz 3 years ago
    I was reluctant to back this because I have zero nostalgia for Valkyrie Profile and I would prefer Lab Zero keep expanding Skullgirls' roster, but this neat article about the design philosophies behind Indivisble sold me on the project.
    I like the way Mike Z thinks. Anybody talking about Guilty Gear's tension gauge and FFT's Calculator class in the same article immediately gets my money.Edited 3 times. Last edited November 2015 by ojinnvoltz
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  • Avatar for TernBird #3 TernBird 3 years ago
    There's no justice in the world if we get a Banjo-Kazooie revival but no Indivisible. Lab Zero Games has worked too hard to be denied another title.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #4 Ralek 3 years ago
    I recently played the Prototype on PS4 and thought it was quite enjoyable. I really hope the make it. I think they would have probably had an easier going on Kickstarter, also much of the character design in the game is mostly pretty bland. You know, not "bad" per se, just uninspired, and not much of a "selling point".
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #5 Kadrom 3 years ago
    Lab Zero has been doing this the right way. I remember when they did the last Skullgirls expansion they provided their cost breakdown for everything. I believe them when they say they need this amount of money. I'd rather back a project with a high funding goal that's realistic than be sold a dream and a prayer with a lower threshold for success.
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #6 Frosty840 3 years ago
    I'd love to back this, but I've seen people play through the prototype and while the battle system looks kind of okay the platforming looked fairly pants to me. That zoomed-in-too-close, "okay, you can jump and stuff but we're not really here for the platforms" feel to the gameplay. The guy I watched play it just facerolled his way to the boss of the prototype before even asking his stream audience how the battle system worked.
    There might be more to the game than that but I feel so drained of interest from having watched that playthrough that I've never followed it up.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #7 mobichan 3 years ago
    "Drawing equally on classic games like Valkyrie Profile and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as well as Lab Zero's own excellent hand-drawn fighting game Skull Girls, Indivisible should be all accounts be a runaway smash hit."

    A bit of hyperbole,eh? Neither of these games was a smash hit. They were popular with their fanbases, sure. And they were high quality experiences, to be sure. But in no way do they equate to a "smash hit". Unless you need to clarify your definition of that term?

    That said, the game looks great and I wish only the best for Lab Zero. They work hard and have been doing there best to do right by their players. Also, their campaign is what I would expect from all people trying to get funding through crowdsourcing. It shows they are serious and have put a solid stake into their project. Sadly, this sort of professionalism isn't the standard, but the exception.
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  • Avatar for jihon83 #8 jihon83 3 years ago
    [Insert joke about SJW's]

    It isn't surprising this effort is atruggling, though, as it does seem like the pre-order economy has shifted to Early Access. In many ways, that shift makes sense, as people want to have a better idea of what they are buying than the idea. This project should have more traction, given the demo; though it might also be tied to the idea that crowdfunding isn't a "good" thing, i.e., if your company is crowdfunding more than just your breakout success, you must be doing something wrong, I hope that isn't the case, as it seems like a viable way to make boutique games, and that kind of blanket perception is hard to fight.
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  • Avatar for TeaTreeTingle #9 TeaTreeTingle 3 years ago
    "despite Lab Zero seemingly having done everything right"

    Having watched the crowdfunding video game space for a while, they didn't make two correct fundamental decisions. If they had done their simple homework, they wouldn't have gone on Indiegogo a second time. $1.5M is a lot to ask to begin with, and then especially on Indiegogo where the highest video game campaign was their Skullgirls game which brought in $800K+. A quick Google search would have shown that Indiegogo has a higher failure rate of campaigns reaching their goal, so if you're doing all-or-nothing funding, just go to Kickstarter where there has been over 20 projects that hit $1M+.

    What they did right is their transparency, having a playable, and a polished campaign. I hope they are successful, for themselves, for video game crowdfunding, and to show Indiegogo can be a strong alternative to Kickstarter.
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  • Avatar for robertboyd00 #10 robertboyd00 3 years ago
    "Indivisible has been trending toward the latter, despite Lab Zero seemingly having done everything right."

    I hate comments like this because they ignore a number of mistakes the campaign made including:

    Using Indiegogo instead of the more popular Kickstarter
    Not having an attractive low cost tier (campaigns typically make a lot of money from $10-$20 tiers but the first popular tier here is $30)
    Not having a project that scales well with different levels of funding (which would allow them to have a lower base goal and attractive stretch goals - does the game really need to be 30 hours long?)
    Trying to break funding records with a very niche game concept (Valkyrie Profile was never very popular outside Japan)
    Dragging out their initial campaign length (typically 30 day campaigns perform the best)

    That's not to say that they didn't do some other things well but it's been far from a flawless campaign.Edited November 2015 by robertboyd00
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