Mighty No. 9's Endless Delays Offer Lessons Aplenty

Technical difficulties, vague promises, impatient fans, and ego make for a perfect Kickstarter horror show.

News by Nadia Oxford, .

Uh oh: Mighty No. 9 is delayed again.

Initially set for a February 9 release, Keiji Inafune's spiritual successor to Mega Man is now en route for a "Spring 2016" release.

Inafune himself penned an apology for the delay, which, as backers of the project's Kickstarter know, is the latest of many:

"The reason for the delay is rooted in bugs inside the network modes, and specifically problems with matchmaking. There are two large reasons for this problem, one of them being the large number of platforms supported (the solution for each platform is slightly different) and the other stems from the fact that the engine we are using is no longer being updated which means adjustments for matchmaking and online code are being made manually (actually reprogramming parts of the engine by the dev team themselves)."

Trying to engineer functional multiplayer for Mighty No. 9 has definitely been a rock in Comcept's shoe. Frustrated fans may wonder why Comcept doesn't simply release the single-player game and then dish out the multiplayer aspect later. It's a good question -- and one that Inafune and his translator answered when they talked to Jeremy Parish last year:

"When you release a game with single-player content only, you can only label that game as a single-player game when you do the certification to the first-party, the platform holders," Inafune's translator said. "So you cannot write "single-player/multiplayer" on the box or any other way to promote it, so it's only a single-player game. When that happens, the price will drop-we cannot price the game as a the single-player and multiplayer game, we can only price it as a single-player game."

So, the reasons are "pricing" and "marketing" -- two factors Comcept may be forced to pay closer attention to now that it's beholden to a publisher, Deep Silver.

At this point in Mighty No. 9's tumultuous development cycle, there's little anger from backers over the delay. Instead, there are a lot of jokes, more than a few of which are scornful. Mighty No. 9 feels like the butt of a joke, and not a light-hearted one, either.

When a project gets as tangled-up as Mighty No. 9, it's worth examining whether or not the pessimism and mean remarks are justified. After all, Mighty No. 9 is hardly the only Kickstarter project to face serious delays. Show me five Kickstarter-funded games that released on their initial target date, and I'll show you a unicorn that plays the trombone.

As Inafune pointed out, Mighty No. 9's usage of Unreal Engine 3 is part of the problem. Unreal Engine 4 became standard not long after Mighty No. 9 was announced, and a lack of support on Epic's part slowed things down, leading to delays.

It took some time for Inafune to confirm as much, and that's arguably the biggest reason for the never-ending barrage of criticism lobbed at Mighty No. 9: A profound lack of transparency. Communication between Comcept and the fans slowly dried up once the Kickstarter was funded, and there have been a lot of hard feelings as a result.

Video games are a business and Comcept has to conduct itself accordingly, even if that means staying hush-hush about certain decisions (something it may have to do even more often at Deep Silver's behest). However, fans made Mighty No. 9 possible, so they understandably want to be kept in the loop. It's a classic case of passion and corporate culture bashing into each other head-on.

Another example of miscommunication occurred when Keiji Inafune launched a (failed) Kickstarter for a Mega Man Legends successor called Red Ash. By that point, Mighty No. 9 had already suffered several delays, and backers rightfully wanted to know why Inafune was tooling around by making another follow-up series when he hadn't even proven himself with Beck and Call's adventure yet.

It turns out Inafune's reason for kindling the Red Ash Kickstarter is a noble one: Mighty No. 9 was technically done, and he didn't want to lay off his staff. So he cooked up another project for them to work on.

But Inafune also admitted to Engadget that his intentions were not made clear. "Once you explain to people, they typically understand, but the initial message wasn't clear enough," he said. "The timing was bad. It's just -- everything went in a bad, bad direction."

Indeed, people are usually an understanding lot. Nobody backs a Kickstarter in hopes of getting the project tomorrow, and we all know games are hard to make. But if you don't tell people what's going on, they're going to get antsy.

Inafune's woes go beyond bad communication, however. Mighty No. 9 is probably Kickstarter's best example of a project hamstrung by "feature creep" -- big promises made to backers in exchange for their aid in meeting lofty stretch goals. Multiplayer options and cross-platform releases were proposed as stretch goals, and they're the main reason Mighty No. 9 is seeing delay after delay.

It's not entirely Comcept's fault everything got out of control. Mighty No. 9 was one of the most successful Kickstarters of its time, and once the money started pouring in, it seemed as if the sky was the limit. The reality check has been brutal. Game developers looking to fund themselves through Kickstarter should study the myriad lessons Mighty No. 9's campaign has to offer.

There's also some undeniable egotism at work here, too. In his interview with Jeremy, Inafune says "We decided to make [the Mighty No. 9 property] something bigger than we originally thought," which is one of the main reasons Comcept signed up with Deep Silver. In fact, there are plans (or at least publicized hopes) to turn Mighty No. 9 into a movie, an animated series, and a manga series.

While that level of ambition is admirable -- every creator should love their characters! -- the frank truth is, nobody asked for a Mighty No. 9 anime, movie, or manga. We want a game that'll show us a good time, even if it doesn't quite fill the Mega Man-shaped hole lingering in our hearts. But Inafune is talking about big plans for Mighty No. 9's extended universe even though we haven't had the opportunity to decide if we're interested in Beck, Call, and the world they live in.

It's a presumptuous attitude, and it's no wonder people are feeling salty about Mighty No. 9. By contrast, Mega Man's world built itself up organically through years of excellent games that gradually inspired supplemental lore, both official and unofficial.

All that said, Mighty No. 9 is wounded, but not beyond redemption. Hopefully when the game comes out -- and it will! -- we can all settle in for the good ol' fashioned platforming action we signed up for. If Mighty No. 9 is simply fun to play, that alone should take a lot of the sting out of its botched campaign.

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Comments 18

  • Avatar for Sturat #1 Sturat 2 years ago
    I hope they don't release it until everything is ready; I've got plenty of other games to play. I wasn't particularly interested in the online elements of this game, though, so hopefully other people can learn from this not to over-promise on online modes for stretch goals.
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  • Avatar for UnknownJones #2 UnknownJones 2 years ago
    I'm a backer who's not angry in the least. Your analysis of the hubris and feature creep is spot on, but I'm still happy to wait until it's ready.
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  • Avatar for amightysquall958 #3 amightysquall958 2 years ago
    I'm a backer as well. It's disappointing that there is yet another delay. I can't help but feel the sunk cost fallacy has dragged this project out (on top of the feature creep and brand bloat). I'm not upset about the delay, just tired of hearing about it every time it happens (roughly once per quarter).

    I believe that the certification is the biggest culprit on the delays after Comcept committed to multiplayer. Every time certification is mentioned by an indie dev it sounds stressful and can lead to expensive fixes to solve any issues that may arise.

    Also, the Red Ash issue was an inevitable sticking point. It is beyond reasonable that the team needed a new project for their creatives to start on--that is typical of a development cycle. It is also perfectly reasonable that the backers felt jilted being asked to give again considering they still hadn't received a finished product with which they could judge the company's work. Add to that the frustration once the project was picked up by a third party and didn't need the Kickstarter to move forward. Can't fault anybody, yet still no one walked away happy.

    I fear, in the end, the game will come out; it will be competent but mediocre, which will draw ire from the more impatient backers and smirks from the naysayers who have been jeering from the sidelines; some will defend it out of loyalty and because it won't be complete hot garbage; the multiplayer will be labeled the albatross; life will go on.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #4 KaiserWarrior 2 years ago
    With all due respect, Keiji Inafune and Comcept are not your average Kickstarter users.

    People are harsher on them because they are professionals. These aren't a couple of people working in their garage. These are industry veterans turning to their customers for millions of dollars up-front, and delivering nothing but excuses in return. When Red Ash went up on Kickstarter, Inafune said that Mighty No. 9 was done.

    It's been, what 7 or 8 months now? Mighty No. 9 still isn't out yet. Clearly it isn't done. Clearly it wasn't done back when Red Ash went up. Hubris is right. I choose to believe that Inafune did not knowingly, willfully lie to his customers, and instead believe that he is simply guilty of a massive overestimation of his team's capabilities.

    And all of this... for what? For multiplayer in a Megaman game? Who asked for this? Yeah, it was a stretch goal, but people threw money at Mighty No. 9 because they wanted a new Megaman game, and I doubt very much that more than a few of them really, REALLY wanted multiplayer in it.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #5 SargeSmash 2 years ago
    @KaiserWarrior : Even if they are professionals, though, how many professional games do we know of that go over-budget in both time and money? It's not a short list, and that's just the ones we know about.

    Also, it should be noted that, while they may not be working in their garage, in some ways, they actually are. They don't have the overwhelming resources that they once had at Capcom, so this is probably a challenge all around. Things that used to be quicker, more efficient, they might not have the manpower to keep things on track. I think they'll learn a lot from it, and as said in the article, it's an excellent lesson to others regarding pitfalls even veteran developers can fall into. Edited January 2016 by SargeSmash
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #6 nadiaoxford 2 years ago
    A commenter pointed out that Inafune confirmed the use of Unreal Engine 3 is one of the reasons behind the delay(s), whereas I previously speculated on the issue. Either the commenter deleted their remark, or I accidentally killed it while spammer-sniping. Either way, just a heads-up and thank you to the commenter!
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #7 UnskippableCutscene 2 years ago
    I played this at TwitchCon and wasn't impressed. I'm not fond of the old Mega Man games, but I did have fun however the production values here don't shout "three year production cycle" or "the hottest new property on Cartoon Network".

    Anyone who looked at a demo video can see the same things I did, kind of corny voice acting by characters who don't really animate (I eventually skipped the exposition because it wasn't particularly impressive stuff) that this is still an indie game. It was fun (I played about two stages and left content) but just release already.

    It's aiming for the full featured bullet points of a tent pole console release, but the production looks like it's also meant for last gen and 3DS and Mobile. Let it go, and if people enjoy it enough it'll get the sequels and cartoons and stuff without trying to fund a Pokemon-style media property on crowdsourcing funds.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #8 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    I've less issue with there being delays or it not being done than I am with Comcept constantly announcing firm dates and Inafune promising no more delays.
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #9 Mikki-Saturn 2 years ago
    I didn't back it - I was tapped out at the time. I plan to buy it though, assuming the reviews are at least decent. So I have watched this unfolding saga from the sidelines and frankly I feel that Inafune and Mighty No. 9 have been treated pretty unfairly by a lot of the fans. Although I will say I'm very sympathetic to creators (I am one, after all) and I cut them a lot of slack. More so than many people are willing to do apparently.

    Still I think it's interesting and instructive to compare this game to Shovel Knight. Both had prominent, successful kickstarters. Both promised a wide range of ambitious special features as stretch goals. Both went over budget and had to be delayed. And yet, the narrative around Shovel Knight is overwhelmingly positive, while the one around Mighty No. 9 is overwhelmingly negative. It seems to me that some of the difference is down to transparency - Yacht Club kept people well in the loop with Shovel Knight, and that goes a long way. But I think the biggest difference comes down to some hand waving PR mojo that Yacht Club worked. By releasing the main game, and then bringing out the add on content later, they accomplished several things. They got people talking about their game in a positive way. They brought in money to help finish the stretch goals. And finally, and most importantly for this comparison, they created a situation (deliberately or otherwise) that allowed people to perceive them as generously supporting their game with free updates. I see this confusion in comments everywhere - many people seem to have straight up forgotten that Yacht Club is obligated by their Kickstarter promises to release these extra modes. When Yacht Club trickles out bonus modes months (years, by the time their done) after the game has been released, not only do they not get criticized, but they actually get praised as if they were somehow doing something extra.

    Another thing that we know is that Yacht Club did not exactly budget Shovel Knight perfectly. In the Gamasutra article in which they go into the financials, it's clear that they were straight up out of money by the time the game released - before even starting on all of the stretch goal bonus modes. I believe the article actually says that they had not paid employees for several weeks leading up to release, so completely out of money was Yacht Club. What this tells us is that if the game had not been so well received, and sold so well, there is no way they could have finished those stretch goals. But hardly anybody knows this or cares - because the game is great and all's well that ends well. You never hear anyone calling Yacht Club incompetent, or suggesting that they're crooks stealing peoples money or what have you. What a contrast! It illustrates how important good PR is.

    To be clear none of this is intended to criticize Yacht Club. I love them, and Shovel Knight, and I love Inafune's past works and I hope/expect to love Mighty No. 9 too. Like I said I cut creators a lot of slack.
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  • Avatar for Daikaiju #10 Daikaiju 2 years ago
    I'll keep the faith, but I hope Iga's taking notes.
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  • Avatar for Dodecamancer #11 Dodecamancer 2 years ago
    My problem is not with the delay at all. I've been a gamer for 30 years. I'm used to delays. My problem is that the delay is because of the multiplayer, something I don't think the game ever needed. He can call it whatever he wants, we all know this is a Mega Man game. And I never played Mega Man thinking it would be better as a multiplayer game.
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  • Avatar for docexe #12 docexe 2 years ago
    I have been patient so far and I remain hopeful about the game, but my patience is admittedly running thin. All will be forgiven on my part if the game is actually fun to play, but it can’t be denied that the delays plus the rest of the sordid history behind its development has hampered its reputation. And as@amightysquall958 points out above, if it finally comes out and is merely “competent”, it will draw a lot of ire from a section of the backers and become more polarizing than it already is.

    Honestly, as@Mikki-Saturn piinted out above, I think it would have been better for Inafune and Inticreates to release a “base game” last year with the core single player game on it (and probably a few extras like Call mode), then release an expansion with the rest of the stretch goals this year, including the multiplayer. But I suppose they couldn’t do it that way anymore when they became beholden to Deep Silver. That’s the other difference with Shovel Knight as well: Yatch Club Games remained independent through and through.

    In any case, I have to agree with the core point of article: The case of this game seems like a lesson for other developers when it comes to stretch goals, feature creep, and creator hubris with Kickstarter. Hopefully, IGA and Inticreates will learn from this so Bloodstained goes through a smoother release process.
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  • Avatar for eduardopescador54 #13 eduardopescador54 2 years ago
    How would one go around getting a refund for this?
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #14 UnskippableCutscene 2 years ago
    @eduardopescador54 If you've waited this long, you may as well see it through. Yes, they're fighting their own stretch goal feature creep, but it's nowhere near the hot mess of Star Citizen.
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  • Avatar for TheOldMan2084 #15 TheOldMan2084 2 years ago
    I don't necessarily mind delays. It gives me a chance to work through my backlog! I'd also rather have the game when it's been fine tuned and humming along nicely instead of needing a day-one patch just to function properly. That being said, I didn't back this project and I can imagine the number of delays would leave a bad taste in backers' mouths. I'm hoping this is the last delay and something great comes out of all this chaos.
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  • Avatar for amightysquall958 #16 amightysquall958 2 years ago
    @Mikki-Saturn makes a great point with Yacht Club. They could have easily fallen into the same trap, but they handled the initial release very well and continued to ride the goodwill wave. They had one distinct advantage though--Shovel Knight was a thoroughly well designed game. The creativity of the setting and characters sold us on the silly idea of a knight wielding a shovel for his weapon and was still able to pull off meaningful emotional beats (e.g. the dream sequences). Plus the game was mechanically very solid.

    I can't say what I've seen for MN9 inspires any feeling out of me other than "this looks like it could be fun to play." I guess it's unfair to compare it to SK, which was simply inspired on all levels, but mechanically they are similar games (not technologically; I'd be very surprised if YC used UE3).

    I don't want to come off all negative--I agree that everyone needs to take a deep breath and be patient. I'm glad I supported the project, particularly for the Vita (which always can use more love). The whole ordeal fills me with ennui.
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  • Avatar for amightysquall958 #17 amightysquall958 2 years ago
    Deleted January 2016 by amightysquall958
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  • Avatar for Thad #18 Thad 2 years ago
    On the one hand, I'm patient, I can wait, and Mighty No 9 isn't even the most-delayed Kickstarter game I've pledged and am still waiting for.

    On the other, this is just bad business, and it could have a serious long-term effect on Comcept's process.

    Or not. Maybe the game comes out, it's great, and everybody forgets about the delays. The future is hard to predict.

    Here's what I wrote in the comments section for the post announcing the latest delay:

    I'm not one for pitchforks and torches, but I really think there's a question you should be asking yourselves, from a simple cost/benefit perspective:

    The reason you haven't released the game as single-player-only and then waited to release the multiplayer as a patch later is because you expect the game to sell better if you can advertise multiplayer on its list of features, correct?

    So, this raises a question: are the additional sales you expect to get from advertising the game as multiplayer enough to offset the people who will avoid this game following the negative word-of-mouth it's gotten as a result of its repeated delays?

    Granted, we're backers; we've already paid our money and you're not going to lose *our* business on this Kickstarter. But at this point I don't think it's possible to talk about the game without talking about its delays, and it seems to me that that's likely to have an impact on sales to people who *haven't* already paid for the game.

    And beyond that, I hope you have another source of funding for your future projects, because if Comcept comes back to Kickstarter, it could be a tough sell. I backed the failed Red Ash Kickstarter, but I'm definitely going to think twice before I back any of your future projects.

    Best of luck finishing the game. If it's really good, people will probably forget about all the delays. But if it's anything less than really good, I think the project will be remembered more for the delays than for the final product.
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  • Avatar for Thad #19 Thad 2 years ago
    Off-topic: You know what would be nice? If, after spam comments were deleted, I didn't still get notifications that there were (now-deleted) (spam) replies to my posts.
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