First of all, I am a big fan of rescueware- the process of taking an old abandoned game, getting the rights to it and either finishing it or fixing it and then releasing it for fans to enjoy. When I first heard about someone apparently launching a Kickstarter campaign to release Socks the Cat on Super Nintendo, I was excited. I contacted them to request some basic information on the situation (basic journalism fact checking) and was only met with stone walling and lack of response other than references to some “strategic” process they have in place. This raised my eye brows and spurred me to dig deeper into their Kickstarter campaign details and to wonder what is really going on here. This is my first “Kickstarter Beware” article.
I do want to say, they recommend Kickstarter readers to “google the game” and see the commotion over it. So I did.
First, the company behind the Kickstarter campaign is Second Dimension- a homebrew/independent game publisher. They have released a few games under this name and prior under the name “Airwalk Studios” (NintendoAge.com forum link to “dra600n” owner of Second Dimension, post on April 9th, 2015 stating transition). Under the Airwalk Studios name they did release a game that they readily admit was a copy of Fix It Felix Jr., a game based on Disney properties (as shown in the movie, Wreck It Ralph). I have no problem with someone changing their company name, just establishing history here.
Back to the Kickstarter. They claim that the game was complete but that is questionable. On the Kickstarter it is claimed that the game is eight levels long and contains bosses. Great, if true. Also, it is proclaimed that their programmer (someone on the Second Dimension staff or another company?) has fixed all of the bugs in the game (no mention of a prototype at all on the Kickstarter page). No basic history of acquiring the rights that they hold – simply owning a prototype does not give you legal right to produce copies of the contents.
My concern is, well simple. There is NOTHING shown to prove any of this. I mean, there is a box mock up and two small screen shots of dark levels with nothing going on in them. This is a major point of concern for someone like me. If the game is indeed complete and ready to go, why is there not gameplay videos and more pictures of the game in action? IF the game is complete, and they ARE asking for a minimum of $30,000 here folks, then it would seem like a no brainer to provide more “proof” the game is in fact complete and ready to go. Right now, there is none of this and that really hurts the credibility of this campaign in my eyes, certainly making my wallet shy away at this point.
Let’s boil this down some more. Apparently a person named Tom Curtin obtained the “rights to Socks the Cat”. This is not clear- did he obtain the rights to the game title or did he obtain the rights from Real Time Associates for the game itself? According to Wikipedia (I know- wonderful source) Tom Curtin (MinusWorlds on NintendoAge) only acquired the rights to “Socks the Cat” not “Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill” which is the name of the game that Kaneko owned the rights to (and unless someone got on a plane and went to Japan to talk with Hiroshi Kaneko, they don’t own those rights).
According to Jeff Hill, former Kaneko Director of Product Development, stated to SNES Central.com that “Socks the Cat pretty much headed straight for the litterbox. The game barely got off the drawing board and never got close to being a finished product. All we had at the time development was canceled was part of its first level.” Mr. Hill went on, “The game was never submitted for approval either to NOA or Sega – and certainly never manufactured. I was the guy who would have submitted it! Honestly, the game was nowhere near complete – and development was stopped at least six months before Kaneko closed the US office.”
Also on SNES Central.com we see a quote from David Warhol, owner of RealTime Associates, saying otherwise, “Yes, we developed and completed Socks Rocks the Hill for SNES.”
So this leaves us at the point of “which version” is being offered up on the Kickstarter campaign? After asking about details on the game I grew tired of receiving replies stating the question violates their “strategic” activities. I was not asking to be given copies of the contracts, nor was I asking for contact information for the “copyright and game code” owners. I was simply asking if certain people were involved in the acquiring of the rights to the game and the title of the game. The lack of communication from Second Dimension, even in “yes/no” situations has led me to believe that there is plenty of reason for concern with this Kickstarter campaign.
Then there is the reasoning that the game, which they state is complete on their Kickstarter, will take nine months to get to gamers (due in July 2017). If the game is complete it should be available a lot sooner than that. Are manual and box printing services that slow? I know Kickstarter holds payment for about 30 days so that still leaves eight months or so after receiving the money for them to ‘work their magic’ and get the game ready (for those that choose the “complete in box” option).
Couple my journalistic instincts of something being wrong here with the near complete lack of anything (pictures or video) showing off later levels (after all, there are eight of them plus bosses) is more reason for concern.
When asking for $30,000 to release a highly contested property such as Socks the Cat you would think there would be a little more transparency involved. I cannot, at this time recommend anyone to back this campaign without doing some questioning of your own. As the old saying goes, buyer beware.
Will you be backing this Kickstarter even though there is literally no information on the game? Nothing to build interest or show completed work of any kind?