Published on August 17th, 2012 | by Chris Powell6
Pabich responds to Cheetahmen Kickstarter controversy
You can now add swindler to that list thanks to a recent uproar over his Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $65,000 to manufacture 1,000 NES carts of Cheetahmen II: The Lost Levels.
“My first reaction, frankly, is that much of the criticism is unwarranted or a total misunderstanding of what’s going on here,” Pabich told Bit Loaders. “Initially, it’s very disappointing because it’s like your baby, and I know how much money and time and effort has gone into the project. You put your heart and soul into it, and for no good reason, somebody has just thrown cold water on you. It’s extremely disappointing.”
The crux of the controversy stems from three main points: one, that some people believe Pabich is simply out to scam would-be backers; two, being the fact the game has already been fixed and is available for free throughout the Internet, which people reason that there’s no point to his Kickstarter campaign in the first place. And thirdly, that some people think Pabich is using his campaign to turn a profit, which, in their mind, goes against the spirit of what Kickstarter is all about.
“I think it’s a mix of the high price you have to donate (or are being encouraged to donate), and the fact that a third of the goal is pure profit,” wrote a forum member on NeoGAF about the Cheetahmen Kickstarter. “I thought Kickstarter projects were mostly just about covering cost, not including profit. Profit should come from selling the product once it’s funded, and not the kicstarter (sic) itself … right?”
The way Pabich explain it, though, is his Kickstarter project essentially allows people to pre-order the game, which gives him the money to fund the manufacturing and shipment of the carts once they’re completed.
“That’s the best way in the world to describe this project, and that’s really what Kickstarter is (about),” he said. “It’s that you make some known sales in advance that help fund the project. The game developers, now, they have a whole different formula involved.”
Pabich believes the main reason for the misunderstanding is because many people are used to getting stuff for free on the Internet.
“What it finally boils down to, in our estimation, is people are used to getting things free,” he said. “There’s a tendency to think an awful lot of the media should be free because you can download it off the Internet. And what people don’t realize is that I’m not doing a digital download that’s no cost. I have a real live cartridge, in a real box. I have labels and holograms and custom dust covers and shrink wrap.”
To try to stem some of the uproar, Pabich updated his Kickstarter page with a follow-up video and a line-item list that outlined the total cost of manufacturing and shipping the game.
“I’m not hiding anything, so here’s a line item list of everything that goes into this game and what it costs,” said Pabich about the reason for the list. “All of a sudden it goes from ‘Gee, I’m getting wealthy selling 1,000 cartridges,’ to ‘Oh, you’re getting $15,000 over and above the literal, absolute cost of the cartridge and that doesn’t include advertising, the website, coming out to (Classic Gaming Expo) to promote it and on and on.’ Frankly, if you get really literal about all of this, when I sell 1,000 cartridges, I’m not going to make any money.”
Pabich isn’t the only one who’s come under fire. Popular video game personalities James Rolfe and Pat Contri were featured in the Cheetahmen II launch video. Their fans, believing that both were supporting an immoral cause, bombarded their websites and YouTube channels expressing their discontent. It went so far as to cause Mike Matei, who works with Rolfe on producing videos, to respond.
“I personally had nothing to do with this video other than uploading it,” Matei wrote. “James was asked to appear in it because he did the video about it. Neither of us gave it much thought. Now, looking at your comments, I’ve realized it was a mistake. I personally do not believe in this project. I don’t understand why anyone would need $65,000 to make a hack game. Besides that, there’s already a fixed version of the game floating around.”
“It was a little miscommunication, maybe a little inexperience in the crisis,” he said. “Everybody isn’t as good and everybody doesn’t have the same experience, so I think there was a little panic. I think the regret is the panic. I think they’ve gone back and tried to address it.”
In fact, Contri posted an update on his site where he attempted to clear up what he called “garbage and misinformation.”
“The hatred that has been associated with the backlash has almost entirely been filled with ignorance and/or hollow self-righteousness, especially from the people that already hated James to begin with and just used this as ammo to go after him,” he wrote. “Could the Kickstarter video have been clearer concerning production costs to alleviate concerns? Yes, and that is why I personally recommended that Greg shoot a follow-up video explaining such. I’m hoping that anyone who had true concerns will see the video and be put more at ease.
“Greg is a business man at the end of the day, but he’s also a good guy,” he continued. “If you don’t agree with the Kickstarter project for a crappy Cheetahmen game, that is fine, but to label it a “scam” is false and wrong.”
Being the businessman that he is, Pabich freely admits he’d very much like to make a profit on his investment, but he also has other reasons for doing the project.
“I’m trying to keep the brand alive and continue to make it to the next generation. I can’t tell you the number of 13-, and 14- and 15-year olds that I’ve told the story to, and I can’t tell you the number that have pledged to this thing because they’re learning about 8-bit Nintendo,” he explained. “I want to see that, not only get passed on, I want to see it continue and keep going, and we’re not going to do that if no one gets out there and talks about or produces an 8-bit Nintendo and makes people get excited and talk about retro gaming. We’re not going to have retro gaming; it’s all going to be new.”
Pabich and the game’s developer Mario Gonzalez have big things planned for the Cheetahmen franchise beyond Cheetahman II: The Lost Levels. He said they’re actively developing a sequel for the iPhone and OUYA.
“We are going to have two new Cheetahmen games eventually. That’s what I’m working with Mario on right now,” he said. “We’re working on a brand new … iPhone game. As I was doing this Kickstarter, I got intrigued with OUYA … so I backed and pledged that at the developer level so we can get involved in making a from scratch, brand-new Cheetahmen game that can play on the OUYA platform when it becomes available.
“We’re theoretically supposed to be in that first launch of games (on the OUYA),” he continued. “That’s our next goal, and we’d like to have the iPhone game done sometime next year. It may be that they’re very similar. OUYA is so new that we haven’t got the developer package yet, and it’s hard to coordinate to see if it’d be a crossover on the platforms, and I haven’t even made the decision mentally if they’re going to be two different games or just two of the same games on different platforms.”
Despite all the backlash, it looks like the Cheetahmen Kickstarter will get funded, having raised nearly $41,000 of the $65,000 goal.
“It has been very successful,” he said. “Based on the trends, it does certainly look like we will fund based on where we are at this point. We still have three weeks left, and it’s only going to happen if people step up to the plate and buy a game.”