Reading Mike Krahulik’s Twitter account over the past few hours, it would seem that their Kickstarter pitch is getting more people confused than excited. The artist half of the Penny Arcade duo (you may have seen them on the televisions) was sincerely apologetic as he clarified what their comic syndicate was trying to accomplish: returning to the site’s desperate good ol’ days when they relied on tips and donations to stay alive and went ad-free. Now a (relatively) big company with a dozen employees, a Kickstarter to keep the page ad-free seems a bit peculiar. Let me explain to you, as best I can, what the duo are trying to do.
Back in the early years of Penny Arcade, Krahulik and writer Jerry Holkins quit their jobs to work on comics full-time. They had no regular income, so they relied on donations to keep afloat and offered extra bonuses to those who pitched in a certain amount, a program called Club PA. When business manager Robert Khoo was brought on in 2003, they ditched this in favor of a merchandise/advertising model that’s kept them afloat and growing ever since. But secretly, as revealed through their Kickstarter pitch video, Holkins and Krahulik pine for those halcyon days when the site was ad free and the relationship more personal. As such, they’ve asked the internet, through this new Kickstarter campaign, to eliminate the need for ads on their page and ad-sponsored projects. They want to dedicated Penny Arcade to its audience. So what does this mean?
Penny Arcade are trying to shift their workload, not add or remove it. Krahulik states that they’re trying to remove their client-based sponsorships. While the company makes money being Penny Arcade, they dedicate a lot of time to ad spots and other campaigns, such as the ESRB’s educational campaign a few years back or the Splinter Cell comics from years back. With this new subsidized time from the Kickstarter crowd, the duo can work on, well, Penny Arcade projects. I’ve always said the company needed to branch out from their three-JPEG-a-week habit and this looks like one of the better ways to do it.
This is not funding Penny Arcade as a company per se, but their new projects. Per Kickstarter rules, funds can only be used toward specific projects, they can’t be used to fund startups, pay for salaries, etc. These administrative costs were mentioned in the Kickstarter debut, which had confused many who were convinced that they were bending or breaking Kickstarter rules. These funds, Penny Arcade pledges, are merely to cover lost advertising revenue, which they calculate at a million dollars to remove in their entirety. Anything beyond this total will be used to unlock other projects or perhaps make them better productions.
Hopefully this clarifies what they’re trying to accomplish. It’s a peculiar idea, but one I hope pans out. I’ve reached out to Penny Arcade for comment, but have not received word back.