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On the brink: What's next if Project Awakened can't save the world


Phosphor Games has less than 48 hours to raise more than $200,000 for Project Awakened on Kickstarter. If Phosphor doesn't hit that goal, the $270,000 people have already pledged will vanish, and Awakened's current development timeline will be stretched indefinitely.

Still, Phosphor Director Chip Sineni is optimistic about Awakened's success.

"We are feeling stressed, but we still feel there is time for the community to help us make this happen," Sineni tells Joystiq. "We got the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo out, we announced Austin Wintory joining as the composer and a lot of Kickstarters have last-minute surges."

A lot of Kickstarters fall short, too: Last year, 2,796 video game projects asked for funding, and 1,885 failed. Of course this means 911 gaming projects succeeded, and those projects earned $83 million overall. Sineni wants to see Awakened in that second group, but the entire process has been a fast-paced learning experience on the whims of crowd-sourced funding. Only (a short amount of) time will tell if Phosphor absorbed its lessons too late.

Phosphor's Awakened has been in the public eye since January 2011, when a rough pitch video found its way to YouTube. Project Awakened resurfaced in February of this year as a PC-focused, Unreal Engine 4 game about crafting and using super-human powers, with gameplay heavy on customization and creative action. Project Awakened allows players to embody modern-day super heroes, with powers including fire, electricity, teleporting, telekinesis, pushing, tornadoes, nova beams, gravity vortexes and invisibility, Sineni told us when the Kickstarter kicked off last month.

Now that the funding campaign is almost over – in more than one way – Sineni is looking at the practical side of continuing Awakened's development, with or without the $500,000 from Kickstarter.

"We knew that Project Awakened is such an innovative, outside-of-the-box, kind of idea, that this would be a challenging funding route to take," Sineni says. "If we don't make the $500K we have to keep making the game very slowly in our spare time, if nothing else comes up for funding elsewhere – we will keep looking. We would not be able to promise a 2014 beta, and it would likely take a long time to complete."

On the brink What's next if Project Awakened can't save the world
Phosphor has pitched Awakened to every major publisher, and while they all seem intrigued, an original, genre-straddling, untested IP is a tough sell, Sineni says. If the Kickstarter fails, Phosphor will continue pushing it on publishers, hoping one of them will break.

"Maybe seeing how excited and dedicated the fanbase is will change some minds. Only time will tell." Chip Sineni, Phosphor Games

"We will keep talking about it with everyone, but we have been doing that for years, and it has always been a scary prospect for publishers," he says. "Maybe seeing how excited and dedicated the fanbase is will change some minds. Only time will tell."

Kickstarter has been a great service for garnering attention, though it has a steep learning curve, according to Sineni. Could Phosphor have done anything differently, it would've drummed up publicity for Awakened before the project launched, since its "cold start" presented a major hurdle. Kickstarter comes with an inherent Catch-22, as well: It would be nice to have quality art, video and stories to show potential backers, but those things take time and money, which is exactly what the Kickstarter itself is established to generate.

A PayPal option on Kickstarter would be nice, too, Sineni says.

"We got a surprisingly large percentage of people that were excited about the game say they can't pledge unless it's Paypal, and that is tough to see, knowing you are still a ways from funding," he says.

On the brink What's next if Project Awakened can't save the world
For now, with just over one day and hundreds of thousands of dollars to go, Sineni and Phosphor have their fingers crossed.

"There is always a loud call for fresh IP, new ideas and innovation in our industry," Sineni says. "We have taken those calls to heart, be it foolish or not, and have spent years developing an experience to answer them. We have a ways to go to meet our goal, in a short time, but it has been done in Kickstarters in the past, and if people truly want that something innovate and groundbreaking they should come join us. We will make something amazing together."

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