American McGee’s Akaneiro Is “In The Hole” For $1.7m

American McGee’s Spicy Horse studio has spent a touch more on Akaneiro: Demon Hunter than it raised on Kickstarter. Gathering $204,000 back in February last year, it seems they’ve spent $2 million on the game. I’m not an accountant, but I’m pretty sure that £2m is more than $205,000. McGee has posted on the game’s Kickstarter page that it means they’ll have to “radically alter” the future of the game.

The total they’ve made on the game comes to about $300k. That’s the Kickstarter, in-game purchases for the free-to-play game, and the peculiarity of the charged version available via Steam. As McGee puts it, “In simple math: We’ve spent $2 million, we’ve made $300k, we’re “in the hole” $1.7 million.”

Akaneiro is a F2P approach to a classic ARPG. And when I played the early release in June last year it was abysmal. Loading it up again tonight, I’m surprised to see that in the last seven months they’ve still not seen fit to add an option to change resolutions, the game still forced into a 1280×720 window, and remaining an ugly mess of jaggedy edges and clumsy menus. And it’s still forcing you to play its bland levels on Easy the first time through, which is just bewildering. It’s not a game that, in this state, was ever going to catch on fire. Most odd of all is that it still doesn’t have multiplayer, and this seems to have caused consternation with backers. However, I should stress that I’ve only had a quick glance, and while I can see improvements to the inventory, I’ve not given it a proper look to see what has improved over the year.

McGee says that they’ve had a team of 15 on the game since launch, but now this is going to have to be reduced to just two people at any time. “They will continue to address bugs and make improvements while working towards goals like multi-player and tablet support,” explains the lead, finishing, “but progress will be slower.”

In fact, everything sounds like it’s rather glum. Their Shanghai-based studio has been downsized, and OZombie, their attempt to do for Oz what McGee once did for Alice, was cancelled last July after a Kickstarter flop. They’re now entirely focused on one game, a CCG-based project called The Gate. It seems that all their eggs are now in this basket.

“Depending on the success of our other remaining title, The Gate, we may one day find ourselves in a position to throw greater resources at Akaneiro. We certainly hope that will be the case… Our Shanghai-based development team recently underwent downsizing so that all resources can be directed towards the one game that offers the greatest chance of bringing much-needed stability to our studio. If we can achieve our goals with The Gate, then we can bring greater attention to Akaneiro.”

It’s obviously been a prolonged tough time for Spicy Horse and McGee, with the cancellation of projects, and Akaneiro’s failure to take off. Let’s hope The Gate can prove the winner they’ve been searching for.


  1. golem09 says:

    If making the most boring ARPG combat ever was on purpose, it can’t have been cheap, because then it’s a masterpiece.

  2. Shadowcat says:

    I liked Alice. I remember it had some fantastic level design and trickery, which made the game really memorable.

    I would have been interested in the sequel, but I passed due to the DRM.

    I don’t think anything else with his name attached has ever grabbed my attention, though.

    • Stardreamer says:

      I liked Alice. I loved Scrapland as well. To this day there’s not been a better flying-around-a-future-cityscape, GTA-lite style of game. I also liked the concept of Ozombie.

      This one seems to have been plagued with problems, though, which is a shame. American McGee games may never have achieved Classic status but I’ve found they were always worth at least at look. I even managed to finish Alice, which I really enjoyed.

    • GameCat says:

      McGee and Spicy Horse are rather one trick pony.
      The two Alice games varies from good to awesome, the rest is medicore at best. Didn’t played Scrapland though.

      • qrter says:

        Let’s not forget Bad Day L.A.

        Good lord, that game was absolutely terrible.

        • JoeX111 says:

          Then there’s Grimm, which wasn’t much better.

          As far as Scrapland is concerned, I don’t believe McGee did much work on it. It was my understanding that he just lent his name to the project for marketing purposes. It was mostly done when he got onboard. This was back before his name was synonymous with “dark fairytale emo goth thing.”

          • Wedge says:

            Yeah I believe it was Mercurysteam’s first game, the guys who are handling the 3D Castlevania’s now.

  3. Maxheadroom says:

    Didn’t back this, but did back an awful lot last year and now sat here in January looking ahead at all those release dates it feels like running a gauntlet of potential flops.

    I’m more confident for some than others

    I’m looking at you, Shroud of the Avatar

  4. trjp says:

    I tried this some way back – it was a pretty rudimentary ARPG with the beginings of all the F2P trappings which were going to

    a – perhaps make some money for it
    b – deter most people from bothering to play it

    There was really no ‘game’ in it as such – it was a classic ‘mash buttons until you clear level – get gear to enable you to repeat’ thing.

    $2m is a stupid amount of money to have spent making something like that IMO – there are games on the AppStore which do this (to considerable success in income terms) which are clearly down to 2 guys in a shed…

  5. Philomelle says:

    Saying this as a backer, the game has been a mess for a while. They went against at least one promise (adding premium in-game currency that can only be obtained via real cash when the promise was to have only one currency, ever, that could be obtained either via gameplay or money), didn’t handle digital backer rewards very well (redeeming a promo item outside of Steam screwed you out of using it in the Steam version of the game) and provided less than zero marketing (the game hasn’t been on a single Steam sale for over six months).

    Ozombie was also launched suspiciously quickly after Akaneiro, alongside The Gate and whatever their fairy MOBA game is called. That’s way too many projects for a tiny Shanghai studio and it makes you wonder whether they actually gave a damn about any of them. Doesn’t help that Ozombie was all plot ideas and none of the gameplay concept, with McGee himself constantly waffling and acting confused about how the game will actually play during updates.

    I am very, perhaps unreasonably, fond of the Alice series. But everything about Spicy Horse these days screams “lack of focus” and “gross resource mismanagement”.

    • qrter says:

      Regarding marketing – this article is the very first time I have ever heard of this game. And I would consider myself as not entirely clueless, when it comes to game news.

      • Philomelle says:

        That’s because they didn’t bother marketing it since the Kickstarter. It looks like Kickstarter campaign was their marketing, which is sad because a lot of people who pledged for it, didn’t give a flying trace of a fuck about the game. I did like what was on offer, but I mostly went into it for the Alice swag.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah, can’t help but read that and think they have things wrong.
      Tablet support??? How about they fix the fucking game first rather than pissing about with gimmicky tablet support.
      None of it sounds good anyway, they are putting their hopes on a little known CCG (someone tap them on the shoulder and tell them Hearthstone went into open beta). This game is certainly not going to go anywhere fast with 2 people working on it at a time. Will be surprised to see this reach full release tbh.

    • Baines says:

      Never mind a Steam sale… It is a free-to-play game that sells its only Steam access for $10 because they’ve been abusing “Early Access” status. It somehow manages to keep “Early Access” with the argument that even though the game has launched, they continue to add features. An argument that would class pretty much every Steam online f2p (as well as many non-Steam, and some non-f2p) game as “Early Access”.

      (Why does that matter? First, it lets them be categorized as a f2p on Steam even though the Steam version isn’t really f2p. Second, it probably gives them extra weight against complaints. Third, it isn’t like Early Access needs developers going out of their way to create issues with the status.)

  6. Crimsoneer says:

    Lewie P posted this yesterday… link to
    Not classy. If I understand correctly, that was pretty much a blatant lie, right?

    • Philomelle says:

      It’s funny how McGee is talking about marketing campaigns that duped people into buying something they had no interest to begin with. Last I checked, the sole reason why most people pledged to the Akaneiro Kickstarter was to get the exclusive Alice swag that wasn’t available anywhere else.

      Also, here is the Akaneiro development roadmap as posted by McGee in an open post on Kickstarter. As you can see, certain features are over 6 months late.

  7. TwwIX says:

    American McGee needs to stay away from game design. He got lucky with Alice. That’s all it was. Pure fucking luck. He’s been churning out nothing but self indulgent crap ever since then.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yep I tend to agree, the fact he feels the need to plaster his name in front of all of his games gives me the impression he is more bothered about his image and self promotion than he is about making games. Also that he has a vastly overinflated ego if he wants to see his name all over the place like this.

  8. Shooop says:

    McGee’s an artist not a game developer. He’s been completely delusional about that ever since Alice took off.

    Sacking the people who made his game and turning to cheap Chinese labor is finally giving him the outcome he deserved.

  9. Foosnark says:

    It’s kind of interesting how much Kickstarter has exposed the financial craptitude of the game development biz.

    This sort of “oops, we kind of went way over budget and our game is still not showable” thing happens all the time I’m sure, it’s just when there is crowdfunded money behind it we hear a lot more. People are kind of… invested in it, so to speak.

    • Shuck says:

      I’m completely baffled as to what’s going on here, as there’s absolutely no way that they expected the game to only cost $200K, even with Shanghai salaries. The thing about Kickstarter is that because it’s impossible to get a full game development budget off of it, developers are raising fractions of what they need and then pretending it’s enough, either getting (or hoping to get) the rest of their money elsewhere or making partial games.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Yeah, I wonder how something like this can even happen. Delusionally inflated sales expectations? Optimistic hopes of getting more investors? I mean, you don’t just go out and hire 15 full-time employees without doing some minimal budgetting for it first… right?

      • AlienMind says:

        Yeah, that McGee figure did that with the Oz Kickstarter too, because he in no word mentioned the goal will not be enough on the Project page, but blathering about it on some other interview I thankfully found. Pointing that out in the comments, he had the nerve to call me a “slimy troll”.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Kickstarter has pretty much become a sales pitch for a lot of games. Its proof to investors that there is interest in the game, they use the kickstarter money to make an alpha build they can demonstrate. Then they have an in development product and proof of other investment and interest from multiple sources. It makes a much better investment pitch than a concept and some storyboards.
      However when those other investments don’t come they are left with all the kickstarter money gone (and in this case a lot more), a severely unfinished game and no money left to finish development.

  10. ffordesoon says:

    The only thing surprising about this is that American McGee is surprised. Over and over, he’s made games which feel as if the design work stopped at the premise/art style (the Alice games being the obvious exception). Any success they’ve had has always been contingent on the relative lack of similar games in one respect or another. Scrapland, for example, was GTA In The Future Plus Wacky Schaferesque Tone (yes, that counts as an innovative concept in this industry), and despite doing a piss-poor job of both, the concept was still strong enough to win it a few fans.

    (It probably doesn’t hurt that he can talk a great game, of course.)

    Taking that same approach to an oversaturated genre in which a cool premise and art style are utterly meaningless without core mechanics as solid and polished as pebbles near a stream was never going to work out. The exploitive pseudo-fee-to-pay model certainly didn’t help, but let’s face it: had the game felt wonderful to play, it wouldn’t have mattered to most folks.

  11. Don Reba says:

    Ah, pity. That’s $300K that could have been spent on Kickstarter projects with realistic goals.

  12. tomimt says:

    I tried the demo version way back when the game was on Kickstarter and it was very underwhelming experience. Nothing about it stood out besided the art, but pretty art helps only so far, when the game itself wasn’t that good. It sounds like they didn’t manage to get much further than that.

    Isn’t this a bit same what has happened to Godus as well? I’m not a backer on that either, but I’ve understood that the updates on that have been pretty much halted, despite they’ve tried to sell it in Steam sales and what not.

    • AlienMind says:

      A game by Molyneux and a Team called “22 Cans” and you expect something coming out from this? Haha! The first video scene I saw was some guy flipping around a tablet on the edges holding it with both palms. I thought: What a showoff.

  13. Jupiah says:

    I played the beta for a bit. It was an absolutely beautiful game, with stunning music. It was also boring as heck to play and the UI was atrocious.

    American McGee is charismatic and a fantastic artist, but he’s also an egomaniac and a shit game developer.