Penny Arcade sells out… on Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been used to fund everything from DIY 3D printers to a new Carmageddon game. Now, the guys at webcomic Penny Arcade are selling out; they’re looking at crowd-sourcing as a way to remove advertising from their website. Penny Arcade used to run on donations alone, and with enough contributions, the site could once again be ad-free. Founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins explain in the following pitch video.

Warning: there’s some adult language, so maybe turn down your speakers if you’re at work.

The official Kickstarter project has a stated goal of $250,000, which would remove the main "leaderboard" ad from the front page of Penny Arcade. $525,000 gets all the ads removed from the front page, and a cool million bucks purges the site completely.

Penny Arcade employs 14 people, so the stated goals would only fund the site for one year. If the project is successful, there will be another funding drive for the following year, and so on. There are rewards for those who contribute, of course, including t-shirts, PAX passes, custom paintings, and digital versions of Penny Arcade’s comic books. Pay enough, and the guys will even be your friend—on Twitter, anyway.

In just a few hours, the project has amassed over $25,000 from 229 backers. Given PA’s popularity, I suspect the site won’t have any problems reaching its baseline goal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ticker rise well above $1 million, and I hope it does. Penny Arcade may cheekily call this venture selling out, but it seems like the exact opposite.

Comments closed
    • sonofsanta
    • 7 years ago

    Much as I enjoy PA and have for a number of years, I still think this may be a misstep. PA is one of the only sites I disable my ad-blocker on (along with RPS) because they don’t annoy me and I want to support them; they’ve frequently talked in the past about how they approve all the ads being shown to make sure it’s a project they’re happy to support, and clearly with 14 employees it works well for them and they make enough out of it.

    A million bucks, though? That could fund a lot of cool games on Kickstarter, and there have been a few failing to hit their targets recently. It would do more good for the industry – an industry they seem so proud of and keen to support – for that million to be going into diverse, exciting products from small, innovative teams.

    People are free to spend as they wish, and I’ll concede that it’s an interesting experiment – more like crowdpatronage than crowdfunding or venture capital – but it doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

    • Johnny5
    • 7 years ago

    $25 000 from 229 backers? Is that right, they really have an average contribution of over $100? That’s insanity.

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      No, that’s enthusiasm. With new games retailing in the $80 range (most of which is spent on marketing, not development), why is it so hard to believe?

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      Looking now and they’re at $165k with 2342 backers…brings it down to $70 average, but still pretty high.

      That said, however, there are several contributors to the high dollar amounts…like above 16 people pledging $2,000 or more. No clue on who those people might be, but that’s part of the reason that the average is high.

    • tanker27
    • 7 years ago

    I still don’t get kickstarter. Has the concept even produced a final purchasable project ever? And what happens to the monies if a goal isn’t reached?

    I dont mind the adds on PA because just like TR they are unobtrusive. /Shrug

      • Nutmeg
      • 7 years ago

      If the funding goal isn’t reached then no money is taken from pledger’s accounts.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kickstarter#Notable_projects_and_creators[/url<]

        • tanker27
        • 7 years ago

        Besides flims there still isn’t anything to buy. Nothing tangible. I clicked on all of the top funded projects and not a single one is available. :/

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 7 years ago

          So other than the things it’s made, it hasn’t made anything?

          I’ve seen musicians get albums funded and made with kickstarter as well. I couldn’t name any because I didn’t care about them, but I saw at least one where a woman was doing a another kickstarter for her 2nd album.

          • Washer
          • 7 years ago

          You realize 8 out of that 10 are less than 5 months old, right?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      If the goal isn’t reached, the project isn’t funded. Seriously, you could Google this shit for yourself. It’s not difficult. I have contributed to 3 projects, all of which were successfully funded. 2 of them turned into completed projects and I have the bands’ CDs to prove it. The third is Wasteland 2.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 7 years ago

    Why? Penny Arcade is barely funny anymore, aside from the random hit here and there, which I usually end up seeing linked. I’d say their other projects are a bigger success than the comic now, and I don’t follow any of it regularly. I’m perfectly content with them being ad based, since that’s never been something that detracted from the site, and I don’t pay attention to ads anyway. Unless it’s strobe flashing bright colors or opening a million popups, I don’t notice em.

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve never chuckled from a single comic of PA. I don’t understand the popularity much, other than its video game humor? To me it seems like humor is unnatural or forced in each frame.

      [url=http://pbfcomics.com/<]Perry Bible Fellowship[/url<] is much more my style, but he stopped and I haven't found the equivalent since. But good on PA trying something new. I do enjoy new business models.

        • superjawes
        • 7 years ago

        I’ve never followed or read a string of PA comics, but I visit the site once a week now to watch Extra Credits (which you should, too, if you care about games).

    • dpaus
    • 7 years ago

    One can only sell out when someone else is prepared to buy in. I wish them success.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    Here’s hoping EVERYONE ELSE spends the money so I can’t be bothered. lol

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 7 years ago

    1 million divided 14 ways is 71k. The webcomic business must be better than I thought.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Not to mention hosting costs, office space (they don’t work out of their homes), and so on. There are other parts to running a business.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        Good point, still it seems like a good chunk of change.

          • kcarlile
          • 7 years ago

          Small businesses are pretty expensive. Besides, these guys have families. Would you begrudge them a 71K salary?

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Let me rephrase, I’m surprised than an webcomic is a million dollar a year business.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            We’re not just talking about any webcomic, though. We’re talking about the biggest of the big. More than likely there’s exactly one webcomic that’s a $1M/yr business.

        • ludi
        • 7 years ago

        I was going to say…if we assume that travel and promotional expenses are roughly balanced by revenue from non-book merchandise, then probably half of that million per year is commercial rent, taxes, IT costs, web hosting, and other business expenses, while the other half is actual wages and benefits. If we assume they manage to get in on some basic small-group healthplan and maybe a small-business 401(k) fund manager, probably $9k/person/year is being renumerated as benefits and the employer-funded portion of FICA, and the average staff member is likely taking home $27k/year in actual pre-tax wages.

        Making a living wage from your hobby is great work if you can get it, but this is not obviously a path to riches.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 7 years ago

          It is worth noting that they have other income besides ads, though. No idea how much merch they sell, but the fact that they continue to do so means that it more than pays for itself.

            • ludi
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, I was making the assumption that non-book merchandise probably balances against their travel and promotional expenses (conventions etc.), and that the founders probably take a disproportionate share of the book revenues as personal income since it’s their creation and copyright.

      • UberGerbil
      • 7 years ago

      That’s the math of someone who has never owned a business. Employees cost a lot more than just their salaries (social security contributions, any insurance payments, unemployment, anything state and local govts require to you pay, etc) — a rule of thumb is often about twice their salaries. Then you have fixed costs like rents, power, capital expenses like computers, etc. And then there’s local B&O taxes, tax on revenue, and so on.

      Employees do the math of gross revenue / employees and wonder why they’re not getting more; employers subtract all their expenses from revenue and wonder if there will be anything left.

    • drfish
    • 7 years ago

    I love PA but I can’t help but think, “they have ads?” – I can’t say I even notice them anymore – and I don’t block anything on any site. I just don’t care either way unless they are completely awful – and then I don’t visit your site at all.

    They are free to do what they want and there may be other benefits to this drive (like what the supporters get from it) but I say keep the ads (and the income that comes from them) and put the effort into raising even more money for their most awesome Child’s Play charity. Best wishes to them regardless.

    [i<]Edit: Read all the details and they have obviously put some thought into the freedom this move would afford them. Cool stuff but I still think I would rather ignore ads than spend money.[/i<] [i<]Edit 2: Read all the rewards and they have obviously put a lot of thought into them too, especially once you hit $300+. Nice work.[/i<]

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    Kickstarter is the new venture capital system, except the recipient doesn’t have to give up anything. There’s both something cool about it, and also something a little bit worrisome…it seems pretty open to abuse.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      I would assume that if the recipient simply doesn’t even try to complete their project they could get sued for fraud.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Kickstarter picks and chooses what they fund. There are other, smaller ones that are less thorough.

    • Washer
    • 7 years ago

    Now this is an awesome idea! $25 well spent.

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