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Richard Garriott along with his team, Portalarium, have turned to SeedInvest, an equity crowdfunding platform, seeking additional funds for Shroud of the Avatar. They're asking for $2,000,000, while being prepared to settle for as low as $500,000.
This move is quite surprising, considering the project's previous successful Kickstarter campaign, Early Access sales, and multiple 'telethon' pledge drives since then. After some backers got confused by this move, Garriott spoke to Kotaku, clarifying it. To be quite honest, his clarification wasn't overly encouraging, but I'll let you decide for yourself:
Garriott, speaking with Kotaku over the phone today, said that those numbers don’t tell the full story.While the project hit the ground running with nearly $2 million, Portalarium has generally had around the same amount it has in the bank right now at any given moment, he said.
“We earn about the same amount as we spend every month,” Garriott said, “and that has been true for the majority of the existence of this company.”
“Our company has about 30 people in it, some full-time, some contractors,” he said. “We size our company based on the trend lines we see in our revenue growth. We have a great deal of comfort in saying we could continue to develop the game as a small company with a relatively small player base.”
Garriott says the point of this round of funding is not an attempt to save the company from going broke, but to scale Portalarium up to allow it to do marketing and perform the other functions of a publisher—first for the PC version of Shroud of the Avatar, and then perhaps someday, for versions of the game on other platforms.
Beyond that, Garriott told me he’d even like to publish other games, though he has no concrete plans along those lines at the moment.
Fans were also surprised to see the SeedInvest site state that the full game, currently in early access, would launch in July. This, Garriott says, was a mistake that has since been corrected: although the game’s main story mode will launch in July, the full game will launch later in the year.
Fans also raised issue with some of the features described on the new funding page. “What choices? What changes? What game are they describing?” wrote a poster on the game’s forums. “Establish trade routes? Conquer a town? In what game?”
Garriott said that most of those things are indeed in the game in some form, and Portalarium regularly keeps backers abreast of which features are incoming and how and why they’re being implemented. “There was never a plan to ‘conquer a town,’” he says. But he went on to explain that the game’s villain faction, the Obsidian Cabalists, can lay siege to towns, and players can lift those sieges by defeating them.
“The other thing [‘conquer a town’] could be construed with,” he said, “is ownership of a control point. To pass through them, you’ve gotta fight your way through. They can also be cleared.”
For his part, Lord British says there’s no cause for alarm.“We keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “That’s how we’ve been operating for four years. We’ve been continuing to sell stuff online, periodically running telethons, and adjusting the size of our company to match the revenue from contributions. So that’s how we’ll continue.”