There’s always an odd feeling on the floor in the hours running up to the launch of SDCC; expectation mixed with seeing people you haven’t seen for months mixed with a smidge of existential dread. Plus, if you’re lucky, you can get some questions answered.
Questions such as, What’s Up With The Penny Arcade Kickstarter, which was the major topic of a generous talk I had with Robert Khoo. The brief answer is, it’s an experiment, which will determine not so much what Penny Arcade does over the next year as how they do it. There’s been a lot of opinions floating around in the 36 hours or so since launch, reactions and counter-reactions as opinion yo-yos in the nerdosphere. Talking with Robert, the key to it is opportunity cost.
It’s a matter of how to get the money necessary to run Penny Arcade, and advertising (which is a great deal more than just accepting an ad and cashing the check) pays for a significant amount of PA’s operational costs — rent, health insurance, things that have a lot of zeros associated with them. As Khoo puts it, Mike and Jerry could do a lot of things for the audience, but right now they’re working for the advertisers. If this drive succeeds, they can work instead for the readers. The guys I have working selling the ads, they have other things that they can produce.
It’s not a whim, it’s not a campaign that’s going to get shut down for ToS violations (anybody that’s ever met Khoo knows he does his due diligence; you can bet that Kickstarter were extensively consulted in advance), it’s a discrete event that, in either the event of success or the event of failure, is going to provide data to PA and inform how they conduct their business.
And in the event of success, there’s going to be a lot of media companies (from webcomics up to larger enterprises) that will (or at the very least, should) be paying very close attention and determining what they can learn and implement themselves. Khoo’s goal has never been to run a webcomics company; it’s been to find new ways to provide creative media as pervasively and ubiquitously as possible. And, given the sort of businessman Khoo is, this is not an isolated event; I’m expecting two or three more shoes to drop in the near future (which ones likely depending on what happens over the next 34 days of crowdfunding).
The other question that got answered today: was the purported Rob Liefeld/Owly drawing that made its way across Twitter in the past week legitimate? Andy Runton looked a little sheepish as he confirmed the story behind its creation — that some fans had gotten the pencil sketch from Rob Liefeld and enticed Runton to “enhance” it. The best part of the conversation was explaining to Runton’s mom (who was working up custom Owly shoulder bags) exactly who Rob Liefeld is. This is such a beautiful idea that I don’t think you need to consider anything else today. Just revel in that.