Planetary Annihilation was once the greatest financial success story in the computer games category on Kickstarter. When the campaign was launched back in August 2012, creator Uber Entertainment had nothing except for a concept video and a need for $900,000. It was a long shot, but with promises of Total Annihilation-inspired gameplay on a planetary scale, and planets with rocket thrusters, the PA campaign quickly gained massive traction. After 30 days, Uber Entertainment had raked in an impressive $2,229,344.
I was one of the 44,162 backers who got caught in the headlights of the shiny Planetary Annihilation campaign. Not only did I pledge enough to get the game as a digital download when it was released, I also got access to the alpha and beta versions, the opportunity to name a planet in the game (I named it “vegard”, of course) and a physical collector’s edition game box. All in all, I threw $175 at the campaign, more than ten times what I’d usually spend on a game.
Then the waiting game started. Two years later, in early September 2014, after over a year on Steam Early Access and numerous delays, Planetary Annihilation was officially launched. But the reception was mixed. While the game had some original ideas, it turned out that it was quite hard to implement them. Planetary warfare, for instance, sounds great, but it’s very hard for the player to handle such a vast battlefield. Also, the game lacked a proper tutorial, and for a complex game like Planetary Annihilation, a good tutorial is essential to give new players – at least those of us who prefer single player – a little help to get off the ground.
The Kickstarter backers didn’t responds too well to what Planetary Annihilation turned out to be. In fact, when Uber Entertainment, just one month after the Planetary Annihilation launch, created a new Kickstarter campaign, Human Resources, it quickly became apparent that the campaign would bomb. The timing was terrible – players were using most of their time complaining about Planetary Annihilation – and the Human Resources campaign was pretty much created using the same mold as the campaign for Planetary Annihilation: No actual gameplay, just a lavish concept video and stellar promises of “insanely huge battles”.
But gamers tend not to allow themselves to be fooled twice, and just shy of three weeks in to the campaign, Uber Entertainment admitted defeat and cancelled Human Resources.
It’s safe to say that Planetary Annihilation did not live up to the high expectations set by Uber Entertainment themselves both during the Kickstarter campaign and later during the development process. Now that the company has finally managed to provide their higher tier backers with physical rewards, can the arrival of the Planetary Annihilation Collector’s Edition make up for the disappointment?