The webcomics blog about webcomics

That Was Unexpected

I knew that the North/Hastings/Clark Galaga strip was due to run 100 installments, and that it was about to wrap up, since we saw strip #99 last week. I also knew that the North/Hastings/Clark [disturbing, existential horror-filed] Dig Dug strip was only due to run less than two dozen strips, and that we were well past the halfway point. Jim Zub, Erik Ko & Omar Dogan’s Wonder Momo seemed to have finished one story arc and just started a second season of sorts; Shannon Campbell & Sam Logan’s Tower of Babel had just gotten started, and I didn’t have any idea how long it would run.

So while the wrap-up of Galaga today (with a long-game joke from North) and the imminent wrap-up of Dig Dug are no surprise, it appears very soon all those links will be dead, as ShiftyLook itself is wrapping up entirely in the immediate future:

Wonder Momo, Bravoman, and some other very cool characters, [are] now beloved not just in gamer circles, but at conventions, art groups, and many, many places we’d never expect. That said, now that we have successfully revived so many franchises, the heavy lifting is completed –- and so is our work. We battled the video games abyss and won, which means it’s time for us to move on and let the hit-makers play with some new toys.
For some housekeeping, here is what is happening to what at ShiftyLook (all dates JST):

BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash! on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore: In-app purchases available until March 16, 2014; download available through March 30, 2014

Namco High on Purchase available via Crunchyroll through March 28, 2014; servers shut down (no longer able to play) on June 30, 2014

ShiftyLook comics: Bravoman ends at #300; Wonder Momo ends at #200; Katamari ends at #150; Galaga ends at #100; Valkyrie ends at #100; Klonoa ends at #65; Tower of Babel ends at #26; Dig Dug Vol. 2 ends at #18

ShiftyLook website: No more updates after March 20, 2014; servers shut down on September 30, 2014; forums close on March 20, 2014 [boldface added]

To my eye, the Namco High announcement is the most important; the game was maybe the highest-profile project of ShiftyLook, involving a lengthy roster of web- and indy-comics creators, and which has been live only since the middle of December, if my memory serves. A server-based game that’s only live for a bit more than six months isn’t a really long lifespan, not that a minimum acceptable lifespan for such purchases¹ has ever really been established.

The creator most associated with ShiftyLook, the aforementioned Mr Zub, had some thoughts on the situation:

The original purpose of ShiftyLook, a streamlined way to reintroduce older Bandai-Namco’s IPs and put them in front of as big an audience as possible for a fraction of the cost of developing a new video game or anime, was forward thinking and had a lot of potential. If it stayed focused on that and built organically from there I think it could have fully carried through on that mandate. Once it became a corporate hot potato with bigger budgets and unrealistic expectations, it couldn’t sustain itself on a free-to-read webcomic model.

Which, to be honest, answers some of the lingering questions that I never quite managed to form into a tangible query. Chris Hastings observed back in October:

I’m also working on Galaga with Ryan … it’s a very corporate webcomic. They don’t make ANY money on it, they don’t even TRY. They just pay us.

It turns out that they thought they were going to make money, and didn’t really have a plan to make that work; when a corporation expects to make money and doesn’t, they get rid of the thing that doesn’t make money.

I’m sorry that the servers will be shutting down in some six months time; perhaps some enterprising soul will archive the entire thing so that the work done will not be lost forever. But I’m not sorry that the experiment happened, particularly since it meant work for so many of my favorite creators. According to Zub², ShiftyLook gave their creators a lot of latitude, treated them well, and had fair pay rates. If you do work for hire, that’s probably about the ideal circumstances you can find yourself in.

So good on you, ShiftyLook. Good luck, Cory Casoni and Rob Pereyda and everybody else who put in the time and effort. Thanks for the freeplay arcades, the party invites, the good booze, the good comics, and good times. It was a weird, optimistic endeavour, and webcomics was better for the attempt.

¹ Looks like it cost on the order of US$15-20, with a significant price cut going into effect today.

² Which around these parts is the same as According to holy writ.

Gaah, bummer! I love Wonder Momo and Galaga.

[…] Webcomics | Gary Tyrrell provides some context on Namco Bandai’s webcomics site Shiftylook, which announced Monday that it will shut down soon. [Fleen] […]

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