Launched in 2011 with much fanfare, ShiftyLook was a fun idea: redeveloping old Namco/Bandai video game properties as webcomics with an eye to further developing animation and new video games. And now the experiment is ending, publisher Rob Pereyda has announced.
Given Japanese video game companies’ penchant for pulling the plug at a moments notice, having a three year run is pretty good, and they even turned out some good comics along the way, including WonderMomo and Bravoman. In a statement on their website, Pereyda gave a time table for the shut down, which, as big corporations often do, is near total; almost all the comics and game will shut down at the end of the month, although Namco High, the Andrew Hussie designed dating game will stay up until the end of June. The Wonder Momo game will go on as planned, with announced books and apparel coming out from licensees also appearing.
Dear ShiftyLook Fans:
We originally got the ShiftyLook project going at NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. back in Fall 2011. The idea was to take the unused, “sleeping” video game characters of our past and bring them back first with webcomics, and then – once they had gotten enough traction – expand into other media like web animation, games, and merchandise.
I’m happy to say that we’ve done this with Wonder Momo, Bravoman, and some other very cool characters, which 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.
While we are melancholy about ShiftyLook as an overall project going away, Wonder Momo, our star franchise, has some exciting things happening for it. WayForward Technologies, lord of the platformer gaming universe, is making their most ambitious game yet in Wonder Momo. Kotaku loved it in an early preview and we know you will, too. There is a whole line of Wonder Momo t-shirts available over at WeLoveFine.com, and the long-awaited Wonder Momo hardcover comic book is on the way from UDON Entertainment.
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 ShiftyLook.com: 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
Wonder Momo video game: To be released on schedule on select digital download platforms
Wonder Momo anime: Stays on Crunchyroll and YouTube to view for free worldwide
Bravoman, Wonder Momo, Katamari, and Galaga books: Releasing as scheduled by UDON Entertainment
Bravoman, Wonder Momo, Katamari, and other apparel: Stays available on WeLoveFine.com
Katamari and Galaga plush toys and rugs: Stays available on Squishable.com
Thank you all so much for enjoying ShiftyLook. We’ll all miss you.
In its run, ShiftyLook spent plenty of money promoting their projects—for the last two years they had rented out the “arcade” area next to the Gaslamp Hilton in San Diego, meaning a prime location is available marketing people. Mr. Beat actually wrote (and Dean Haspiel drew) Dirk Davies, one of the ShiftyLook webcomics, and it was always a good time when ShiftyLook was around. That said, one always got the feeling that some day the grownups would come home and figure out what was going on and cut the allowance.
Udon’s Matt Moyden, who wrote Bravoman, gave a statement saying he hoped that they would be able to license the treatment from Bandai. He also had some sharp words, however, that might make that a bit tougher:
Looking at why Shiftylook failed though, there are a lot of reasons. In my opinion they spent far too much money and effort trying to SEEM successful rather than working to actually BE successful. Even though they were just starting out, they set up enormous booths at conventions with live music, arcade machines, free t-shirts etc. None of which seemed to promote what the company actually did – make webcomics. It also always felt like they were following some pre-made guide to how a company grows, constantly moving on to bigger things despite not yet really succeeding at the smaller things. I guess that is the danger of being the subsidiary of a large company like Bandai with near unlimited resources.
Besides that they didn’t seemed to have a monetization plan until very recently. They did finally come out with some minor games near the end of 2013, but I felt neither of them was very well thought out. The Bravoman mobile app to put it lightly was not very good, and add to that a freemium “pay to play” model which is never a fan-pleaser even for a good game. Their second game, Namco High, was a Japanese-style visual novel. It’s a game genre that is barely known in the west. Plus it seemed to be banking largely on Andrew Hussie’s mega-popular Homestuck characters as guest stars to bring in an audience, which kind of begs the question of why does it feature the Shiftylook characters at all? There is still the upcoming Wonder Momo game from WayForward, which actually seems like a perfect match, but too late to save the comics.
So, farewell ShiftyLook, we had some chalk drawings and some green tea Kit Kats, and some comics. It was fun — let’s do it again sometime.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.