Sunday, August 14, 2011

and I kicked that mule to the top of the tree

We pick up where we left off in part part III with the Croshaw Ultimatum. This is from DashRollRush on the forum mentioned previously:

This coming so soon after the Yahtzee PAX thing...The Escapist is going through a dark period right now.

Which I knew nothing about, so I had to look it up. There's a whole other forum thread on it; good gods, the Escapist forums offer thuddingly long comment chains. But skimming the surface, the deal seems to be:
  • Zero Punctuation is popular with fans
  • Fans of Zero Punctuation go to PAX
  • If we get Croshaw, the voice behind ZP, to Seattle, he can appear at PAX
  • We could upcut a limited-edition poster as a way to raise the funds to get him from Australia to Seattle, we win!
Or someone wins, anyway. It's most likely not the fans.

Now, I don't live in Australia, so I don't know exactly how expensive things are over there. How'ver, I have a friend who's been planning a trip to Thailand from the US for some time, and--taking into account passport fees, airfare, hotel room, food, the cheapest she's been able to price down is $8000. She's thinking, in all honesty, it will likely cost her $10,000 to $12,000 to go.

So, somewhat similar distance, Australia to here, plus taking time off what he does when he's not being sarcastic on the internet (yes, as far as I know, Croshaw's another one who has an actual other job), airfare, hotel room charges, food, likely hiring a driver or at least providing him with a car, depending...that honestly may not be unreasonable, $10,000 for the round trip.

That's not where it stops, however. The upselling posters thing; okay, odd, but no big deal. The soliciting funds to bring Yahtzee over; not without precedent, though it IS something of a big financial hit. No, this is the thing that bit fans, and bit fans hard: the Escapist wanted to charge $50 per ticket to get a "possible" chance to meet Yahtzee. Not "guaranteed"; "possible".
People smelled a rat.

This comment, from TypeSD, pretty much lays everything out quite concisely:

No, hang on a sec. A conversation that starts with "Ben, you're going to PAX" usually has had before that "we're sending him to PAX, how are we getting him there/how can we afford it/you reckon some of our fans HAVE tickets/time/money/is this a bit late to start the "fundraiser"/what will people think so soon after Extra Credits did something similar/will this backfire/does anyone want to pay $75 for a poster/does an indie game developer HAVE $5000 to pay for a review?"

And seriously, if you don't already have a ticket to PAX, why would you pay? Ah yes, because it's a limited run of posters!

"Working with our friends at RocketHub, we decided to offer these fabulous posters at a slightly higher price than what they cost to make"

What, were they printed on baby lions?


Here's the link to the Escapist's "We had no idea you would be offended" letter, and there's this comment (which is beautifully well-reasoned) from the Penny Arcade forums (and he has a blog, too).

So essentially, seemingly at the last minute, the Escapist staff tried--I believe in good faith--to try to get fans to cover a Zero Punctuation party, start to finish. The problems? Flying Croshaw in from Australia; asking him in the first place (which I believe happened after the press started for the event), then entirely forgetting they were planning this for PAX weekend, where the hotel parties are booked nearly a full year in advance!

Oh, and the big problem that they didn't seem to consider: the fact that a three-day pass to PAX--the entire convention--costs about a hundred, depending on time of pass purchase. And the Yahtzee party? Half that. So pony up half as much as you just put on the line for three whole days of convention...for the chance (again, not the surety) of meeting the mind behind Zero Punctuation.

Now, don't get me wrong, rabid fans will pay ludicrous sums of money to gain the objects of their multitudinous affection--hells, I've bid up to three digits on bits of Survivor memorabilia, and even I think that's crazed--but this was just a bit much. Especially when--as DashRollRun pointed out, lo these many centuries ago--the fans had just come out of a spate of gutting themselves for finances to save Extra Credits/Allison Theus (and really, for most of the fans, that's pretty much the same thing).

If there's one thing I've learned from charity events in Second Life, it's this--you may not be able to control when the disaster happens, but you do have to realize that if your big sale/accident/insurance fail/company restructure/save the poor whatevers event is coming right on the heels of another huge big sale/accident/insurance fail/company restructure/save the poor whatevers event...you're just not going to get that much, because people are tired at that point.

Oh, and tossing this bit in, where Croshaw states emphatically his hatred for Joss Whedon, because I think it's amusing:

"Your opinion doesn't win because you're angrier."

And we'll stop this one here. Hopefully, this'll be the end of it, but I get the feeling there's a few more, lurking long-fanged and twitching around the corner to ambush me.

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