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Replay Games raises more than $600K on Kickstarter for Leisure Suit Larry game

Leisure Suit Larry will live again in the land of the lounge lizards.

After a 30 day campaign, Replay Games has raised a total of $673,602 via Kickstarter crowdfunding, handily beating the company’s goal of $500,000. The pledged funding came from more than 14,079 fans and it will enable the company to fuel the development of its PC and tablet game without giving up any equity ownership. (The numbers are different from the figures on Kickstarter’s site because of additional PayPal donations).

As such, it is another example of a successful funding for a small game company at a time when alternative money is hard to get. (We’ll have a panel on how crowdfunding is changing game financing at our GamesBeat 2012 conference).

“I’m really stoked,” said Paul Trowe, founder of Replay. “Especially after one of the VCs turned us down because they didn’t want to be associated with Leisure Suit Larry. It’s such an honor. When you think you’ve seen every business model, and heard every story about publisher battles and ego fights, I’m floored, thankful, and grateful.”

The Replay crew got the idea for crowdfunding after watching the success of game veterans Tim Schafer and Brian Fargo in using Kickstarter to fund their separate games. The aim is to bring back the Leisure Suit Larry franchise that sold more than 10 million copies in the 1980s and 1990s.

The whole project is part of the retro trend to bring back beloved franchises to older games and win new fans as well. Al Lowe (pictured above) said in the company’s Kickstarter video that the team will update the graphics, the music, the user interface, and the humor.

“We’re bringing it into the 21st century onto PCs and tablets,” Lowe said. “And we want to do it without any pesky publishers telling us to dumb it down or make it tamer so we can get it into Walmart.”

In exchange for a $15 donation, users are getting a copy of the game. But if they donated more, they will get more personalized collectibles such as a link to a digital version of the original soundtrack, an art book, or even a role in the game’s development. For a pledge of $100, the donors will get a packaged mailing of the game and related assets, plus a Leisure Suit Larry brand condom (in its wrapper).

Trowe is now in the process of sending out more than 13,000 T-shirts to donors, and thousands of condoms as well. The high-end donors are getting a bunch of funny perks. One person donated $10,000 in exchange for a lunch with Lowe. Four people pledged $1,250 to get their faces into the game in a scene where they’re called “perverts.” One donor pledged $2,500 for the “doggie style” edition which includes the right to have the image of the donor’s pet dog put into the game. Two donors pledged $2,500 to have their likenesses put in the game as drunks.

Lowe created the original adventure game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, in 1987. He said the original Leisure Suit Larry was one of the most pirated games in history at the time and he knew that because he sold a lot more hint books than actual games at the time.

“If we were smart, we would have just printed the hint books and stopped making the games altogether,” he said.

Five more Larry games and other auxiliary titles followed. The last Leisure Suit Larry game that Lowe worked on was Love for Sale, released in 1996. But Lowe said he still gets fan mail about the original series.

The Larry franchise was most recently owned by Vivendi Universal, which acquired Sierra (via acquisitions of parent firms) years ago and then sold it to Codemasters, which published a title called Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust, in 2009. That game was done without consultation with Lowe and didn’t sell well. Critics hated it, with giving it a 2.3 out of 10 rating.

The new game got its life after Trowe bootstrapped his Austin, Texas-based company in 2008 to focus on the digital distribution of games. Trowe was the first teenage beta tester at Sierra On-Line, the now-defunct publisher of the original series.

In 2010, he picked up the rights to Leisure Suit Larry, essentially grabbing it back from the “clutches of corporate America,” he said. Then he got Lowe to agree to recreate a new game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded. The actual developer will be Adventure Mob, a Tel Aviv-based game studio that will use the Unity Technologies game engine for cross-platform game creation.

Trowe said that he got very little sleep in the last month because he had to respond to fan comments around the clock. One volunteered to set up a forum for the fans and now that volunteer will become a full-time employee.

“I learned so much about community management,” Trowe said. “If we didn’t listen to our fans, we wouldn’t be in this position” of having so many donors.

The game was targeted for October, but Trowe thinks that the added tasks will now push the game toward January, 2013 launch.

“At the demand of fans, we have to add a new girlfriend, two extra rooms and all new dialogue,” Trowe said. “It’s going to be a lot more than a remake.”

The new title will run on the Unity 3D engine and will have beefed up graphics. The game will be published in six languages. Trowe said that the successful campaign told him that the audience for the title should be very good.

by Dean Takahashi