It took a year and a half to finally come to pass, but last month the latest iteration of MegaBots’ giant fighting robot finally did battle with a 6.5-ton machine from Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry. In spite of the long wait, the battle was really a precursor for what the Bay Area robotics company has been planning all along: a robotic fighting league. Sort of a Battle Bots, only much bigger, more expensive and with human beings piloting them from inside.
This morning, MegaBots announced its plans to take the next step toward that vision — and unsurprisingly, it’s going to take yet another crowdfunding campaign to get there. The company’s asking for a massive $950k, with the goal of launching MegaBots Open in Q4 of next year. It’s a pretty aggressive timeline, given the logistics involved — and honestly, the company has missed its own deadline more than a few times.
But from the sound of it, this campaign is basically life and death for the future of not only the nascent league, but MegaBots in general. “MegaBots was founded as an entertainment company that makes incredible robots,” co-founder Gui Cavalcanti told TechCrunch ahead of the announcement. “Ultimately, this tournament represents the founding of our sport — the Giant Robot Duel was just one example of what the sport could look like. If our audience isn’t interested, or isn’t willing to help pay what it will cost to create this sport, we will need to shut our doors.”
The company issued a similar warning in its press material, stating, “This effort is the result of years of gathering data and planning; failure of this campaign will mean MegaBots shuts down.” As the company notes, three-plus years and $6.5 million have been committed to the crazy dream of watching two big robots kick the living hell out of each other, including an ongoing web video series that employs the production staff that used to shoot MythBusters.
Reviews of last month’s fight were mixed, but it’s fair to write off the battle as something of a dry run for what the company is trying to put together, and MegaBots is hoping to make the experience more engaging by crowdsourcing some of the decision-making with its backers.
“By backing this campaign above a $15 level, we’ll add you to an exclusive mailing list that we’ll consult when we make major decisions about the sport,” it explains on the Kickstarter. “We’re not putting our entire company or vision up for a vote, but we think direct feedback and some decision-making from an engaged audience is crucial.”