When SyFy canceled The Expanse in May 2018, it was fans of the show who came together to try and save it. That effort culminated in renting a plane to fly a banner over Amazon Prime headquarters. Eventually Jeff Bezos himself took notice, stepping in to give the program a new home and produce a fourth season. To celebrate that triumph, Idea Planet is looking to produce a special edition collectible Rocinante, the ship at the center of the galaxy-spanning epic, via a forthcoming Kickstarter campaign.
If fully funded, the final product will include an illuminated drive cone, removable weapons and landing gear, as well as a host of other accessories. Shipment of the Kickstarter exclusive is estimated to begin in September 2020. At up to 21-inches long and weighing nearly four pounds, this old bird won’t come cheap. Units start at $199 plus shipping. The campaign kicks off on Oct. 22.
This isn’t Idea Planet’s first rodeo. The nearly 20-year-old company has quietly been making some of the best collector’s editions for the video game industry. Its extensive portfolio includes Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Bayek statue; Tom Clancy’s The Division SHD Agent replica watch; the BioShock anniversary edition Big Daddy and Little Sister statue; even the Destiny 2 Alexa-enabled Ghost. Their crowning achievement, says creative director Mike Ableman, was a limited edition Myst Linking Book. The unique $1,000 collectible, produced to celebrate the adventure puzzle franchise’s 25th anniversary edition, helped push a crowdfunding campaign past $2.8 million on Kickstarter.
“What we’re really good at is taking things that don’t exist in the world, things that may exist only in the digital world, and bringing them into the real world,” Ableman told Polygon in an interview last week. “That’s kind of our expertise.”
While the Linking Book was the dream of Myst’s creator, the idea for the Rocinante was the result of the input from more than 6,000 fans of the show. Idea Planet first solicited ideas from fans on Twitter, and then had them vote on the top ten results. Ableman says the Roci was far and away the winner, even beating out statues of two powerful women from the program’s ensemble cast — Martian marine Bobbie Draper and United Nations leader Chrisjen Avasarala.
But why is Amazon, one of the world’s largest corporations, using a crowdfunding website to fund production of an elaborate promotional item?
“The short answer is, they’re not,” Ableman told Polygon. “We are. And we’re doing it with the fans and [Amazon is] just giving us access. Are they going to get something if it funds? Yeah. We’re going to have a license. But the reality is [...] their priority right now is to create content. It wasn’t on the list to make anything [like this]. It just wasn’t even on their radar.”
It’s worth noting that the collectible ship doesn’t include a physical copy of the first three seasons of The Expanse. It doesn’t even include a trial of Amazon Prime. This is an item solely for diehard fans of the series, the same kinds of people who paid real money to fly a real-life banner ad over California.
“The show was saved by the fans,” Ableman said. “That’s the bottom line. I don’t think [Amazon] would do this with any other property. I think it’s just that the stars aligned.”
Just like any other Kickstarter campaign, fans can show their support with as little as one dollar. Additional goodies include replica prop pins from the show, challenge coins, vinyl decals, and even embossed metal plaques. The campaign will run through Nov. 20.
One thing that the campaign will not include is any statement on Kickstarter’s ongoing labor issues. When asked Ableman about employee’s recent request that the company’s management voluntarily recognize its union, Ableman said Idea Planet was unaware of the situation.