Kickstarter, coined as a ‘crowd sourcing’ website, i.e. a group of people all put in X amount of money and communally fund a project something that may struggle to fund itself via usual means. Kickstarter says it has received $825 million in funding since its launch in 2009. The idea of Kickstarter is that it provides the place to propose an idea to millions of its members and receive financial backing in return for rewards depending on ‘Pledge’ size. Kickstarter benefits as it receives a 5% cut and Amazon receives 3-5% for processing the transactions.
Lets talk games, specifically games on Kickstarter. Kickstarter arguably has to thank the heavily successful game projects for its large media coverage, almost entirely from famous 90s developers. There have been many games successful in reaching funding via Kickstarter, from $1000 dollar games right the way through to $millions showing just how diverse a range Kickstarter can cover, however with most of these games only reaching Kickstarter by 2012, it is extremely hard to analyse the success of Kickstarter due to most games still being at least a year from release, but what can be argued is that financial issues have been widespread despite, in some cases, the game actually being over funded on Kickstarter, as such the examples and hypothesis of why this happens is what we will discuss.
It would be extremely foolish to ignore the ‘elephant in the room’ example, that of Double Fine’s Broken Age, the initial project was asking for $400,000 to make a point and click adventure game, a game style that in recent years has been neglected and as such Shafer argued that publishers would be uninterested in funding, ergo why Kickstarter. So why after a extremely successful Kickstarter campaign and reaching $3.3million in ‘Pledges’ has the game recently (and extremely publicly) ran into liquidity issues? Shafer and Kickstarter made a grand mistake to overgrow the original idea far beyond a $400,000 game, but sadly they appear to have grown the game just too far, with almost a year left in development they announced via their monthly documentary (part of the reward for backing the project) that the project was short by up to $3million. This figure is even more shocking when you consider that the PC port of Brutal Legend made $1million and other income from ‘Slacker Backers’, Amnesia Fortnight and Double Fine ‘Humble Bundles’.
Shafer is forced to pre-sell the game by releasing half early on Steam, and hoping this income can supplement the cost of the rest, this will likely fail due to likelihood that the majority of players of this type of game would have already bought the game via the initial Kickstarter, leaving only a minority of fans to buy the steam copy.
Sadly this failure is tiny compared to other projects that have actually been 100% cancelled due to money issues. ‘The Doom That Came To Atlantic City’, a monopoly inspired board game recent announced a complete cancellation of the game, despite actually being over funded with $122,874 compared to the initial £35,000 goal. So how could money possibly run out when you receive almost four times the ‘required’ amount to make the game?
‘CLANG’ is another project that has been cancelled due to money issues, this projects biggest issue was its reliance on having a secondary accessory used for the actual sword fighting (think Wii sword fighting), which they ended up making a second Kickstarter for. The project raised $526,125 of its $500,000 goal, yet was announced to be out of money September this year, just a year later. Worryingly the second Kickstarter for the accessory received $650,000 of funding of its $250,000 goal.
When Professor Ethan Mollick looked into Kickstarter he found that “75% of companies deliver products later than promised” (data sample of 47,000 Kickstarter projects amounting to $198 million in contributions). The idea of caution can only be cited, and again it is worth noting that Kickstarter is backing a project and not pre-ordering a product like many believe.
Kickstarter has recently developed another issue that needs to be discussed before ending this article, do they really need your money?
It has been used it almost every Kickstarter, the repetitive sell of needing Kickstarter due to Publishers not funding this type of game, development team etc. However plenty of successful Kickstarters had large personal fortunes, so shouldn’t they just self fund?
‘Shroud of the Avatar’ by Richard Garriott received $1.9million in funding for a RPG game, the focus of the campaign was on Richard Garriott even using his nickname Lord British in the title of the game, but Richard Garriott could have very easily funded the game himself, in 2008 he spent a reported $30million going into space to the ISS. As such is Richard simply using Kickstarter as a means to advertise the game, baring in mind that it guarantees a mass amount of click traffic via PC Gamer, Gamespot etc. before it is even released, or is this just a cynical opinion?
Peter Molyneux’s ‘GODUS’ Kickstarter is another example of this problem, his Kickstarter reached $526,563 in funding, Molyneux himself is extremely wealthy following the success of the Fable series of games, and everything previous, again is this simply a marketing tool where they are actually paid to advertise rather than paying, or is there some genuine excuse for their use of Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is a great platform that provides completely unknown developers a platform to test an idea, and hopefully get the funding to make it into a complete game without the personal risk, this not only benefits the gaming industry as a whole due to much more indie games and original ideas, but also benefits the gamers, because Kickstarter provides the means to have a direct input in the game, simply put, just like the Publishers, Kickstarter puts the ‘Backers’ in charge due to money they put in, and gamers decide how games are made is quite frankly sensible.
However the issues from Kickstarter are always going to receive much more media than any small successful projects (see FTL) so please dear reader, go look on Kickstarter, experience its potential and maybe back a few small indie games and not just the big hits.