Ho ho ho, Lusi-readers! In the past, I have been known to defend Kickstarter as a means of funding games for developers who otherwise cannot get the funding. And while I still believe Kickstarter is a great idea in theory, the news about Kickstarter is almost never good. It seems that almost every week, a story breaks about a failed Kickstarter project, or a project that was a scam, or a project that ran out of money despite reaching its goals. But why, exactly, does Kickstarter fail so frequently and spectacularly? The problem seems to be in the way Kickstarter is run.
Recently, a company called DreamQuest turned to Kickstarter in an attempt to fund their game, Alpha Colony. The game came a mere twenty-eight dollars short of its $50,000 goal, but due to Kickstarter policy, DreamQuest will not be seeing a cent. A project only receives its money if its goal is reached; if the goal is not met, the backers are not charged and the company does not see a cent of the revenue. While this is presumably a measure taken to ensure that only the projects with significant backing get funded, it is a major blow to DreamQuest, a company that has already spent a great deal of time and money on Alpha Colony. While it is very easy to argue that DreamQuest’s owners could have simply made up the difference, it is still a shame to see that Kickstarter will not yield a cent to a project that came so close.
There are other projects that have yielded poor results; a game called Code Hero apparently ran out of money after raising nearly $170,000 through Kickstarter in February. While the developers of Code Hero swear their game is still coming, the fact that the backers have yet to receive their incentives and the fact that the developer admits the game is out of money are bad signs for Code Hero. The man behind it, Alex Peake, asserts that the game will be released, but so far it does not look good. It seems that Code Hero is likely to meet the same fate as Haunts: The Manse Macabre, which received its funding and then proceeded to run out of money.
There is, of course, the issue of companies what have no business seeking crowd-funding using Kickstarter to fund their games. Is Obsidian really doing so poorly that the cannot get funding for a game? Would Tim Schafer and Double Fine not have been able to get the money from any other place? Even Peter Molyneux of Fable fame has turned to Kickstarter; Molyneux recently used Kickstarter to raise money for Project GODUS, an attempted reinvention of Populous. The Kickstarter more than reached its lofty goal, so the world will soon be “blessed” with another Molyneux-tastic creation.
Kickstarter, it seems, is a much better idea in theory than in practice. The fact that there seems to be no liability for project creators has left the door wide open for people to take the money and run, and even those creators who are honest are not really bound to a deadline for when the donation incentives must go out. Projects that should not need crowd-funding get funded by Kickstarter, worthy projects get swept under the rug, and some meet the unlucky fate of Alpha Colony. I do like the fundamental idea behind Kickstarter as a means of funding worthy projects that cannot otherwise raise enough money, but even I must admit that Kickstarter is causing more harm than good.
Not every Kickstarter project ends badly, or is run by dishonest people. FTL: Faster Than Light was Kickstarter-funded and is apparently a good game, though I personally have never played it. The Cthulhu Saves the World PC port had a Kickstarter project that raised over twice its original $3,000 goal, and as a result the game is readily and cheaply available on PCs, where it runs perfectly. For all that I do not like that Double Fine turned to Kickstarter for its funding, giving the game away as the first-tier reward is the way I feel all games should do it. People are essentially investing in the game, so they should at least be able to get the game itself as a low-tier donation incentive.
Well, readers, I admit that I was wrong about Kickstarter. While there have good things yielded by Kickstarter’s funding methods, it seems that crowd-funding is a much better idea in theory than it is in implementation, or at the very least Kickstarter’s implementation of the crowd-funding model is extremely poor.