The Cracks in Crowd-funding and Kickstarter Concerns

Two years ago, Double Fine brought crowdfunding and kickstarter to the public eye and kicked off an almost gold rush period of projects being funded. The ability to receive funding purely off your concept from interested fans drove many developers both new and old to the platform. 

kickstarter

But two years later, crowdfunding’s luster came and went and the public is now wearier of it. For today’s post we’re going to examine what happened to kickstarter and some important considerations for anyone looking to the platform for their next game.

The Kickstarter Era:

While Kickstarter and crowd-funding existed several years before the Double Fine kickstarter, that was the first time that a major developer thought to use the platform and it made waves throughout the industry. The Double Fine kickstarter was funded within 24 hours and made global news among the Game Industry.

From there, we saw a rush of developers looking to capitalize in the same way as Double Fine. Either brand new titles like Planetary Annihilation or bringing back classic series like Wasteland 2. And for the rest of 2012, it was success after success after success for the platform and games being funded.

PAKickstarter

Planetary Annihilation’s stretch goals were all met, making it one of the most successful kickstarters for 2012

This continued to some extent in 2013, but things have hit a massive wall in 2014 with less game projects reporting success and controversy surrounding failed projects.  There are several factors that are adding up to big problems for crowd funding.

Failing Expectations:

While 2012 was the year known for kickstarter’s breakout success, many of the titles that were funded during that time are still not out. Wasteland 2 is currently in Early Access, Double Fine’s Broken Age is still in development and countless other big successes are still being worked on. For the games that have been released, we’ve seen average to okay reviews with a few games like Moebius not faring so well.

Many kickstarters boasted stretch goals that added content to the game which in turn increased the development time needed to complete them. Planetary Annihilation for instance hit every one of its goals and bumped up the project dramatically in terms of scope and content.

But with so many games still in development, we haven’t yet fully seen if crowdfunding for mega titles could be successful or not.

Just Plain Failing:

Then we have the controversial kickstarters: The ones that were funded but failed to even put out a game. One of the big ones of this past year was the issue with The Doom That Came from Atlantic City — A board game that was successfully funded but was unable to produce anything. The project was saved by a board game publisher who came in after it failed. Recently there was the problem with the Yogscast kickstarter that made about half a million and was cancelled due to not being able to complete the game.

YogscastKickstarter

Despite succeeding, the Yogscast kickstarter has failed to produce a game.

And even with these big examples, there are probably many more that haven’t hit the public eye yet of developers misusing kickstarter funds and will add more fuel to the fire. Stories like these aren’t good for consumer confidence and when you have a platform built around crowd-funding, you don’t want the crowd not trusting you.

The days of going on kickstarter with nothing more than an idea and wanting 250k are gone and if you want to succeed now, here are some important tips.

Delay it:

Regardless of whether or not the kickstarter is for securing funds for the entire game or to finish it, you want to wait as long as possible before going on kickstarter. The reason is simple: The more you have to show for your project, the better.

Being able to put up an early alpha or prototype of your idea is a good start for a kickstarter as it shows people that you have actually started to produce something. Moreover, being able to see the game in action or a concept paints a clearer picture of what you are aiming for.

One of the best kickstarters of 2014 would be for The Darkest Dungeon, who the developers took months before going onto kickstarter with an impressive trailer and enough information about the game for pledgers to have a good idea of what the game was.

Know your Limits:

Stretch goals are an often debated topic among designers. Some feel that you should have everything to make the game great in the initial pitch, while others use stretch goals as a way of building excitement and keep people invested.

Darkest Dungeon

The Darkest Dungeon developers prepared for months before going to kickstarter and they were rewarded with a successful project.

Regardless, you should not promise more than you can deliver. If you’re a small team, adding what could amount to another year of work on top of everything else may be too much. This also applies to rewards that are physical.

Every physical reward will cost you money to develop, produce and ship to people around the world. If you don’t budget yourself carefully, it could eat up most of your funding.

What’s Next:

Finally and most importantly: Have a plan for after the kickstarter. This includes not only developing the game, but selling the game or rewards outside of kickstarter.

Looking ahead is very crucial especially if you added stretch goals to your project. And lastly make sure to keep your pledgers aware of what’s going on. With more and more projects reporting issues of project delays or cancellations, you want to keep moral high or risk it blowing up in your face.

Kickstarter’s viability is still uncertain at this time but these useful steps can assure people that you are on the up and up. And we need more reputable kickstarters and crowd-funding projects to keep the model afloat or risk losing it.

 

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5 thoughts on “The Cracks in Crowd-funding and Kickstarter Concerns

  1. […] Bycer over at Xsolla Blog recently posted an article titled, “The Cracks in Crowd-funding and Kickstarter Concerns” that discusses the pitfalls of crowd-funding and what developers could do to avoid problems for […]

  2. FTL, Shadowrun Returns, The Banner Saga, and Divinity: Original Sin have all received reviews averaging around 8/10 which is really good for indie games (Shadowrun’s expansion Dragonfall fared even better) so there’s at least four KS game projects I’d consider very successful I expect there will be a few more success stories by the end of the year.

  3. PRM19XX says:

    The Doom that Came to Atlantic City was released. You can read on the comments page for that project page about people that received it.

  4. the19xx says:

    The Doom That Came to Atlantic City came out. You can read the comments on the project page about people that received it.

    • Josh Bycer says:

      It was eventually, but that came after a board game publisher intervened when the original creator was unable to complete the project. I edited that statement to be clearer about that.

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