Avellone: “I’m Worried About Kickstarter Exhaustion.”

We spend a lot of time commenting on the surprise success that has been the Kickstarter model of development funding. Several high profile industry figures, most famously Tim Schaffer, have seen tremendous response to Kickstarter drives funding their games after decades of severe difficulty getting anything done amongst the traditional AAA developers. But is it a sustainable model? Will fans always fork over their money for the fantasy games their heroes can’t get made otherwise, or is there a natural limit to the format’s success?

Obsidian’s Chris Avellone has admitted that he’s worried about the latter, and an interview with GI, he talked a bit about his concerns about the long term viability of Kickstarter. “I’m not really sure how long Kickstarter will last,” he confessed. “What we were worried about with Eternity is that it seemed like a lot of gaming companies were barely making their funding goals. Double Fine and Wasteland II charged pretty strong out of the gate. Shadowrun did pretty well, but then we noticed there’s been a drop-off of how much people were willing to donate.”

What’s the problem as he sees it? People are tapped out. “I’m worried about Kickstarter exhaustion; it seems like there’s always a new Kickstarter project going up. That was one of the challenges we knew we had to face going into it. We had no idea if we’d make our funding goal at all, just because we’d seen that pattern developing. We’re like, “Do we have enough appeal to even stand out in the crowd?” Fortunately we did.”

Indeed they did, setting a fundraising record with the Project Eternity Kickstarter. But of course, these games being funded, they’re not out yet, and as Avellone (rightly) sees it, the success of the system will depend on the games being produced actually having success. “When the first successful title hits, or even the first unsuccessful title hits, that’ll change Kickstarter in different ways. We haven’t really seen the upper levels of how much people are willing to donate. We were joking around about this a few months back. Joss Whedon never went up on Kickstarter and said “Hey, you know what, I started a Kickstarter to buy back the rights to Firefly.” How many millions upon millions of dollars would he get for that?”

He will get 1 bajillion dollars for this, incidentally. I would rob a bank to make it happen. But I digress. Obviously, the failure of a game would be equally impactive: “Then there’s the danger of when the first big failure comes out on Kickstarter, I think people will be even more hesitant about donating. It will be beyond exhaustion level; it will be “I’m not sure this process is going to pan out.” I feel like Kickstarter is still in its infancy when it comes to the process; I feel like we’re in the honeymoon phase.”

What do you think, Game Fronters? is Kickstarter the beginning of a Brave new world, or a flash soon to be out of the pan? Sound off in comments.

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3 Comments on Avellone: “I’m Worried About Kickstarter Exhaustion.”


On October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

The thing I think people overlook with Kickstarter is, like he said, the lack of oversight. People gave millions of dollars to the OUYA in the hopes of making a console-killer, and the expectations are simply out of reach. Sometimes a publisher hurts (I’m looking at you, Mass Effect 3), but other times it’s nice to have somebody cracking the whip and reminding you not to get to far up your ass (whatever that cube-mining thing Molyneux just unveiled is). Most creative types need managers, and the vast majority of these games are either never going to get made or under deliver on the impossible expectations people have given them. Innovation is great, but you need a straight man in the mix or you end up being David Lynch.


On October 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Kickstarter exhaustion will be held off by two things: 1) Genuine excitement for a project and 2) Actual successful completion of previous popular projects.

I think Obsidian was right to be nervous about making their funding goals, simply because of point 2. We haven’t really seen any of these major projects ship yet, just because most of them are operating on a 1-year+ time-frame. On the other hand, going off of the Shadowrun Kickstarter updates, professional studios doing Kickstarters share enough information about their progress to inspire confidence. I hope Double Fine and the other major developers are doing the same thing, and that Obsidian follows suit.

Kickstarter is definitely in a honeymoon phase, at least for game development. Whether it continues to be a viable route for funding games really depends on the developers delivering on their promises, validating the trust put in them, and keeping fans excited.


On October 23, 2012 at 1:38 am

Adam said all.