Friday Flame War: The Kickstarter Ponzie Scheme

It seems like a long time for something to sink in, but this week the Internet as a whole got a wakeup call about the crowdsourcing service known as Kickstarter, thanks to some somewhat incomprehensible news from Double Fine.

Despite having raised an astonishing $3.3 million on Kickstarter – well beyond the $400,000 the initial pitch asked for – Double Fine has announced that Broken Age (formerly known as Double Fine Adventure Game) is nowhere near finished. It will instead be broken – ha-haw – into two parts, the first of which will release in early 2014 and the second sometime later as a free update.

This caused no end of anger, and for good reason: How is that only needing 300K to complete the game, getting more than 10X that amount made completion impossible? But weirdly, much commentary has focused on how naive gamers need to calm down, because making games is hard, or something. I’m not entirely sure what this argument means aside from “shut up, plebs”, but apparently people who funded Double Fine are supposed to STFU because their pea brains just didn’t understand how game development works.

But come on, what the hell did they do with all that money. After all, if this had been funded by a traditional publisher that expected a return on investment, you can bet your bottom that they’d be demanding more than “our bad” after delays and budget problems like this. And I know said publishers would laugh if they were told “but you didn’t understaaaaand!” This fiasco has been enough for our own Ron Whitaker to declare his breakup with Kickstarter. But what about you? Why not spend Friday afternoon shouting at each other about it?!

1) Is this an understandable situation, something gamers just lack the experience to fully get and therefore, should just be quiet and let Double Fine get this out in whatever form they can, regardless of the promises they made?

2) Did Double Fine just prove that Kickstarter is a terrible waste of money, really a means of enabling bad businesspeople to grab your money, consequence-free?

Sound off in comments. Flame on.

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10 Comments on Friday Flame War: The Kickstarter Ponzie Scheme


On July 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Neither. If all of them failed, then kickstarter wouldn’t still be around. And there are plenty of projects that has completed just fine through it. Declaring it a waste of money only for bad buisness people is just ridiculous.

At the same time, yes Double Fine did screw up. Like Tim said in his own update, he ended up planning a game bigger then their budget could do and now they’re paying the price for it. I don’t have any doubts that Broken Age will still come out eventually, and will be a good game in it’s own right, but at the same time the whole deal going on right now is just fine for people to be annoyed about. Double Fine really should have known better especially considering they have experience with game development enough to know to be careful about that.

What all of this should be telling people is that this is kickstarter isn’t steam, or gamestop. This isn’t a store with special preorder bonuses. And donating money to this sort of thing does have inherent risks to it. If you pledge to anything on kickstarter, regardless of who it is, you need to realize that there is a chance things won’t pan out for one reason or another. There is a very real chance something will go wrong at some point, and you need to decide if it’s worth the risk to putting your money towards it. The benefits for doing so can be really cool though as they’ve been able to launch projects that otherwise would have been impossible before. The OUYA, the Oculus Rift, and countless projects from smaller groups.


On July 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Look, Double Fine done f’d up alright? I think this is more of a problem with them being unable to stick to an actual plan beyond their $400k goal. Schaffer most likely had a game planned that would be only worth the original goal, but when the pledges poured in, he probably wanted to shoot for the moon, or give them something bigger than his actual plan. I just can’t believe it was just another 38 Studios-esque cluster-f. I mean Stacking (Stacked?), that awesome mech trench game, Costume Quest, these are not big budget games! Unless Double Fine somehow regressed to the point of having never made a game before, I’d love to know where in this whole process they went overboard? Were they overwhelmed by the enthusiasm the backers had shown, and set about making their XBLA/PSN level game into something resembling a stripped down AAA?

This might be the problem with having no middle man like EA (shudder) or Activision watching where their money goes, but does that mean Kickstarter is an gigantic ponzie scheme? We won’t know that until the rest of the chips fall for other projects. Am I going to stop being a backer on other Kickstarter ventures or similar crowdfunding projects? Nope, heck I just gave money to Tobuscus for his game, and I’m a PROUD backer of Star Citizen. I’ll just have to try to be discerning in my choice of what to back, and be prepared to write off that money as a failed investment. The only thing people should remember is that for many of these games, Kickstarter/crowdfunding is THE ONLY WAY for them to see the light of day. The publishers of today aren’t that interested in longshots or taking things on faith. They’re only interested in the bottom line, and that means legions of sequels, shooters, and assassins, and that’s a gaming landscape I don’t want to see.

Toss Ross

On July 6, 2013 at 3:03 am

Pretty obvious once again that Ross wants us to sway towards his beliefs. If he was even moderately impartial he would not have chosen the term ‘ponzi scheme’ in the title. What’s the point in even having a forum for a debate if the host has already decided on what the result is going to be?


On July 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

Pretty obvious that (Todd) Ross wants us to sway to his beliefs. What’s the point of having a forum debate if he cant realize that others are going to have different opinions than his?
Duh,,,,, That’s why it’s called a debate. He has his opinion, you have yours. You don’t have to agree with his, just like no one else has to agree with yours. And for the record, everyone has an opinion, some are just more defined and obvious than others. There is never total impartiality. One can do there best to remain impartial, but that just means suppressing there true opinion, and trying to keep an open mind.
In truth, some of them deserve a title worse than ponzi, while others don’t. Not all are worthless while others are totally. It’s going to vary from dev to dev. He is simply saying, with all the problems going on, it’s getting harder to trust them with your money. Personally I like what some are doing, but I sure as heck don’t trust them enough to throw my money at them. I’ll wait for the finished product before throwing money at them. That’s not to say I wont give them money in the future, but they have to earn that right, that trust, and it doesn’t come easy.
This article is to express your opinion, not bash someone for having one, even if it is the writer. They have just as much right as you do to express it and obviously you don’t agree with his or you wouldn’t have a problem with him stating it. The whole article is about opinion, not impartiality.


On July 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

This site needs an edit button bad. Sorry, that’s Toss Ross trying to sway us, not Todd Ross.


On July 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Troll – Not even slightly original either – We’ve had so many folks throwing public childish tantrums on the net because the project they backed on a crowd-funding site (usually kickstarter) is in trouble or has failed.

Are there really that many pundits still out there lining up to make tits of themselves pointing at a single broken project and deriving that the whole crowdfunding paradigm is broken??

Why isn’t this grade school logical fallacy old news yet?


On July 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

No, the whole crowdfunding system is not broken. However, I do think there needs to be some more in the way of checks and balances so stuff like this doesn’t happen again. Mandatory status updates that show actual progress would be nice.


On July 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Uh, Tropes vs Women anyone? She asked for $6K and got $160k. Where did all that money go? It sure-as-sh*t didn’t go towards the videos, as they look the same as before the kickstarter.

Compared to Sarkeesian and Tropes vs Women, Double Fine are paragons of economic transparency.

I can’t be the only one bringing up Tropes vs Women in light of the Double Fine controversy, right?


On July 7, 2013 at 12:37 am

What’s the controversy surrounding tropes vs women? Love or hate sarkeesian, I’m pretty sure she is delivering exactly what she said she was going to deliver.

As for the debate, I think this was bound to happen eventually. I’ve never actually contributed to a crowdsource project but I think if I did, I would not give that much in the first place and I would also not get my hopes up. It’s a risk that frankly, all of us should be aware of.


On July 8, 2013 at 5:51 am

One company screwing up spectacularly isn’t a case for *every company forever* screwing up spectacularly. It’s just the one guys. Chill. (and Double Fine, get stuffed you greedy sh!ts)