Why I’m Not Okay with the Penny Arcade Kickstarter
Best of all, Penny Arcade gets to take advantage of the Kickstarter culture, one in which backers come to Kickstarter looking to help out and contribute to the making of great things. The spirit of Kickstarter is one of joining into a community of people who want to make cool stuff, and the people who want to support them in doing so. Penny Arcade gets to piggyback on a culture of people who are there to help out; surely many of the people who are donating to Penny Arcade think they’re helping a group of guys who make something they enjoy.
But Penny Arcade doesn’t need any help. Its business is successful. Whereas other businesses would incur operating costs, research new business models or invest in themselves in order to try out new ways of making money, Penny Arcade isn’t bothering. What’s more, Penny Arcade is likely diverting both attention and funds from other projects and other creators who actually do need help. These are people whose projects might even become the next Penny Arcade, but which need help getting established — but instead, a noted web comic is pulling Kickstarter users to its project side, and taking dollars that might end up going to another project. It’s not hard to envision a situation in which a backer sees Penny Arcade’s project, donates to it, and then doesn’t have that money to give elsewhere.
And that’s a situation that’s hard to support. Not because I dislike Penny Arcade or the Penny Arcade Report, or that I’m accusing the organization of underhanded tactics, and certainly not because I believe this is some kind of big joke that Holkins and Krahulik are running on the public — the fact that PA Report’s Ben Kuchera has publically supported the campaign signals to me that it’s real. (I sincerely doubt Kuchera’s journalistic ethics would allow him to support such a gag.) But the spirit of Kickstarter is to get funds in the hands of people who need them to make things. It’s not meant to help a successful business like Penny Arcade to get around the work of managing its business.
I fear this is the beginning of the end for Kickstarter — the jumping of the shark. Kickstarter today ceases to be an engine for promoting creativity and begins to be a new way for businesses to get money from fans, seemingly for any reason at all. If they’re not even required to create anything, what’s the point? Kickstarter loses its respectability and its clout, as well as its independent, help-out culture, and the possibilities of crowd-funded indie projects gets swallowed up in arbitrary fundraisers and pseudo-creative endeavors.
Penny Arcade doesn’t need to crowd-fund an ad-free version of its site. And Kickstarter doesn’t need to help it do it. This isn’t what the promise of Kickstarter was meant to fulfill.