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.

Follow Hornshaw and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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14 Comments on Why I’m Not Okay with the Penny Arcade Kickstarter

Eddie

On July 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I would have to agree with all of this, its a concerning precedent, and its not even like the adds on their site are that bad

Peggle20

On July 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm

What’s most upsetting about the PA kickstarter to me is that worthier projects like, say, Defense Grid 2 get a fraction of the funding of these jackasses. Faugh.

Please plug the DG2 kickstarter, GameFront! Seeing as how you’ve just plugged one that you don’t approve of, how about evening that karma up with one that’s actually out to create a kick ass PC game? It’s actually surprising how few gaming-related sites have done so (only joystiq and rps to my knowledge). Kickstarter over-saturation?

R.J.

On July 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I have to agree with this. For the most part, Kickstarter is a decent thing, but it doesn’t seem like PA should be using it for this. It’s cool that they want to try going ad free, but they are successful enough that they don’t really need their readers chipping in like this. I’m even more concerned about how it doesn’t even seem to fit the qualifications for Kickstarter. A website operating in perpetuity seems like the definition of open-ended. If starting a business doesn’t count as a project, then how can continuing one be any different?

pooleboy87

On July 23, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I want to start this out by saying that I really really like Penny Arcade. I enjoy their comics, I appreciate their charity, and I think it’s intensely amazing that they’ve turned PAX into what it is.

That being said, I largely agree with what you’re saying. I mean, I’ve NEVER minded the ads on the PA website. They’re really not intrusive at all. So I don’t even think that the reasoning behind the Kickstarter is all that solid. They don’t need it, and regardless of whether they’re taking money from other projects or not, it makes me uncomfortable to see it.

But what bugs me the most is the shift that I’m suddenly seeing in Kickstarter in General. I’m seeing it quickly becoming a means for a money grab, and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. For example, I just pulled up a couple of Kickstarters in my area. In the first page there was one individual asking for what amounted to a business loan (wanted Kickstarters to fund their cooking supplies and merchandise) while another wanted money for a press tour…which included an “incident fund” and walking around money.

These things just don’t seem to be in the vein of what Kickstarter is about. It’s a little ridiculous that they’re allowing people to essentially begin Kickstarter campaigns that offer no creativity, no return to what’s being given, and are simply a replacement for actual investors, or a way to get some quick cash as long as you can come up with some vaguely compelling idea.

Kickstarter better get a handle on it quick, or else it’s going to quickly become over-saturated with what amounts to online panhandling.

Aedelric

On July 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

The Penny Arcade site has adverts? I never knew. (Hugs his browser ad blocker)

I never knew their were so many foolish people willing to throw their money in the bin, over Penny Arcade of all things!

Veee

On July 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Good to bring items like this to the forefront, I always viewed Kickstarter as a creative project circle not really an escapist solution to your existing company. Pretty crappy if this starts to become a norm, honestly as it’s been noted their solutions were numerous without having to pull this card and milk the public out for their cause.

Sad too because they have their good moments as well, I wont be supporting games like this though when there are tons of other projects that deserve the support more. It’s not like PA was going to collapse and this was an attempt to save it from ruin, it’s just pretty shameless.

Jer

On July 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

At the bottom of their kickstarter page – report this project as invalid project – don’t let this happen – this is wrong pure and simple – this isn’t a project.

Xenos

On July 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Its fine for them to ask for donation to support or improve the site but that’s not what Kickstarter is supposed to be about, they should have instead used PayPal’s donation system or something – ANYTHING – else.

McBride

On July 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I like Penny Arcade, but I agree with you 100%. I’m fine with them asking for donations and stuff too, but don’t do it through Kickstarter. If Child’s Play can’t be used as a venue for fans to complain about Mass Effect, they should also respect the rules of Kickstarter and not use it in such a fashion.

Lionel

On July 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm

What this article fails to mention is that Jerry, and Penny Arcade as a whole, is one of the big reasons Kickstarter has become so popular and why so many projects have been successful. There have been projects that next to no one knew about, and then Jerry would tell everyone to check it out, and the donations would skyrocket. So, saying they’re taking advantage of the culture is pretty silly, because they’re one of the biggest contributors to it.

JC

On July 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

Nice article, diplomatic but also pointing out that this is in essence wrong.

Basically a kickstarter to remove adverts from a website? If anything the article is to kind and soft on the bizarreness of this kickstarted being either attempted or allowed.

Being paid to not host adverts on their site will allow them more creativity? Pull the other one.

Also as another comment mentioned, since bringing attention to a very bad example of a kickstarter project how about bringing attention to a good one, or a roundup of a few good ones.

Veee

On July 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm

“What this article fails to mention is that Jerry, and Penny Arcade as a whole, is one of the big reasons Kickstarter has become so popular and why so many projects have been successful.”

So what you’re saying is they should be compensated additionally for the time they’re already compensated for through their ad network when they get massive traffic and hits to those articles via redirects and citation backlinks? Regardless of directing community there it’s not owed to them to have this approved, where was the point established that without kickstarter their project would fail? PA is a thriving company reaching out to do conventions, editorial, comics and merchandise and they do it successfully.

“There have been projects that next to no one knew about, and then Jerry would tell everyone to check it out, and the donations would skyrocket. So, saying they’re taking advantage of the culture is pretty silly, because they’re one of the biggest contributors to it.”

And here’s where you jump the shark and skip the point, no one has a problem if PA wanted to fund a new project or hell even a new game. Instead they’re seeking to earn some vacation time for a year and remove ads from the pages for as long as the public will keep buying into it as they already noted.

On top of that they’ve obviously seen some of the issues from the community as they keep trying to dogpile on new incentives to make it less about the original goal which still remains. Try to stick to the topic though instead of rallying off about how they’re owed this, no one in the industry is owed anything, that’s why everyone continues to push forward.

Salgood Sam

On September 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The false proposition here is that Kickstarter or other sites like it were exclusively only for projects that had not chance of sustaining themselves commercially. That’s not true. What it was designed to do is help in those cases potentially, but also simply allow creativity to engage an audience with less risk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nk2aGWzcKY

And that’s pretty much what Penny Arcade is trying to do. Maintain what they perceive as a purity of their efforts in exchange for less work and risk via audience support. You may not like what Penny Arcade offers. To honest i’m sort of neutral, talented guys i think but i’m not a gamer so i don’t go there much. But there is an audience for that, like it or not. Kickstarter is allowing them to have a more direct relationship with them this way. And yes save them some risk and effort.

Men Toms Classic Shoes

On July 6, 2013 at 2:50 am

Daily shoes Summary is definitely starting to feel somewhat outdated