Why I’m Done With Kickstarter

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Published by GameFront.com 5 years ago , last updated 2 months ago

Posted on July 3, 2013, Ron Whitaker Why I’m Done With Kickstarter

Kickstarter has become a powerful force in funding games, but I’m done backing projects.

When Kickstarter launched in 2009, no one could have known the huge effect it would have on gaming. Some small games popped up on there from time to time, but it wasn’t until February of 2012, when Double Fine Productions launched the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter (now known as Broken Age), that things went big. Thirty days and $3.3 million later, Kickstarter was a brand new platform for funding not only indie games, but larger projects as well.

Fast forward to today, and we’ve seen games from Obsidian Entertainment, inXile, and even a second title from Double Fine funded through Kickstarter. There have also been a large number of smaller titles that have been funded the same way.

Last night, Double Fine sent a message to backers of Broken Age (of which I am one), explaining that despite receiving over eight times the funding it originally requested for the game, Double Fine wasn’t going to have the money to complete the game. It also outlined a plan to raise the necessary funds using game sales through Steam Early Access. Whether that will be successful remains to be seen, but this news was the last straw for me. As of today, I’m officially done backing projects on Kickstarter.

You see, backing a game on Kickstarter makes you, the backer, the de facto publisher of that game. Unfortunately, you don’t have the power that publishers do. You can’t cancel the game if it’s off track or over budget. You can’t exert any measure of control over the development process, and you don’t get to see any work in progress that isn’t spoon fed to you by the developer. You’re basically assuming all the risk with none of the benefits, except that at some undefined point in the future, you’ll get a game and some swag. Maybe.

That’s right, there are NO guarantees on Kickstarter. Sure, the terms of use for project creators say that projects must fulfill what they say they will, but as any business owner can tell you, there are a lot of loopholes that can pop up in the process. Regardless, the expectation is that when you make a pledge, you’ll get what you agreed to on the date you were told you’d get it. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case on Kickstarter. Project delays are common, and as we saw today, sometimes even the most experienced project directors and companies don’t always get it right.

Today’s news isn’t the first time I’ve been down on Kickstarter. I’ve spoken loudly before about my belief that there’s a spectacular crash on the horizon for the service, and that I think that all it will take is one well-placed failure to irrevocably damage customer confidence in the service. I’ve heard those same thoughts echoed by developers using Kickstarter.

“But Ron,” you say, “these sort of risks are inherent when you’re funding a creative endeavor.” Sure, I get that. I also understand that you might be completely comfortable with those risks, and that’s fine. Personally, the whole Kickstarter craze has given me a new appreciation for the people whose job it is to vet projects at a game company. That is one group of people who earn their money. It’s also a job I really don’t want.

That’s why I, as an individual and a gamer, am making a choice. I’m not funding any more Kickstarter projects. I’ll still keep an eye on the service, and I’ll use it as a way to see what’s coming up that I might want at launch. But I’ve decided that I’m not going to provide speculatory funding for games anymore. I’ll do my funding of games the old fashioned way: on Steam, or at retail, where I can see exactly what I am paying for, and get it immediately.

Read more of Ron Whitaker’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @ffronw and @gamefrontcom.

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