Following the debacle of Mighty No. 9’s launch, we thought it would be fun to discuss Kickstarter as a means of funding game development.
What have been your experiences with Kickstarter?
I chose not to back Mighty No. 9 because i did not really care about it and I am glad I felt that way. However, I too am still waiting on kickstarter games, some of which have been in production for much longer. My first kickstarter game was A Hat in Time and I am still waiting although thankfully recent news seems to imply it might be out later this year. There are 3 other games I put money into. A 2D platformer called Nefarious which is apparently still in production but I have heard nothing from in a while. Then Shantae ½ Genie Hero and Yooka-Laylee which both have release dates for less than a year away. I almost always just give enough to get the game but with A Hat in Time I also have some physical rewards coming.
I haven’t backed a single project on Kickstarter. Honestly, I feel there are just way too many risks with the platform to justify an initial investment (especially one with no return). The consequences for not delivering through with a Kickstarter are just not there. Recently there has been a trend of high profile people turning to Kickstarter to fund their projects. Maybe I’m a little naive, but wouldn’t most of those people be able to fund their projects without it? Seriously, Shenmue 3 couldn’t get funding through normal routes? It had to be announced as a Kickstarter on Sony’s stage at E3???
Mighty No. 9 was the first kickstarter I’ve ever done, and from a backer POV, it’s been positive in terms of getting rewards and such. Other kickstarters I’ve done were Shenmue 3, Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained, and I’ve had no problems with the actual service. I usually back to the online code tier though, but for Mighty No. 9 I gave enough for quite a few physical rewards.
I haven’t backed any projects on Kickstarter yet, though I have come very close to throwing my money at a few things. My initial reservations with the platform were that your pledge was not a guarantee of a finished product and backer rewards were not really enticing enough to make me want to invest. There’s also the prospect of swindlers running off with your hard earned dollars but then there’s also many successful and amazing products that were only made possible by Kickstarter.
I probably will do some pledging in the future, just have to do some browsing…
What are the strengths of Kickstarter?
It allows developers to get investors not just from big companies but from the general audience. This allows for more indie developers to get their start and follow their dreams while supplying fans with games that they actually want.
It allows projects that might not have been funded, to find finding. It allows indie developers to stay more indie. If the developers have good communication and are trustworthy, then it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Besides the obvious of getting more funding for a project, it also allows studios to establish a good communication line with consumers and the fanbase. Bloodstained for example ran their excellent social media campaign reward system, which helped increase more interest and hype, which in turn helped get more funding.
I find Kickstarter’s greatest strength to be the degree of communication it encourages between developers and their audiences. The Kickstarter platform isn’t simply “cutting out the middleman”. By self publishing you’re losing access to valuable resources like QA, marketing and because of that the communication between developers and audiences is vital. The audience becomes the QA through alpha/beta testings and early access and the audience directly affects marketing campaigns and social media exposure.
What are the weaknesses of Kickstarter?
Too many to list. The site touts that it allows the community to invest projects, but in the end doesn’t treat them like investors. Essentially, creators will still get all the profit from sales thus allowing them to have their work paid for, and then some. In regular business, the investors would get some return for putting money forward.
In addition, there is little quality control — it relies too much on good faith. What happens if a project doesn’t live up to expectations? If it was a normal business, then it would be given an extension, or reworked. This isn’t an option with people who invest with Kickstarters, because in the end the backers are just consumers. There has been some examples of Kickstarters working closely with their backers over the content, but that’s 100% up to the creators, and is NOT a requirement.
It seems lately that a lot of people are using Kickstarter to build hype for their game. I see this as a dangerous trend as people are sold on proof of concepts.
Not enough regulation on projects are enforced, and backers are often times treated as just consumers, not investors, which can create a disconnect between what they backed and what they’ll get.
My opinions reflect that of my peers. As Push stated before, Kickstarter relies almost entirely on good faith and that’s where a lot of the problems come in. It’s practically GoFundMe with better branding and the added promise of exclusive swag, there’s little to no actual regulation on Kickstarter’s behalf when it comes to delivering a final product or ensuring that the project is even finished. Everybody’s heard their fair share of Kickstarter horror stories, I’m sure.
What would you like to improve about Kickstarter?
In terms of general kickstarter I think a money-back system if promises and stretch goals turn out to be nothing but lies is a feature that is needed. In regards to just gaming though I think a stronger proof of concept should be supplied. A playable demo or a video. Too many times have we gotten the ambitious developer asking for money who actually does not know how to code.
Less proof of concept ideas, and more projects with a solid base already, whether that’s gameplay or a demo, something for people to see this project is worth investing in. Additionally, better security for the backers in case a project folds or fails, perhaps a money back option if you’re unhappy with the direction a game has taken.
Perhaps a terms of service change is in order. I would like to see Kickstarter themselves assume a more regulatory role and have monthly updates become a requirement for all project leads (failure to do so resulting in the loss of funding). I would generally like to see loss of funding used as a sort of deterrent to keep all but the most serious projects off the platform.
I like Kickstarter on paper but it is failing in practice. It should be something used by only independant developers to start their careers. The fact that Sony think it is ok to use it to fund Shenmue 3 really annoys me and I think it shows that Kickstarter has become too expected at this point.
Any system like this has pros and cons, and a lot of that truly depends on the people using Kickstarter to fund projects. It’s easy to exploit, but there are people and groups that have used it for good reasons and made great things. Hopefully in time there’s a better connect between Kickstarter, Creators and Backers though but overall, I think it’s been generally a good thing and can continue to get better.
Great idea, poorly executed. While the service surrounding Kickstarter on the website end of things is done very well, the business model could use improvement. If Kickstarter had some more backer protections I could get behind it completely.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!