Donating to a Kickstarter campaign is a gamble

A wise man’s adage says that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Some might consider the idea of donating money to an anonymous person on the Internet to create art, music, a movie or a video game a crazy idea. Yet people are donating millions of dollars to crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter every year. They want to feel like they were a part of the process of producing a work of art.

Not every project gets funded, and not every project goes as planned.

 

 

But what happens when a game’s development goes south? The problem becomes a sense of entitlement. Where does one draw the line between being a backer, an investor or even a de facto publisher as Ron Whitaker from Game Front put it?

Kickstarter’s goal is to provide a pipeline for people to fund creative projects. If you have a reasonably good creative idea, odds are, there’s someone out there willing to give you money to see it to fruition. It isn’t the first crowd-funding website, but it certainly is one of the most popular thanks in large part to video games.

Over 3 million backers pledged $480 million to projects in 2013 according to Kickstarter. Internet culture has bred people to seek out the negative in anything and take it to the court of public opinion online. This mentality is part of the disconnect that occurs between backer and creator.

Double Fine Productions set a new level of expectation that Kickstarter called the “blockbuster effect” after a successful campaign raised $3,336,371. Its target goal was $400,000. The stakes were raised as more developers took to Kickstarter to raise millions of dollars.

Double Fine drew the ire of the public when they announced the scope of their Kickstarter-funded project, Broken Age, had become too large to meet with the expectations of a $3.3 million game. They needed more funding, so they went to Steam Early Access and released a half-done version of the game to generate revenue. It turns out they were able to create a critically well-received game.

Soul Saga’s Kickstarter earned over three times Disastercake’s target of $60,000. As with many projects that have cropped up since Double Fine opened the floodgate, it appeals to the nostalgia in gamers by promising a Japanese style role-playing game inspired by PlayStation classics. Disastercake is made up of one developer, Mike Gale, and there has been some skepticism lately about the status of his project.

Gale’s only response thus far has been to privatize his forums and refrain from making any public comments. It could simply be a case of someone not knowing how to handle the public relations surrounding his project or “Soul Saga” could very well be in danger due to mismanagement of its funding. Whatever the case may be, every contribution was willingly made knowing the risks versus rewards.

Kickstarter does not guarantee delivery of a project, nor should it. It is spelled out clearly they act as the middleman between backer and creator. The only thing that is a constant with Kickstarter is that the backer is freely donating money to a project so they are assuming the risk of contributing to a project on which a creator could fail to deliver.

This is the way it should be in order for crowdfunding to maintain its integrity. Imagine having hundreds or thousands of bosses. Creators would spend more time in development trying to appease those who may not agree with their vision or how the money is spent.

The core concept is to give a creator an avenue for securing funding for their project, not take on as many people as they can to act as de facto publishers. If that’s the case, they could have simply gone to a traditional publisher to begin with.

Creator’s shouldn’t be absolved from not finishing their project. Kickstarter has guidelines for creating a campaign and tries to vet a project to the best of their ability and for the most part have been successful at it.

Backers simply need to accept the risks of the gamble and butt out of the actual production process or chalk it up as a loss and move on.

You can reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike