If you’re a budding entrepreneur, have an idea for a board game you’d like to make, or have some other project and just need some money to get it off the ground, Kickstarter is the most popular platform to get your project noticed, and hopefully backed. Founded in 2009, Kickstarter has funded nearly 100,000 projects successfully, totalling just over two billion dollars pledged by backers. Everyday folk like you and me.
Kickstarter provides creators with a singular place to put their ideas to the public. Each project typically includes a detailed description of the project and where the creative team is at. Once prospective backers have decided if they want to put their hard-earned cash behind the project, they can pick from a range of tiered rewards. For Video Game projects, the lowest tier reward is usually something small, like “get your name in the credits”, while the top tier is usually something like “meet the dev team with a tour of the office”, or “have a character named or modeled after you in the game”.
On the whole, Kickstarter can be considered a great platform for people to realise their dreams, but over the past couple of years, it seems like Kickstarter is being used by more established companies to either test the waters to see how popular demand for their product is, or, to be completely cynical, to simply get more money from the community that already supports them. To me, this seems like a misuse of what started out as a platform for everyday creators – to help make their dreams come true.
While there’ve been some great projects that have been funded on Kickstarter, like Pebble Time, Exploding Kittens, and Pillars of Eternity, there have also been a number of projects that were either fully funded, or well exceeded their funding goals and yet still failed to deliver. While Kickstarter boasts that the failure rate on projects delivering a reward is only 9%, once a project has reached its funding goal, your money is at the mercy of the project you have backed. So how do you know you’re going to get what you paid for? The short answer is, simply, you don’t.
In 2014, a company called Epic Minds raised $73,470 to create a ‘90s-inspired action adventure game called Midora. For the first year, things seemed to be going along fine, until an update from the developer let their 3,359 backers know that they had run out of money and were seeking investors to help them finish their game. Unsurprisingly, they failed to gain more backing and the project was canceled, leaving everyone out of pocket. Epic Minds has recently released an update announcing a plan to offer refunds, but only once the developers themselves are able to get their own finances back on track – so who knows how long that will be.
You could argue that someone who’s been floating around Kickstarter for a while could have seen this coming. A studio with no actual shipped product behind them, a goal that would barely pay two people’s wages for a year, and a general lack of experience are all things to be wary of. But not every situation is as easy to pick.
Another project from 2014, The Unsung Story, managed to pull in a whopping $660,126 by the time the campaign came to a close. WIth the backing of a company that has a handful of mobile titles to their name, Playdek convinced 15,824 people to hand over their hard-earned cash, with the promise of delivering a rich and diverse tactical RPG, and so far they’ve missed their launch date by over 6 months, with minimal communication from the developers – and nothing in recent months (when they promised monthly updates). While this project hasn’t officially been cancelled, the signs aren’t good, and it just goes to show that even when a project exceeds their own goals, delivery is not guaranteed.
One of the more interesting stories of late is that of Ant Simulator. ETeeski ran a Kickstarter offering tutorials, art packs, and other assets, with a small video at the end showing off a game that was created in 48 hours, called Ant Simulator. It’s hard to tell how much money was sourced for Ant Simulator, as it seems most came from Paypal donations and undisclosed investors. One of the developers, Eric Tereshinski, is shutting down the project, claiming that his business partners and ex-friends spent most of the company’s money on “liquor, restaurants, bars, and even strippers”. At the time of writing, the business partners have responded, saying that the claims are blatant lies. From a business perspective, people are claiming embezzlement and fraud, but the bigger picture here is accountability.
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I do believe in the Kickstarter platform and the great successes that have been funded through it. In the interests of transparency, I have personally backed a few projects, and while I haven’t received anything yet, the updates are still coming and the projects seem to be on track.
So where do we go from here? Should we steer clear of Kickstarter altogether? Do we go back to trawling the internet for projects to back? I don’t think that’s the answer, but I do think you need to keep a few things in mind before you back a project:
- First and foremost, nothing is guaranteed. Don’t back a project expecting that you will end up with the final product. You’re taking a risk making an investment, and sometimes they fall through.
- Do your research. Look into the company that’s posted the project. Do they have a track record at all? Do they have a history of unfinished projects?
- Don’t back a pure idea. If all someone is able to provide is a vague description of what they would like to be able to do, it might not be the best idea to back it. Go for projects that have a prototype or that seem like they have some business acumen if you want a better chance of seeing an end product.
With these few pointers in mind, I hope you can find some passionate people with some great ideas that you are willing to put your hard-earned cash behind. Kickstarter is a great platform where the people decide what they want to see funded and you can help make it happen.