The Gaming Nature Of Kickstarter


The way we make and play our video games sure has changed over the decades. The art form is barely a half-century old, and we’ve gone from a basic digital Tic-Tac-Toe made by advanced mathematicians to the potential of completely 3D games powered by digital cloud storage by coders in their homes. Commercially, the change has been from publisher-backed games made by development studios only to allow indie developers to sell their games digitally. The newest development in game creation is through crowdfunding, most notably made possible by Kickstarter.

The big question, however; is it good to have established developers ask for money upfront from gamers?

I’m not saying that Kickstarter in itself is a bad thing. They’ve helped fund over 18,000 projects with the help of over 2.2 million people chipping in over $319 million last year alone. But the problem is that people who have been making millions of dollars themselves over decades of experiences, partnerships and connections are taking the opportunity away from the little guy. Those indie visionaries need the money from the crowd to upstart their business, while developers like Obsidian and Double Fine could reach out much more easily to publishers to make their games.

Full Disclosure: I pledged money to the Project Eternity/Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter project almost a year before I had ever professionally written about video games in any form, let alone for

I want to touch on Double Fine’s game more closely. It raised over $3.3 million on Kickstarter after asking only a paltry $400,000 in comparison. It seemed to be a huge success, helping to create a platform for established developers to escape the oppressive publishing executives that are known to tamper with a game’s progress. They stated that their projected release date was for October 2012, a date that has come and past over eight months ago. In fact, they decided to instead break up the game (now titled Broken Age) into two parts, the first part projected for release on Steam Early Access in January 2014 (15 months after the initial projected date) because they needed more money. The money received from part 1 will allow them to provide a game update for part 2 sometime in 2015.

A game that received 834% of its requested funding is going to be over 15 months late in providing half of the promised content and there’s little that Kickstarter backers can do about it, as long as they complete their intended project. Tim Schafer, game designer and founder of Double Fine, would never be able to pull a stunt like this if he were being funded by a publisher. They would have pulled the project and saved their assets, instead of letting down the 87,000+ backers of his Broken Age project. To be completely over budget when you started off with a much larger budget than expected in the first place is truly unacceptable behavior, especially from developers that have been through the game creation process before. They should know better.

But that’s the nature of Kickstarter; nothing is guaranteed. People buy more into the idea than the people involved. It’s difficult for each backer to look into Double Fine and see that they have a history of being late, missing every milestone and overspending their budgets on previous titles because of the nature of crowdfunding. Now the backers only have hope that the millions-in-dollars-backed development team gets their game out in time for January 2014 on the same word that led to its delay.

But what’s most intriguing about this turn of events is what the backers themselves have been saying on the Kickstarter comments section for the project. The majority of them are angry, some to the point of requesting refunds. But there are some holdout backers who are still defending the delays, to mind-boggling ends. Backer DestructoDisk:

"I definately [sic] am on board for the long haul. This game looks amazing! just the small little sections i’ve seen is making my head spin. These guys/gals really are putting in everything they have and it totally shows.I read an article on [Engadget] this morning that had me really annoyed. I’ve totally been onboard from day one. Delay? Overshot the time alotted? [sic] who gives a monkey’s! For the amount i paid it was worth it for the documentry [sic] alone. More than anything now i ‘WANT’ to give more money to Double fine. For once i feel like a part of a comunity [sic] helping to make a game, not just an End User that picked something up from a store."

This brilliantly sums up what it does to a gamer when they invest their money into a project; they can become borderline delusional. When you put your money behind something you believe in, you have to overcome the negativity and stay positive as a means of preventing self-realization. Instead of purchasing a game and playing it to decide if you like it or not, you’re already biased to the point where you don’t see the flaws in the process. You convince yourself everything is fine instead of admitting that you were made to look like a fool with your own money.

The worst part of it all is that Double Fine knows that their fans will never learn. That’s why Double Fine launched yet another Kickstarter project last month for an entirely new game called “Massive Chalice,” this time asking for $725,000. They raised over $1.2 million to complete a new game by September 2014 despite being months behind in their current project. While they stated that both games are on completely separate teams, it just goes to show that they are driven more by the hunger of money than to get their projects done on time. They could have easily delay this project announcement until after Broken Age was completed and reassign the team to help finish the game. It’s a giant middle finger pointed directly at the original game’s backers, and it’s a testament to the battle of ideology over logic made by the gamers.

I’m completely supportive in giving people a chance to follow their dreams by supporting indie gaming projects. Oculus Rift and the Ouya are excellent examples of Kickstarter success stories affecting the gaming industry in various ways. In the end, it’s your money. If you want to support big name developers, it’s up to you to make sure they are trustworthy. Just don’t be surprised if they let you down.