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Is Kickstarter Really Good for Gaming? Maybe Not

A look at Kickstarter as a fundraising platform for gaming.
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

When Keiji Inafune announced Mighty No. 9 on Kickstarter I immediately thought of my glory days of gaming. As a ’90s kid I remember playing MegaMan X on my Super-Nintendo. I began to reminise about how I got my ass kicked by Sigma and my first time meeting Zero. I pledged $20 immediately in the anticipation that Mighty No. 9 would meet its $900,000 goal and I would be able to relive those childhood moments of my past.

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A day later I canceled my pledge.

What was the turn-around you might ask? It’s really hard to explain or point to one factor but I guess I’ll start off with the beginning.

Kickstarter is a good platform for indies

Don’t get me wrong, I think the concept of Kickstarter is fantastic. It allows people who have good ideas to ask the community to fund them. A great deal of these ideas, particularly the game centric ones, would not be able to come to light without crowd sourced funding. Looking for a game that’s a side scroller like Metroid but carries the same atmosphere as Dark Souls? Ghost Song should be up your alley. How about a miniature war game where you take control of armies and duke it out on the battlefield? Wrath of Kings gots you covered.

There is no denying that Kickstarter can generate the funds to push out projects to completion. Just look at Torment: Tides of Numenera and Project Eternity. Both projects have raised millions on Kickstarter and continue to be supported by fans.

But how successful are projects like these after they reach their funding goal? Many times games have been delayed on Kickstarter because they received “too much” money and the developers now have to push a game back because they tried to do to much. That in addition to being unable to deliver on some of the rewards they promised to give to backers.

There is no denying that Kickstarter can generate the funds to push out projects to completion

Let’s get to the heart of the problem

It’s one thing for an unknown indie with little capital trying to get their first game off the ground to be on Kickstarter. It’s another thing when you have established game companies with several Triple AAA titles under their belt and a publisher to beg me for money. Why should we as gamers have to fund your idea and pay for the development cost and purchase it when it comes out? Why should we buy something that may never see the light of day?

Say what you want about publishers, but they keep game development on a tidy tight timeline. When the publisher gives money to a game company, they expect the game to come out at a specific time. When said game company doesn’t have that over-sight to hold them accountable to a release date, they can release the project whenever they want. Looking for that new DLC? Gotta wait. Want that new patch to fix that game breaking bug? Gotta wait. Hopefully after the game developers are done counting your money they will move on to fixing any issues that may arise.

Ouya says hello

Remember that Android powered game console that promised to run high-quality games with incredible graphics and be open sourced? Remember when they said it’d only be $100? OMG look at the backers! The numbers are amazing! Everybody says it’s the next great console! LOL #XBOXANDSONYDEAD.

But numbers don’t lie. And Ouya’s numbers are yelling “FAILURE!” Stats show that most gamers are sticking with the free games on the Android Market and using it for mostly pirated games running on emulators. It’s no surprise that the highest selling game on Ouya, Towerfall, has made only $21,000. Another game Hidden In Plain Sight has about 1,900 copies sold with an income of $4,381. Although Ouya successfully raised over $8 million dollars it is still a failure. And I won’t get into the controversy of their “free the games fund” either.

Blind faith should only be for religion

When you do decide to back something on Kickstarter you are taking all the risk with little  chance for reward. If I were to come up to you on the street with a few sketches and tell you I’m coming out with a new anime series but I need $50,000 to get it started what would you say to me? What if I showed you some concept art and I even gave you a list of other illustrators I know who are working with me on the project? Would you go in your pocket and hand me the $60 or $100 I’m asking for?

When you think of Kickstarter, it’s very similar to the example I used above. The only difference is the person asking for money can dress it up better. They can upload concept art and half finished drawings to show you what the game might look like. They can talk about gameplay mechanics (which are just ideas at the moment) since they have absolutely nothing running on code and are months if not years away from a alpha build. Oh yea, here’s a real good one, they can even ask you to give them ideas on what the boss should be, maybe even ask for a couple of designs too. So not only are you paying for a game to be made they also want YOU to make it.

But it is your money

It’s your money and you’re going to do what you want to do with it. Going back to Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9, I plan on supporting that game when it is released. For me, there are just too many variables between now and 2015 for me to get on it. I do think indie devs deserve funding though because they are just starting out. Anyone else should just go the normal route and find a publisher to fund their game. Considering Mr. Inafune has Soul Sacrfice Delta coming out exclusively to the PS Vita, one thinks why he didn’t leverage his relationship with Sony to publish Mighty No. 9. In any event, I think we as gamers should not be used as atm machines whenvever a game dev gets a hunch that he/she wants ot turn into a game.

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