Penny Arcade’s Podcast isn’t right for Kickstarter

Penny Arcade has every right to run a Kickstarter but that doesn't make it RIGHT for Kickstarter

Penny Arcade has every right to run a Kickstarter but that doesn't make it RIGHT for Kickstarter

Penny Arcade has recently announced a second Kickstarter project as a follow up to their original one last year. This particular Kickstarter is for the Downloadable Content podcast (readers may note that this was a stretch goal of the original project that was funded). This move has been both wildly popular and extremely criticized.

There is a big sentiment that Kickstarter is for people that cannot afford to do their project without the help of others. I would certainly agree that that is what it seems the site was originally created for. I don’t intend to get into the philosophical arguments on who can and cannot use Kickstater today. I wanted to look more specifically at the way the project is being framed and how I feel it violates the spirit of Kickstarter.

One of the aspects that sets Kickstarter apart from other funding platforms is that it is all or nothing. The team had this to say about it:

All-or-nothing funding is a core part of Kickstarter and it has a number of advantages:

It’s less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it’s tough having $1,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.

The intent here is clearly for a project creator to ask for what they need to get a project done. Kickstarter would seemingly frown on the idea of a project that needed $6000 only asking for $1000 just to be successful. After all, once you’re successful, you are now obligated to fullfil. That is where I find myself in an interesting conundrum with this newest Penny Arcade project.

The initial ask for this project is $10. By setting the goal so low it is possible to read and implied message of “we don’t actually need any money, we’d just like it” and/or that “podcasts are basically free.” This also seems to violate the spirit of what Kickstarter is. I don’t feel that this addresses the all-or-nothing “core part” of the site. It is more let’s-see-what-we-can-get which is better served on a site like Indiegogo or doing their own donation drive at Penny Arcade itself.

I think this is partially why people have been so upset by the idea of this project. If the ask had been higher I think a lot of people wouldn’t mind as much. Of course you still have the “they have plenty of money” crowd but again, I’m not getting into that.

As a podcaster and successful Kickstarter project owner I’m perplexed by the strategy behind this. Podcasts DO cost money. I’ve been doing them for years and I’ve never tried to monetize them but rest assured that while they’re free to my listeners (and always will be) they are not free for me. Consider all of these items that go into podcasts:

  • Hosting space
  • Bandwidth
  • Equipment
  • Software
  • Time to record
  • Time to edit

These things all have associated costs. Some of those costs can be quite expensive too depending on the popularity of a show. I also consider my time valuable and, in the case of the Penny Arcade folks, they are paid and will be using work time to do these podcasts. Why wasn’t all of this explained and broken out? I can’t say but again this is why I take issue not with Penny Arcade running the project but in their implementation of it.

It just doesn’t seem to follow the spirit of what Kickstarter represents as a core value. I fear that because a big name was allowed to proceed in this manner other creators will assume that this activity has become acceptable. I also couldn’t blame them for thinking so. At this point what is to stop any other project from running with an exceedingly low goal just to be successful? Yes they may then fail on the back end but anyone that has tried to get a refund on Kickstarter will know it is exceedingly difficult. There IS risk when you back and I think this project has just increased that risk for backers.

Ultimately it isn’t good for future project creators and it isn’t good for the backers that support them.

About the author


Adam "Ferrel" Trzonkowski is a published author, long time podcaster, game designer, and executive producer at Epic Slant Press LLC. Through his blog, attending conventions, and other venues, Adam continues to be an active member of the gaming community and works toward his goal of bringing more positivity to guild leadership, raiding, and with life in general.