Is Kickstarter really good for gaming?


Kickstarter has been live and 'kicking' for a while now and it's certainly become the vogue way of having your dream project get off the ground. It's allowed people to setup the businesses they always wanted and complete projects that without funding simply wouldn't have been possible.

However there's a problem with Kickstarter. As it's grown in popularity certain trends are emerging that - I think - hold a worrying future for it.

First up, is the obvious reduction in interest that is beginning to set in among the funding public. At this point, most people that are happy to pledge money to a future cause have invested in several already. That's money they may not see the fruits of for weeks, months and in the case of some games like Star Citizen, years. That's fine on its own, but these people aren't going to keep giving money to causes without seeing a payoff. Those people are done. Their wallets are tapped.

We saw this when Kickstarter launched in the UK. It didn't do anywhere near as well as was expected and British projects struggled to take off in the way American ones did.

This is most evident with the status of Peter Molyneux's Project Godus, a game that purportedly will allow for a rebirth of the god sim, using games like Dungeon Keeper, Black and White and Populous for inspiration. These are some of gaming's most loved titles from yesteryear and even with a man at the helm like Peter Molyneux, Godus only just managed to meet its funding goal.

The bottom is already dropping out of the crowd funding phenomenon and we have barely gotten started.

However once you do get started, if you've funded yourself through Kickstarter, I'm worried about the pressure developers are putting themselves under. Anyone that's seen the Indie Game documentary that follows the Fez guys around for a while, it's clear that building an indie game is mind blowingly stressful. Simply dealing with the hype and delays of a game is hard enough – imagine piling on the pressure of having people's money before giving them much to play with?

But what about the games that don't reach their goal? What about that pressure? You've conceptualised your idea, you put it out there and nobody is interested. Maybe your pitch was bad, maybe it was too expensive or too cheap, maybe the rewards sucked. Whatever the reason, part of the developer will be thinking that it's because nobody wants to buy the game. Potential investors may think that too.

Ideas that peak too early are doomed to fail. Kickstarter has the potential to bring attention to projects too early in their infancy and like 90% of Hollywood child actors, they're done before they've fully matured.

Another problem with the crowd funding model is that it prioritises style over substance. While a great idea is what really secures the pledges, it's not often possible without a good video, a solid rewards setup and a personal yet professional style.

We’ve talked about the dangers of this sort of thing before when discussing Greenlight, but to sum it up in a short sentence: Kickstarter by its very nature is funding games that look the best, not the ones that necessarily are the best. A good pitch, does not a great game make.

So Kickstarter, is it good for gaming as a whole? I'm not so sure. I think it certainly has brought about some very interesting developments, but it's also promoting a culture of game development that whether it lasts or not, could damage the industry in many ways.

What do you guys think?

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