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Finance

Kickstarter: Funding revolution or digital panhandling?

Kickstarter: Funding revolution or digital panhandling?

Fri 23 Nov 2012 7:49am GMT / 2:49am EST / 11:49pm PST
FinanceDevelopment

As Braben and Molyneux start Kickstarters, the crowdfunding backlash gathers steam

Crowdfunding, on the face of it, is a brilliant proposition. Someone creative and talented comes forward with an idea that's innovative and interesting, but too risky or unusual to find funding in the traditional way; instead, they say to the public, "if you want this to be created, contribute a little cash to get it moving". No equity changes hands; some funders may be promised a finished product when everything is done, but it's not a commercial pre-order. Rather, it's an opportunity for the public at large to fill the role of patron, a position once reserved for wealthy aristocrats or government bodies.

"Where Kickstarters from the likes of Tim Schafer and Chris Roberts were met with almost universal enthusiasm, both Braben and Molyneux' efforts have attracted a fair share of criticism."

A lovely idea, then, and a fine example of how today's networked society can achieve in a matter of days things which would have taken years - or have been outright impossible - only a few short years ago. Gamers, particularly, have taken to the idea like ducks to water. Since Tim Schafer's crowdfunding triumph, raising $3 million to resurrect the adventure game genre - a genre largely abandoned by publishers - we have seen eye-watering sums raised for the Android-based Ouya games console ($8.5m), Obsidian Entertainment's RPG Project Eternity (over $4m) and most recently, Chris Roberts' new space combat game Star Citizen (over $6m). This is to say nothing of the countless smaller successes, which have seen developers pull in sums ranging from $5,000 up into the millions in order to fund a vast range of projects of varying ambition and scale.

In the past few weeks, two of the veterans of British game development have launched their own ambitious Kickstarter drives. First came Frontier Developments' David Braben, who is seeking 1.25m ($2m) for a reboot of his much-loved classic Elite; then, just this week, Peter Molyneux launched a drive to 450,000 ($720k) for a new god game in the mould of his earlier titles such as Populous and Black & White.

Reaction to the two drives has been fascinating. Where Kickstarters from the likes of Tim Schafer and Chris Roberts were met with almost universal enthusiasm, both Braben and Molyneux' efforts have attracted a fair share of criticism. Some of that criticism, in particular in the case of the Elite Kickstarter, is founded in the nature of the campaign itself - the Kickstarter page for Elite is extremely light on detail, seemingly resting on past glories, and asking for a truly huge amount of money (it's worth noting that none of the projects which eventually raised millions actually asked for millions in the first place).

That's solid, reasonable criticism. Even though Kickstarter is a new fundraising platform, there are some pretty clear rules and guidelines for making successful, appealing campaigns which can be discerned by looking at past successes and failures, and projects should expect to be pummelled with a fair degree of criticism if they can't be bothered to do their homework in that regard.

There is another branch of criticism, though, which is even more strident (although perhaps less impactful on eventual success - we shall see). This is the idea that Molyneux and Braben are successful and wealthy in their own rights, and that Kickstarter is not a platform they should be using. It's a point of view which portrays the pair as shameless panhandlers who could be funding these projects themselves, or seeking out more traditional sources of funding, rather than turning to the internet masses looking for donations. Kickstarter, the argument goes, is for risky or niche ideas which can't find publisher backing, or for creative people who don't have the contacts and resources to get a leg-up and an opportunity to build the product of their dreams. It's not meant to be a fountain of free money for established, successful creators. The arrival of Molyneux, Braben and their ilk pollutes the pure waters of the crowdfunding concept.

"Kickstarter, the argument goes, is for risky or niche ideas which can't find publisher backing, or for creative people who don't have the contacts and resources..."

This argument is pure nonsense, at least insomuch as the idea of Kickstarter being "all about the little guy" is concerned. Tim Schafer and Chris Roberts are established industry veterans with decades of work and several hit titles behind them; they unquestionably have contacts, resources and industry clout. Plenty of other Kickstarter projects have also been started by well-established and likely wealthy industry figures - Brian Fargo, who was boss of publisher Interplay back when it was one of the industry's biggest, raised $3 million for a new Wasteland RPG.

Outside of games, too, established figures have used Kickstarter to fund their efforts - musician Amanda Palmer springs immediately to mind. In all of these cases, the wealth or success of the creator has been a distant concern for backers, who care more about whether they want the product to be made or not. Why should Braben or Molyneux be judged any differently?

The narrow answer is that both of these projects have specific factors which make them less appealing to backers and more likely to attract noisy critics. There is a question of personality, especially with Molyneux, whose willingness to stick his head above the parapet over the years has earned him perhaps more than his fair share of detractors. At a more basic level, though, there is a simple question of risk here.

Kickstarter is all about risky projects, in theory (although the reality is that completely unknown newcomers are far, far less likely to be backed than established veterans, which punctures that idea somewhat), but those risks ought to be creative risks - projects that might not find an audience, or might never make it due to extraordinary creative challenges. In the case of Braben and Molyneux' projects, I'm not sure that the primary risks are creative. Rather, they are much more mundane management risks.

Put yourself in the shoes of a publishing executive (perhaps you're already wearing a publishing executive's shoes, either due to career choice or due to simple theft). Imagine yourself being pitched a new Elite game by David Braben, or a new god game from Peter Molyneux. Exciting! Except... That's a lot of money they want, and in the cold light of day, there are serious misgivings.

"Braben has supposedly tried to get a new Elite project off the ground on many occasions over the years"

Braben has supposedly tried to get a new Elite project off the ground on many occasions over the years - it's something that's been "in the works" for longer than I've been working in the games media, actually. Why will it come to fruition on this occasion, if it never did before? Molyneux, meanwhile, is notorious for over-promising and underdelivering on his technology and his design promises alike - he produces excellent games but still manages to disappoint people because they don't match up to the promises made. Why wouldn't his new god game, which seems terribly ambitious in some regards, hit the same problem?

If you're a publishing executive, you probably back away at that point in time - and as a publishing executive, you're in a much better position than a Kickstarter funder. You can demand detailed reviews of the design and the project management, pore over projections of costs and timelines, and insist upon milestones being reached in order to trigger the release of project funds. Kickstarter funders just watch their credit cards being debited and hope for the best. Whether or not the creator is wealthy and successful or a starving artist in a garret, this doesn't seem to me to be the kind of risk Kickstarter funders should be taking, or want to take. Creative risk, sure. Management risk? Leave that to the banks, the publishers, the professional investors.

That's the narrow answer. The wider answer is a little fuzzier, but worth pondering. We've all expected that a Kickstarter backlash would arrive sooner or later, although there's some debate over how serious it will be - some believe that it will set crowdfunding back hugely and turn it into a limited, niche area of funding, while others, myself included, think it will slow down the growth of the sector but won't reverse it. The assumption has been that this backlash will come when a huge, highly-funded and extremely high-profile project either fails completely or delivers an incredibly disappointing product, leading to widespread backer outrage. (I've got Ouya in the betting pool for that one, although it goes without saying that I'd be delighted to be wrong.)

"The assumption has been that this backlash will come when a huge, highly-funded and extremely high-profile project either fails completely or delivers an incredibly disappointing product."

Perhaps that's not where the backlash starts, though. Perhaps the backlash starts with the perception of greed and panhandling. It doesn't have to be true; the perception itself is enough. In the wake of the banking crisis and the faultlines it exposed in our society, people have, quite rightly and not quite soon enough, become deeply suspicious and intolerant of naked greed. Sometimes, that's a positive force; sometimes, though, it's deeply unfair and targeted at the wrong people.

Kickstarter and the crowdfunding movement as a whole aren't just about funding - they're about reaching out to the world and saying "we'd like to make this - if we do, will you buy it?" That's a question that even the wealthiest of developers needs to answer before building something. Kickstarter, in short, is meant to be about the products, not the people. Track records matter, yes - but bank accounts and other resources should not. You back things you love because you want them to get made. It's a simple, beautiful model, and whatever you think about the other failings of their projects, I think David Braben and Peter Molyneux have absolutely as much right to participate in that model as anyone else.

65 Comments

Tom Keresztes Programmer

692 348 0.5
StarCitizen was asking for two million - so they were asking for millions.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Rob Fahey Columnist, GamesIndustry.biz

76 190 2.5
Popular Comment
Not on Kickstarter. The Star Citizen funding drive is a bit of an odd (and very interesting) case, because by the time they launched a Kickstarter, they'd already hit their funding goals (to the tune of several million dollars) in a separate funding drive on their own site, focused heavily on the existing fanbase for Chris Roberts' games. They asked for $500,000 on Kickstarter (and got $2.1 million), but it was purely for stretch goals - the game was getting made anyway.

It's a cool test case for lots of ideas which people studying crowd-funding (myself included) have been tossing around. The basic psychology is that "people want to back winners"; even though logically it makes no sense, since your card doesn't get charged if the project doesn't reach its goal, people are wary of investing in something that isn't a clear winner, in funding terms. Once a project nears or passes the finish line and is clearly firing on all cylinders, people pile on the bandwagon. That's why small funding amounts and short funding periods are much better than dragging out huge funding drives over long periods - you're more likely to ask for $500k and end up with $2 million than you are to ask for $2 million and end up with $2 million, in other words. (Though of course, if you literally, absolutely cannot make your product without $2 million, you don't want to end up with a "successful" Kickstarter, beholden to your funders, and without the cash to make what you've promised. Then again, if your project actually needs $2 million, and you can't raise that through other, more targeted means (as Roberts did), you've probably got a bigger problem.)

Posted:2 years ago

#2
And now it would seem, the Oliver Twins are bringing the opportunity for Dizzy to return. Nice to see my first bosses I had in the games industry (back in 95) bringing back a classic. I think this and Elite (I also worked for David Braben on Elite 4 - and it simply could not find the finance model that David was looking for) are great examples of saying to the public "Hey, do you want to play the games you loved, but reworked with today's production values and technology?". I guess the simple reasoning is that nobody is forced to fund the titles. The interesting counter-point made above is in regard to pushing the smaller, independent titles away. Two Creature Studios is a new studio and we are privately funded. I really have to say that the idea of crowd funding is a very appealing model and something I will be looking at in future.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theolivertwins/dizzy-returns?ref=live

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 23rd November 2012 9:53am

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.

235 164 0.7
I take it you don't agree with Rab Florence then.

As far as Peter Molyneux goes, there's also the perception that he could have picked a better time. Curiosity's had all these high-profile problems and suddenly he's thinking about another game? Sure, such thinking is a bit unfair - it's perfectly possible to think of two things at once and it's sensible to secure funding for your next project whilst making your current one, but that's not how it's coming across.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 23rd November 2012 10:01am

Posted:2 years ago

#4
Sam, that is a tricky one. At the moment, I am on the fence as I really like the idea of some classic games that simply have not been able to receive funding via traditional methods being given the chance to get going. This really was the case with Elite 4 as I was art director on the project and never really built up the team I needed to make the game with David as the project simply didnt receive the funding it needed. That said, I think Rab has some good points. Not to make a witch hunt, but Kickstarter should not be the place for wealthy developers to flood with projects that could really have simply be funded internally. It isn't that at the moment, but it could become so.

I am happy to put this into practise myself, by having projects at my own studio being funded either internally or externally through investors. Then again, in most cases, this is exactly what Blitz and Frontier have done, presently do and will do in the future.

Personally, I want to see what effect these established crowd sourced titles have on Kickstarter and the smaller studios. If they sweep in and take the lion's share... could it really be the public have spoken, which is what Kickstarter is all about?

The one interesting factor will be: will these classic titles work in this day and age? What is popular in Television, Cinema and Games has altered over the last twenty years. I am interested to see if Dizzy, Populous and even my beloved Elite will work in this day and age. Especially when we have games out there that fit the bill already. Dizzy - We can say Ratchet and Clank and Mario have got that covered, Elite could really be Eve Online today and I am not sure I have found a modern Populous, any ideas?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 23rd November 2012 10:20am

Posted:2 years ago

#5
I think there's an interesting observation to be had in the way that American originated IP has been received on Kickstarter compared to the British. Maybe it's just reflective of differing culture, maybe us Brits just don't respond well to people asking for money up front? We do tend to be skeptical of successful people with large wallets in all walks of life, whereas it's a much more culturally accepted method of funding business and ideas in the States.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Richard Westmoreland Game Desginer, Exient Ltd

138 90 0.7
I'm actually a huge fan of Kickstarter and I've got about 20 funded projects on the go. I guess the big problem a few of my friends have with crowd funding is the lack of accountability the developers have with their 'investors', and I can see where they are coming from. If you want to get money from publishers then you have to have a clear business and production plan. You don't get the money in a lump sum, you get it in chunks, on milstones for deliverables. Crowd funding does not have this accountability to your investors.

All it takes is for one of the high profile projects to run out of money and fail for the bubble to burst and confidence to be lost. Personally I love crowd funding, I'd just like a little more regulation to make things safer for investors.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.

235 164 0.7
@Richard M Albon: Believe me, I'm on the fence too. I've spent the last few years watching more and more of my friends gather the requisite guts to do what they want and go indie. And I've seen pretty much all of them have to go back into paid work and put their own projects on the backburner (me, I don't have kids, so unlike them I can still use the evenings for my masterplan whilst working for someone else). Quite a few of them have tried Kickstarter or one of the other money-raisers, and as far as I know none of them have succeeded.

So there is a part of me that objects to the whales coming in and taking all the attention, so to speak. We can't really argue that the playing field is entirely level. But on the other hand it's not level in the app stores, online retailers or the high street either, and we're all prepared to give that a go without complaint. But then again, they don't have the moral dimension that Kickstarter projects have.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 23rd November 2012 10:27am

Posted:2 years ago

#8
Andreas, you have nailed something that really has made me think. The big name studios certainly do get the publicity on a Kickstarter project.

I feel the budget of 450k for Populous over 9 months is about right, in my opinion. Peter Molyneux did hire some industry heavy hitters (one of which is a very talented coder colleague of mine) and I would imagine that they are higher cost than the average start up salaries. Just guessing here.

This has been a very good article and has highlighted the UK Kickstarter pros and cons and really got me thinking.

Posted:2 years ago

#9
Richard, what also would happen if the studio were to go into administration? If there is a crowd sourced project on the go and the studio collapses, how on earth would that invested capital be returned? Are there provisions for this in Kickstarter?

I think what was raised above is that the larger companies entering the Kickstarter arena make it an uneven playing field. With PR directly controlled or indirectly just because of the known names behind it, there is a possible change coming to Kickstarter both over here in the UK and over the sea with the USA.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 23rd November 2012 10:32am

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Tom Keresztes Programmer

692 348 0.5
The one interesting factor will be: will these classic titles work in this day and age?
We will see. I agree with you on this, but i would like to see what they would come up with. The world changed since then, and they changed with it, too.

Posted:2 years ago

#11

Richard Westmoreland Game Desginer, Exient Ltd

138 90 0.7
@Richard M Albon

As far as I understand, if a project 'fails' then the company has a legal obligation with Kickstarter to refund their backers. If the company goes into administration, which is probably very likely if a project fails, then I doubt backers would get anything. As a Kickstarter backer you aren't a creditor, you are someone who is getting a reward for a donation.

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Tom Keresztes Programmer

692 348 0.5
That's kind of my point. Obviously this is personal opinion, but if you leave an established studio (and a high salary) to do something yourself, something you are passionate about and you want to achieve, and you are asking the public to fund it - should you expect to be compensated the same way?
Crowdfunding (fans) do not question the developer. Investors do. Star citizen tried to bring their customers closer so their voice can be heard.

Posted:2 years ago

#13
What's to stop a large company siphoning off free KS funding to pay the bills and use a skeleton staff to push a project slightly forward but have a easy ride?

Posted:2 years ago

#14
Rob's exactly right. There is no imperative for Kickstarter to be used for start-ups with little or no funds manned by starving homeless people. Whilst Kickstarter might have been designed to support innovative products, the reality is fewer people like new things than those that want to relive past glories. Braben wants to remake Elite and so do his fans. Same goes for Schafer, Molyneux, Cecil etc... And it is not wrong or immoral to ask fans for money to make something they want! But they do have to deliver. Some will and some won't. Making games is a hugely risky business and having the financial support of the fans at the beginning of development is a great way of reducing the financial risk. But it does not negate all risk. The games still have to be produced and delivered to a high quality, on time and on budget.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Eades on 23rd November 2012 11:41am

Posted:2 years ago

#15
But what mechanisms are there for a established studio through
Means of creative accounting to allocate - say 50% into their own coffers, staff and leave a set portion for the intended product. There is zero accountability. Zero

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Caspar Field CEO & Co Founder, Wish Studios Ltd

40 93 2.3
I hate to suggest this but there seems perhaps a rather stereotypical transatlantic difference in attitude. Successful American devs start projects on Kickstarter: American audience loves them for it. Successful British devs start projects on Kickstarter: British audience starts whinging, moaning and being resentful. Massively unfair or an ounce of truth?

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Cale Barnett Animator

29 31 1.1
Great article.
The question of Kickstarter being about more than just funding is quite interesting. Kickstarter was the direct inspiration for Greenlight, though it may do well to take inspiration back from Steams new service.
Give developers an option to source 'votes' instead of just money (much like Greenlight). If they reach a target (say 1m) they can take that to a publisher and say, "hey one million people may want to buy this game, will you fund it?".
That takes the management risk away from the crowd and may be an option more suited to an established dev, like Molyneux.

Posted:2 years ago

#18
I have no issue with Braben or Molyneux's projects as they are at the early stages which is why there's perhaps not that much information on them. They're risky niche projects that are simply not what big publishers are looking to invest in today. If anything those two project mentioned are exactly what Kickstarter was designed for.

My issue is that increasingly you see games that are pretty much complete that are using kickstarter as a way to generate pre-sales normally at a premium. They're really kickfinishing it. But even this is fine IMO as it's a way of gerenating revenue pre-release that can be then used for marketing avoiding the traditional need for a publisher.

If you don't want to donate you don't have to and if kickstarter gets the next Elite or Populus made then that's fantastic.

@Andreas - As for the comment that they shouldn't be earning proper salaries using kickstarter. I agree if they're owners/founders etc, however try getting something like Star Citizen made with a few of your friends who are willing to eat beans on toast while you do it. In reality you are going to have to hire staff and pay them, and they won't care if it's a kickstarter project or not.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Owens on 23rd November 2012 3:54pm

Posted:2 years ago

#19
What a situation - and what obscuration to avoid the reality:

- investors abandon investment in console content after sales slow down (down grade)
- publisher revenues impacted by growth of DLC and casual gaming (apps)
- studios crumble and debts mount rise over poor management decisions
- publishers block new IP to ensure their own core titles
- original ideas and popular concepts blocked by traditional industry
- media discredited as public find no real new commentary and advertorials

All this forces those with content and ideas (with genuine public appeal) to revert to other means of investment to create games, but amongst this there are also the questionable pitches that want to use KS funding to continue to pay inflated wages and hide failings. I agree that how much of the KS money will get spent on the project in question - and with no recourse for failure seems the perfect hideout for the failed!

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

270 618 2.3
I have been talking about this for a while with my staff and while I agree that there are no rules saying millionaires can't run a KS campaign, it does feel a little wrong to me in some ways. (not just regarding Braben and Molyneux)

There is no simple solution and I see this debate will rage on for a while because it is more about morals and emotion than it is about old school devs asking the normal folks to fund their projects. Maybe the main backlash is just simply a locational prejudice, or maybe it is a smattering of 'think of the little guy' driving this.

Have to see how it unfolds.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 23rd November 2012 3:42pm

Posted:2 years ago

#21
It would seem that Kickstarter is definitely going to be a point of interest over the coming months. If we see EA or Ubisoft asking for funds, then there is something afoot :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 23rd November 2012 3:50pm

Posted:2 years ago

#22
@Richard - I don't think they will use kickstarter par say, but I'm pretty certain they'll copy certain parts of the idea. From simple personalization (i.e. naming of characters etc) to the ability to be actively involved in the game design.

Think "American Idol" except for games.

Oh god, the thought of it.

Posted:2 years ago

#23
Personally I would like to see 100% accountability of folks who achieve their KS. All the proceeds should be openly shared, what percentage goes to wages, equipment, legal, etc to ensure nonprofit ate expenditure is made.

If the public are backers, then they should have full access to the books

Posted:2 years ago

#24

James Verity

132 25 0.2
think like the Dragons, if you have the money yourself why the hell are you coming here for our cash... the same can be said for some fund raisers on Kickstarter, your here to use other peoples money instead of using your own... Kickstarter needs to clamp down on this type funding and return to what it should be for...

if not heres an idea... pay the funders a share of the massive profits you make... and not use Kickstarter for getting money or loan for nothing...

Edited 3 times. Last edit by James Verity on 23rd November 2012 4:59pm

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,254 421 0.3
I think those saying that big hitters take attention and funding from smaller projects are ignoring a major reality. All the people who supported Double Fine or Wasteland weren't all looking through Kickstarter for a project to fund, and happened across the big project. A lot of people now funding games through Kickstarter either only discovered it, or only signed up, due to one of these projects, yet the people at Kickstarter said a very high amount of DF adventure backers went on to fund further projects.
Add to this Brian Fargo's Kick it Forward campaign, and the effort he has gone to to get his Wasteland backers to look at further projects, and the simple fact Kickstarter gives you further suggestions based on what you look at, I'm pretty sure a few smaller projects have benefitted. I know as a result of DFA and Wasteland 2 I have supported smaller games and comic books I otherwise wouldn't have ever seen.

As for the disparity in US and UK attitudes, the American dream is about success, our dream is to not run out of things to be curmudgeonly about. But I think also, as much as we respect at least some of past PM games, we don't trust him that much, whereas every one adores Tim Schafer.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 23rd November 2012 4:52pm

Posted:2 years ago

#26

Richard Milner Producer of Special Projects, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

2 0 0.0
I certainly agree with your point that Kickstarter is supposed to be about funding risky, creative projects, which a new Elite isn't.

However the large number of popular projects like boardgames and wargames models (non-digital stuff), which aren't principally artistic, shows there is a niche which is essentially pre-ordering items that would never get made by big companies, and small companies don't have the capital to produce.

In my view, Elite fits into that niche and I have joined the Kickstarter because I loved the game back on the BBC Micro and would love a good, modern version.

1.25 million isn't a lot of money for modern game development on consoles or PCs, though.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

Lee Walton Co-Founder & Art Director, No More Pie

36 11 0.3
The interesting part for me, is the recent addition to this argument: Dizzy, and Blitz Games. They are in theory a "successful" outsource, work 4 hire studio... but that doesn't produce a healthy enough profit to be put back into their own games? Or are they planning to spend a lot more than the Kickstarter budget on Dizzy? Quite a sad truth about a very competitive industry, that publishers pay a minimal amount for projects- and studios like Blitz can't manage to work within those funds and maybe save a little cash for their own projects. For their own IP- they are just as strapped for cash as any struggling indie.

Posted:2 years ago

#28

Carl Dalton Game develepor

3 10 3.3
Personally speaking it is starting to wear thin and smell of 'risk aversion' rather than 'creative innovation'.

The Blitz project is the final straw, they are running adverts for thier Kickstarter page! If they can afford run adverts for the Kickstarter project they can afford to not run those averts and ask for less money from 'the audience' to make the game. And, again personally speaking, if the projects are so important to the Olivers, Molyneux, Braben et al why aren't they risking their own money on them. None of those guys are exactly unheard of poor struggling obscure artists and could quite easily (and do) raise funding for projects through other more traditional (i.e. would have to actually pay the money back). No - it's starting to look like the projects are cynical attempts to get risk free funding, sorry if that rubs the wrong way, but it does.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Carl Dalton on 23rd November 2012 5:24pm

Posted:2 years ago

#29
There are also interesting legal questions that will arise around these campaigns over time. Since most of these efforts are essentially structured as "pre-purchases" of specific goods or services at the varied levels of contribution (rather than "shares" of equity in exchange for investment), it shifts the recourse for non-delivery into entirely different legal realms: false advertising, misrepresentation, use of public media, etc.

If a campaign is only promising to deliver t-shirts, posters and videos for donated amounts -- and MAYBE a finished game on top of that -- chances should be good that those "products" should be able to be created and delivered with the sums raised.

However, if the donation levels were tied to specific in-game content and that finished game is never completed and launched, then it calls into question whether there is exposure for class-action lawsuits to follow. That, in turn, would caution all such campaigns to carefully consider the legal structure of the entity -- hopefully never just an individual person -- that will be receiving the funds.

Another interesting aspect of crowdfunding is reputation. This process is all very public. A poorly thought out or run campaign... an inability to get off to a strong start and finish at or above the goal... and, certainly, any inability to eventually deliver as promised... will clearly have massive future impact on the image and reputations of those persons or companies behind it. Thus it has this additional high degree of risk associated with going the KS path.

Posted:2 years ago

#30

Christopher Garratty European Counsel, Electronic Arts

86 109 1.3
Lots of people here calling themselves Kickstarter "Investors". You aren't an "investor". You are a "donor" (or to use Kickstarter parlance a "backer") Kickstarter are incredibly careful to only use the term "backer" for a good reason. An investor has certain remedies and protections should their money be frittered away, they may get the physical assets and IP in the project transferred to them for example. If you donate to a Kickstarter Project, your money is gone. If you get the reward you signed up for, then great. If you don't, your only recourse is to try to sue the Kickstarter Project through the courts. Even then, Kickstarter themselves say "We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill." Of course if it comes to that, you are probably going to be at the back of a long long queue of companies who have some very well paid lawyers making sure they get theirs first. So I'd only expect to get back a few pence in the pound.

I'm not about to fund the PM Kickstarter, but only because I personally share some of the concerns raised in the article with regard to PM's Promise:Delivery ratio. I'm sure he thinks that he's going to deliver the god game to end all god games... I just don't know that I think that. If he does, I'll buy it once it is available via Origin. ;)

Posted:2 years ago

#31

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
Personally I think Kickstarter is great. I think it's fantastic that a lot of old-genres that aren't really commercially viable anymore, can see some level of resurgence because developers can find a way to get funding that would otherwise be unavailable, and a guarantee that people are actually interested in the game they want to make.

Similarly, it's difficult for more risky game ideas to get made nowadays, due to the explosion in game budgets.

Sure, if you fund a project there's always the risk that it won't work out, but that's the lesser of two evils in my opinion.

Posted:2 years ago

#32

Steve Nicholls Programmer

66 29 0.4
I have issue with them doing this when they can clearly afford to fund it themselves. It is pure greed and very shameful. It takes away from the real indie devs etc. It should not be used like this... I would have hoped for better from Peter and David.

Posted:2 years ago

#33
@Fred, spot on observation. The reason the UK KS took so long to get going was the legal issue of penalties and accountability.

This will be a big surprise for some of the studios / publishers that hope they can jump on to a KS project as a cheap and unaccountable way to raise funding. These companies will now be liable to complaint regarding:

-false accounting
-false representation / advertising
-illegal business practice
-breaking of employment laws
-miss-representation of business and activities
-reporting of responsible individuals (legal action)

This is not a investor ploughing in investment on a risk - this is a representation for crowd funding under the KS legal agreement - it may explain why some of these 'larger' projects are trying to hide the KS funding within their normal investment on other projects - hoping to create a rats nest to plough through if the projects fails.

I just say that if these guys think they can survive in the public sector if their hyped project fails for questionable reasons, then they may find they have something else coming (love to see the first KS publisher prosecuted over illegal representation!) - what the industry needs... 'accountability and responsibility'!

Posted:2 years ago

#34
Well - lets hope these folks stay on the thin and narrow strip of decent honest accountability,
and let rip the legal dogs of war if there is any more creative fudging. We do not need anymore scandals in UK or in the games sector

Posted:2 years ago

#35

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

580 322 0.6
Ahhh, yes....

Soon Kickstarter will be regulated up the asshole.

Then the only people who will be able to afford it are the least creative: the ones who have budgets to hire teams of lawyers.

And you will kill the very thing that made it creative.

Posted:2 years ago

#36

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer

580 322 0.6
Popular Comment
Remember folks...

You don't invest through Kickstarter.

You DONATE!

Posted:2 years ago

#37
Thats...almost like a national lottery :)

Posted:2 years ago

#38
To All,
Isn't it refreshing to have a reasoned discussion via the internet on a pressing and relevant matter to us all. Have a good weekend/holiday.

Posted:2 years ago

#39

Brook Jones Programmer, United Front Games

15 16 1.1
Interesting discussion.

IMHO, Kickstarter is not a zero-sum game -- the presence of established names on Kickstarter doesn't lead to a dearth of indie developers. There can be as many Kickstarters as there are people with Kickstart-able ideas. Nor does the presence of big-name projects "take money" (or media coverage, etc.) away from other projects in any meaningful sense -- people will fund what they want to fund, and media outlets will cover what makes sense to cover. It's silly to think that if the BBC hadn't reported on Molyneux's Kickstarter, they would have instead reported on some other small-scale indie project. If anything, coverage that brings people to the Kickstarter website for any reason is more likely to be a boon to small projects -- I've personally gone to look at a high-profile project in the past, seen a link to an interesting smaller one, and wound up backing it as well.

Kickstarter is intrinsically democratic; there's no need to wail and moan about who "should" or "shouldn't" be doing a Kickstarter. Just vote with your dollar. Back the projects you want to back, and don't back the ones you don't want to. If Molyneux can get $500K through Kickstarter, and deliver a final product that his backers are happy with, then why would he use his own money? He'd be a fool NOT to do a Kickstarter, and if his backers are happy with the end result, then who's to say anything untoward took place? Did he "rob" an indie developer of that $500K by "stealing" away their potential customers? Hardly. If your project can't attract backers, blaming other Kickstarters seems a feeble defense.

Of course, the primary weakness of Kickstarter is that there's very little accountability, and as a backer you have little or no recourse if you aren't happy with the finished product. However, I think this is largely mitigated by two factors. Firstly, if you're old enough to have a credit card, then you're old enough to take responsibility for your spending, and to understand that a product that doesn't exist yet, may in fact turn out not to be as enjoyable or as good as you imagine, and you should only spend that money if you're willing to accept the possibility of disappointment.

This doesn't account for the possibility of fraud or gross incompetence, but aside from the potential legal avenues that might be available if the behaviour were egregious enough, Kickstarter backers have one other fact on their side:

The internet has a long memory, and reputations are important.

The main reason that the big gaming Kickstarters thus far have been able to reach such staggering goals has been the reputation of the people involved. If (or let's be honest, when) a high-profile, high-bankroll Kickstarter flops badly, people will remember, and they will make sure the individual(s) involved have a very hard time in the future. It would be a serious professional liability for someone like Tim Schafer or Chris Roberts or yes, even Peter Molyneux, to release a sub-par product after a successful Kickstarter.

It doesn't mean it won't happen, but it does mean that they'd be foolish to take their obligations to their backers lightly.

Posted:2 years ago

#40

Jack Nilssen Independent Game Developer, Dark Acre

20 35 1.8
To me this just shows that being a legend in game development doesn't necessarily equate to philanthropic levels of wealth.

These people aren't rich, isn't that clear?

It must be a special kind of hell to be famous but not have overflowing coffers.

In the end, crowdfunding is a system like any other. If your product & pitch-person line up in a magical fashion that's thoroughly lubricated by the press, you'll get what you're asking for. Having so-called famous-folk participating in it can only be good for raising the overall legitimacy of things like Kickstarter.

I hope I never have to crowd-fund in these, my early days, but I wouldn't mind cashing in my social credit as I near retirement to the tune of several million dollars.

Posted:2 years ago

#41

Steve Nicholls Programmer

66 29 0.4
Actually they are quite rich, atleast peter.

Posted:2 years ago

#42
You dont get rich by not being shrewd..

Posted:2 years ago

#43
Seems simple enough to me- less restrictions to how the money can be used and less legal recourse to enable people to get their money back. Is almost like "free" money - might as well kick start on top of existing funding models.

Should people be able to kick start when they have the funds and they have essentially started anyway?

Posted:2 years ago

#44

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
There's a difference between being "rich" to the extent that you can have a good lifestyle, and being rich to the extent that you can afford to run a game-development budget out of pocket with no external funding.

Posted:2 years ago

#45

Maarten De Jong Marketing / Research partner, Strategy Guide

10 6 0.6
Kickstarter is great, but already flooded with projects that need donations. Just like other flooded platforms (iOS store, Google play) it's really hard to stand out .

Like Andreas Gschwari and others here mentioned, the Brabens of the industry have a track record and are able generate enough attention outside kickstarter. So projects that can't get the word out were maybe lucky in Kickstarters early days, but will be just another Kickstarter project when the platform totally floods.

But yes if you manage to find- and get the word out to your people, kickstarter is still a good tool to fund your project.

Posted:2 years ago

#46

Maarten De Jong Marketing / Research partner, Strategy Guide

10 6 0.6
UK interactive entertainment trade body (UKIE) was doing a survey on Business Models applied in the UK game industry. (which was mentioned on Gameindustry.biz) there was a section in the survey asking if Kickstarter would be a sustainable part of a business model for developers. I wonder what the results on that will be!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Maarten De Jong on 23rd November 2012 9:51pm

Posted:2 years ago

#47

Tim Hull Co-Founder, Stuntpigs Ltd.

24 2 0.1
So many great thoughts and ideas in this thread.

@Andrew Goodchild

Yes, I really liked Brian Fargo's "kick it forward", a % goes to other needy KS game projects, and it just shows what kind of person he is. It would be nice to see the other heavier hitters adopt this model because it would help create a self nurturing society within the industry. He did invite other developers to join suit, but I don't know if any did or not.

In general though indie startup developers should still see crowd funding as a great opportunity, it didn't exist before and I doubt it's going to disappear soon. It's true that it is hard to stand out, but I'm guessing a crowd funding site is always trying to think of ways to improve the click through for all projects.

My vision of the future is that crowd funding specifically for games will out perform all other projects and that one clever website is going to incorporate all the elements that many are suggesting here. Such as:

- Accountability (costs, milestones etc)
- Voting up concepts, features +
- Built in "kick it forward"
+ many more

The point is that all these additional tools will help the gamer and the developer connect, becoming more closely aligned and get want they want...kick ass games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Hull on 23rd November 2012 11:27pm

Posted:2 years ago

#48
Has KS really just shown the hole in the whole commissioning process?
Where once great ideas were thrown to the public from bed-room programmers and those that caught the imagination succeeded. It was when the publishers attempted to take control of the decontamination process that things got out of control. We now see a consumer game scene where 15% of what is being developed gets to the public,, and the big profits are for those that market, duplicate, distribute and package the product, rather than create the game!

The KS has attempted to allow the customer to take back control and focus on what they want - but with that they have scared the publishers and certain 'legends' concerned they will loose their control so we see these usual propositions and attacks on the process.

How about this for a wild idea - The Bank of Games! (BoG)
A escrow account accumulating payment for players to get game ideas turned into games, in a 'hot house' environment. Where KS is used as a donation towards getting a game at a price, the (BoG) would be a game channel where ideas are pushed out to recipients 'sharing' in the game created and circulated.

The idea is rough, but is created to try and stick a stake in the fake structure of the distribution model that has been erected by those that wanted to control the game scene- those individuals that still think the retail model needs to be retained, and are against per-owned.

Posted:2 years ago

#49

Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game

1,254 421 0.3
@Tim Hull. I know some have pledged to join, pretty sure Obsidian have.

Posted:2 years ago

#50
Nice thoughts, Tim!

Posted:2 years ago

#51
The idea of what KS represents to a new development community is in danger of becoming confused... if not hijacked!

I just learned that the Elite KS has now been added too by a separate Elite Book KS (based on the game) - that means if the KS on the game fails and the Book succeeded then we would be placed in a quandary.

I just hope that we see some level heads prevail over the placement of KS ideas - I don't want to see this become a failed project hub - as some have said that as Elite failed to get publisher support (for an unspecified reason) its recourse now to KS could be an issue?

NOTE - told you this was getting stupid - http://www.mcvuk.com//news/read/man-starts-a-kickstarter-to-fund-his-elite-kickstarter-pledge/0107005

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 26th November 2012 3:11pm

Posted:A year ago

#52

Steve Nicholls Programmer

66 29 0.4
That ks above should be removed. That's just a joke.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steve Nicholls on 26th November 2012 6:22pm

Posted:A year ago

#53

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,199 1,017 0.8
I think its undoubtedly a revolution.

Crowd funding isn't a brand new idea but this provides one of the best (if not the best) platforms for entrepreneurs, designers, developers and so on to get crowd funding in this way.

We could see some amazing new games and products, even resurrection of franchises that required funding to come back. OUYA was the first product that really got me interested in Kickstarter and with a good amount of thought and contemplation, I pledged for it and look forward to seeing the fruits of a community coming together to support and fund a fantastic idea and the product (us backers) we're looking for.

That said, like anything this popular and this influential, care is required. I feel mostly because a lot of money, time and hope is invested in Kickstarter,

The Tec Guy ~AC

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 26th November 2012 11:52pm

Posted:A year ago

#54
We have been here before @Adam; in the 80's we saw some early publishers asking for donations to complete game ideas (Bug Byte, Telecomsoft, Imagine, Ocean, and Software Projects - to name a few), looking at new ways to get the players to commit to buy games in development or suggest titles they wanted to see developed and 'advance purchase'. But after some fraud and issues of closing publishers before games were (started) completed the idea was abandoned.

Fundamentally, this was around the last time that the consumer game scene had a melt-down, as the investors saw that those that claimed to have the finger on the playing audiences pulse proved to be holding a dead body (look up Bullfrog and Bitmap Brothers for more info)! Though blowing $30,000 on 'bandersnatcher' is slightly different to blowing $100,000,000 on 'need for speed most wanted' or $40m on old Atari IP - the issues are still the same !

Regarding KS, the elephant in the room has to be... if Elite or Godsicle(sp) are so good why would they have been turned down by a number of publishers before they rushed to try and cloud source through KS? What is the underlying issue that had EA turn them down (along with others approached)?

Posted:A year ago

#55
@ KW Critical analysis and thought does not come supplied as standard at birth ;)

Posted:A year ago

#56
@Chee Each man is given his fair amount of common sense, some spend it differently to others :]

Posted:A year ago

#57
My mind is made up. This morning I saw 'Dizzy Kickstarter' advertised in the premium ad space on Develop Magazine's website. Have a look yourself.

If a project can afford to advertise pricy slots for itself, then it can afford to be funded internally. Remembering that these adverts are not for a game but for your attention to give money to make a game. This breaks what I personally believe KS is for. I just feel it is just a bit unethical to advertise it professionally.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 27th November 2012 8:32am

Posted:A year ago

#58

Steve Nicholls Programmer

66 29 0.4
Yea amazing how they can advertise just like that, I think it needs to stop. These guys are just using KS for risk free cash to fund themselves for free to make money for themselves.

Posted:A year ago

#59

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,199 1,017 0.8
@Kevin

As I mentioned in my post before, I don't think crowd funding is a new idea. I do however think Kickstarter is a better platform and that the industry as a whole has changed.

If games like Perfect Dark and Kameo were turned down internally at Microsoft and other potentially successful sequels turned down by other publishers, then how much hope is there for the average game to be accepted by a major publisher? To say risk aversion in the games industry is endemic at the moment would be an understatement...

The industry is getting more expensive and fussier on the whole when it comes to funding great new productions, especially if they're coming from a third party source with no 'big brand' name or proven design model.

Sure, we could deliver games direct to consumers on-line but then stores such as App Store and Steam came along offering a superior channel to facilitate this. Just as I feel Kickstarter is doing the same for crowd funding and in that sense it is revolutionary.

I'll also re-enforce, like anything you (the consumer) need to approach with caution but I feel its capabilities and potential are both undeniable.


The Tec Guy ~AC

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 27th November 2012 11:53am

Posted:A year ago

#60
@ Rich - I agree with some of your sentiments. I reckon you're not going to get the seasonal holiday cards from the Dizzy folks then :)

Posted:A year ago

#61

Brian Smith Artist

197 89 0.5
IMO it's not just the big failure we're all waiting on that could screw kickstarter for good. It's possibly a big success. A big success where a company has gone on to make huge profit on a game built out of donations. Yeah it will be great for the devs, great for their IP, but is it right. Star Citizen for instance is funded to the tune of 20-30% through donations (or more). If its a massive success then it's devs make money, it's investors make money, and the backers get tat and free copies. It's even more questionable when you take into consideration that the donations pay for the rewards anyway.

Posted:A year ago

#62
@ Chee - I would love to see a Dizzy game remade (wasn't it remade.. hold on [google] here:)
http://www.yolkfolk.com/site/games.php?game_id=229
I thought there was a remake a few years back. Personally, Dizzy not my bag, but I wish Blitz Games all the best with Dizzy Returns.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Richard M Albon on 27th November 2012 6:12pm

Posted:A year ago

#63
Look - all I want is good games that succeed in achieving the donation scope - what I do not want to see is improper presentation hiding secret investment. Because if KS fails so dose all hopes for this sector.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 27th November 2012 10:44pm

Posted:A year ago

#64

Simon Weisgerber Game Localization Consultant

22 8 0.4
From Dust?

Posted:A year ago

#65

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