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Kickstarter game delays "really healthy for the ecosystem"

Kickstarter game delays "really healthy for the ecosystem"

Mon 30 Sep 2013 7:47am GMT / 3:47am EDT / 12:47am PDT

Failures help educate backers on the realities of game development

Crowdfunded games that are delayed or cancelled after they've reached funding targets are ultimately helping the platform mature, according to Kickstarter's Cindy Au.

"I actually think it's been really healthy for the ecosystem to see that process in action," Au told a panel at the GameHorizon Investment Summit last week.

"Games take longer than initially estimated - the backers seem to be getting smarter about understanding this timeline. They [developers] are doing a better job of upfront explaining delays. Ultimately, no one can say for sure that something is going to be done on a specific date."

There has been a number of high-profile games that have struggled to come to fruition since reaching financial goals. Clang, a game developed by Subutai Corporation and fronted by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson has been put on hold since raising over $500,000, and Tim Schafer admitted in July he needed more cash to finish Broken Age despite raising over $3.3 million via Kickstarter.

But according to Au, as consumers who back projects become more aware of potential pitfalls, they will become better educated and make more informed bets on the projects they donate to.

"It's important to remember that people backing projects are not consumers in the traditional sense and they're not coming at it from that traditional investment sense.

"People back projects because they simply care about the person or the product and you'll hear people frequently say 'I don't know if this is going to happen or not but I think it's important to show this person that I support what they're doing.'"

She also highlighted that Kickstarter data shows there has been no slowdown in funding for games. Games are the biggest sector on Kickstarter, with over $172 million raised via the platform.

"In terms of whether or not this is putting off backers, our data shows that more and more people are initially backing Kickstarter projects. It continues to grow and this speaks to the fact that this is not about looking at things as a whole, it's about projects and specific campaigns."


Greg Knight
Freelance Developer

56 49 0.9
Failures help educate wannabe game developers on the realities of game development

Posted:11 months ago


Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
Honestly that's a load of bull. I still can't understand how, after 20 years of serious game development it still seems to be an acceptable fact that "games take longer than initially anticipated".

Any studio who has shipped at least 1 title can look back and apply lessons learned to the next one, and be more correct when estimating time and cost. Every shipped title should increase the accuracy of planning for the next title, unless the studio decides to do something radically different. Instead what we get is that as soon as a title is shipped people celebrate, are happy, take the bonus (if there is one) and forget all about the mistakes and hardships of the last project. post-mortems are done and then forgotten.

Posted:11 months ago


Darren Adams
Managing Director

239 435 1.8

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 30th September 2013 1:45pm

Posted:11 months ago


Tom Keresztes

655 270 0.4
Honestly that's a load of bull. I still can't understand how, after 20 years of serious game development it still seems to be an acceptable fact that "games take longer than initially anticipated".
And some wonder shy studios close all the time...

Posted:11 months ago


Ralph Tricoche
Studying MA

31 66 2.1
I agree. It is an education to see game development or any development take shape right in front of your eyes. However I have to say that Some results are better than others. I was not impressed with the Shadowrun rpg that I helped back. I feel that it was a horrible way to bring back a great series like this. I will reserve judgement on Wasteland since they seem to be taking matters more seriously.
But back on topic, its good to see how things unfold.

Posted:11 months ago


Chris Payne
Associate Lead Programmer

47 147 3.1
@Andreas People have been making movies for over 100 years and they still go over budget. Any project estimate becomes more inaccurate as more people are involved and more creativity is allowed, because there are more opportunities for human error and unexpected problems. Games are particularly susceptible because of the interactive element.

Posted:11 months ago


Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 942 0.7
I agree that large creative projects, involving lots a people are very hard to budget and create a development schedual. The Interactive nature of games makes it even harder. And as with any creative project there are always things you can add or need to cut from the final product. Balancing budget, development schedule and all the creative and development options is a pretty tough thing. You can easily end up with a half baked product or a better product than initially proposed. Along the way, in the middle of the project that magical idea can pop up and everybody agrees will make a better game, but falls out of budget or development schedule. Sometimes you can overshoot the budget and development schedule and realiz after going into a project that you need more tme or money. In cases like these massive amounts of content need to be cut. And if pushed foward the product will end up being released short of what it could really be. But again, these are real world situations that are hard to predict, no matter how well organized and planned the development flowchart is. Finally a delay can work in favor of the game by making it better rather than have it rushed out of the door prematurly.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 1st October 2013 5:56am

Posted:11 months ago


Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,174 1,124 0.5
Hm. A delay is just that, a DELAY. A failure would be a game that never gets made after people buy in to support it getting made. If Clang gets made, it's a good thing at the end of the day despite the annoying way this "delay" has been handled. If it NEVER gets made, wellll...

Posted:11 months ago


Tat Wei, Yeap
Master Degree in Environmental Planning.

13 1 0.1
<----KaboOom-----> and there goes the angry mobs

Posted:11 months ago


Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
@Chris: honestly i think that is a bit of a lazy excuse that the industry as a whole still makes. "oh look we are creative, you can't put a time estimate and budget on creativity!"

This is absolutely fine IMO if as a studio (of any size) you are entirely self funded. But as soon as you use someone elses money (either a publisher or kickstarter) you also take on a responsibility to stick within the budget and time frame as much as is possible. Nobody is saying that the creative process will always run like clockwork. There will be delays, there will be re-work and there will be design changes.

But, and this is the thing that i think most studios with shipped titles under their belt seem to forget, the advantage that veterans have is to look back at past projects and say "Hey, we had to re-work a few things and we changed a few things and we had some delays - it took us 8 months longer and cost us 3 million USD more - lets plan that in as contingency for the next project!"

Instead what often happens is that studios competing for financing create a pitch with often the shortest time frames and the lowest budget (this is particularly true on Kickstarter) in order to look appealing to those who provide funding. Then further along the line, when it becomes clear that things won't be ready on time and budget, they hope that they are too far along the production line and they have a good enough game to avoid being cancelled and get the extra time and funding.

If you know you will have some slippage and extra cost due to the creative process, i think it's the responsibility of the developer to plan for that. And obviously its the responsibility of the money people to double check any pitch before signing anything :)

Posted:11 months ago


Ian Lambert
UI Developer

17 18 1.1
"..consumers...will become better educated and make more informed bets on the projects they donate to"

This is the bit that rings most hollow to me. Sure, Clang was an obvious risk; someone who isn't a game developer fronting an experimental title for unspecified input devices was always going to be a gamble. But Double Fine? With their history and status within the industry, and given the rate they've been producing titles over the last few years (since Brutal Legend really) I'd have backed them to run their project professionally and reliably. What will people have learnt from that? That absolutely no-one can be trusted to deliver? I just can't see this as a positive, sorry.

Posted:11 months ago


John Tearle
Founder, CEO

17 10 0.6
@Andreas The only thing I think I disagree with in what you're saying in reference to this article is the fact that unknowns and underestimations are far more likely with INNOVATIVE projects than with "Rinse and Repeat", big budget titles or clones of previous works. Kickstarter specifically encourages backers and projects that would not otherwise be funded via traditional routes, therefore if there is innovation and greenfields attitude/gameplay etc., then Kickstarter projects that are innovative, such as Clang, are invested in with a "big risk = delays possible/project canned" attitude, rather than; "big risk = rush-project-and-get-it-out-of-the-door-whether-it's-crap-or-not.../project canned" alternative... Granted, it's the same difference, but the public DO need to note that where boundaries are pushed, cancellations and delays are possible.

Posted:11 months ago


Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

558 607 1.1
Good point John, but i still believe that developers are tempted to use that as an excuse rather than plan for it.

I firmly believe that if you work with someone elses money, you owe that person (or group of people) that you are responsible with it. That responsibility does not necessarily mean you need to stifle creativity, it just means developers need to plan for potential delays.

There is an easy way of doing this: Assume the worst and plan for it. The kickstarter project and funding should include a buffer margin for things going horribly wrong. State that clearly in the pitch. Say: this budget covers the game we want to make plus 20% extra time because it's an innovative approach, it's a creative industry and our experience tells us we will slip somewhere. If by any chance everything goes according to plan and we actually don't need that buffer, we will be using it to create X (i.e. localization, additional VO - stuff that's added more easily - i.e. not new content or features).

My point is that most developers delude themselves. They push the cheapest option on kickstarter or to a publisher with no or little buffer in the budget in order to make the cost as low as possible and appeal to the funding entity. The fact that innovative and creative projects rarely are on time and rarely everything works as planned is conveniently forgotten or ignored.

As an industry we know we don't run like clockwork. that's how it is. our project planning, our pitches and our funding requests have to be created accordingly i think. Honesty is key. Honesty gets you trust and quality.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreas Gschwari on 2nd October 2013 7:53am

Posted:11 months ago


Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8
There are a lot of reasons for going over budget. But when your capital is supplied up front, you aren't working on a licensed project and you are in charge of your company (as opposed to it being run by executives that can override your decisions), then you're totally responsible for your projection's accuracy.

Of course the exchange rate can change and a variety of things can impact the final delivery date, but ultimately, these are not issues unique to the games industry. In fact, when you compare it to most other occupations that don't exist in a digital environment, the variables are vastly easier to control. It's not like weather or crop failure is an issue.

And let's all be honest here. We all know that when projects fail to hit milestones or go over budget it's almost always down to poor control or communication amongst the production and design team. Yeah, occasionally products can be sunk by being "over-ambitious" - but that's just a positive way of saying, "Our planning sucked and we failed to build in any scope for delays".

Posted:11 months ago


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