Kickstarter not on the decline - Fargo

Wasteland 2 developer says recent projects' struggles only show it's harder to find unfilled niches

The Kickstarter craze has cooled off a bit of late, with high-profile projects like Harmonix's Amplitude reboot struggling to reach their goal, much less putting up the gawdy multimillion dollar totals of earlier crowdfunded efforts from veteran developers. inXile Entertainment founder Brian Fargo, whose Wasteland 2 was one of those heavily backed Kickstarter successes, told Digital Spy that the difficulties of recent projects haven't been a sign that Kickstarter is failing so much as evidence of its past success.

"I think the projects that do most well on Kickstarter are things where you've been denied the ability to get it somehow, or there's a hole in the marketplace that needs to be filled with a fanbase behind it," Fargo said. "Well, those holes have been filled over the past couple of years. It's getting harder to find things where people resonate and think, 'I really want some of those things'. I don't think it's so much a Kickstarter fatigue, but if there isn't a strong demand - if they think there's a bunch of those out there - then I think it's very difficult. I think that's where some people are hitting some problems."

Fargo said last year's Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter performed tremendously ($3.85 million raised with an original goal of $900,000), showing that developers who can still identify an unfilled niche--like a new Mega Man-style game from Keiji Inafune--can still raise millions. And when projects fail, Fargo said that's just Kickstarter doing its job by showing exactly how much (or little) demand there is for a given idea.

"It's a great litmus test for whether the concept's any good," Fargo said. "I'd like to know more now rather than afterwards, because I've got lots of ideas, because I'd rather do one that people are going to want to play the most..."

Latest comments (8)

Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com2 years ago
Good to see it's still working for Mr Fargo who has no problems with collecting $3 mil on Kickstarter for a commercial product like "Wasteland 2" and then resorts to crowdsourcing when it comes to localization, which would cost him something like 2-3% of those $3 mil if he bothered using professionals.

Crowdfunding in itself is great. Crowdsourcing for commercial products is just wrong.

My two cents.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
I get where you are coming from Rolf. When I first was aware of Kickstarter I did honestly think it was something for the little people to get finance as they couldn't get it anywhere else. But as time went on I saw that backers tended to pledge on titles made by industry veterans, who could probably get funding elsewhere.

Now for a small time I was a bit annoyed that veterans could demand vast amounts of money and the poor little guy/girl could only get a fraction of the amount. I now have a more pragmatic view of kickstarter and realise that no matter how good a project is, if you don't trust that the developers can pull it off then you probably won't invest. Now you could argue that without the influx of vets taking all the cash there would be more to go around for the little folk, but of course that is something that is pointless discussing as the vets aren't going anywhere.

I don't think it is Kickstarters fault or the veteran developers fault; they just saw a free dinner party and jumped on board which you can't really blame them for. Kickstarter is a good idea, but ultimately is a finance tool for established names more than the little folk IMO.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 25th May 2014 11:06am

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Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com2 years ago
From what I've seen so far there are many smaller devs including things like localization as stretch goals, making the cost of such a service transparent for everybody. Again you could argue that there's no point in backers from the UK or US subsidizing a French or German localization they'd never ever have any use for. But, then again, they'd be investing in broadening the game's user base, which is always a good thing, especially for games with a multiplayer part.

To me, localization is part of the game development process. And it should be paid for if it's part of the retail version. If the game supports modding and is offered without localization and people can add their own localization via modding, that's fine with me. But if you exploit people's pro-bono work to add feature to a commercial project, your're crossing the line. You're exploiting your fans' enthusiasm to get a free lunch.

So, if you ask me, devs big and small should have localization in their budget or add it as a stretch goal or allow for localization via modding. That way everybody could be happy.
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Eyal Teler Programmer 2 years ago
If your fans want to do it, why do you have to pay other people to do it? By that you're both losing money and disappointing the fans. If your fans are willing to create graphical assets for you, why not use them? Would you say that fans aren't allowed to test a game because a developer should pay for that? And what about modding, why is modding okay, where in fact it's a major source of long term survival of games, and can potentially gain quite a bit of money for the developers?
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Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com2 years ago
You might want to take alook at the German forums of Baldur's Gate EE and Baldur's Gate II EE. "Localization" teams are forming and dissolving all the time. There are no deadlines, no organization, no quality checks. People have been waiting for a proper German version for months and months on end, and it looks like it's never going to happen. Because, as with so many voluntary stuff, as soon as it turns into work, people lose interest and give up, move on the the next fad. The same goes for Wasteland 2. Just take a look at their localization platform and the progress they're making.

If you enable loca via mods, people can take their time and it's not a commercial thing. But if you offer loca as part of your product, that's something else.
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Eyal Teler Programmer 2 years ago
So you're not really against it in concept, just worried that the result won't be good. In that case, yes, it's something to be worried about, but at least in this respect I trust Brian Fargo more than I trust Trent Oster, and I'm sure that if it doesn't work out he'll do something else. He's also clearly saying that he will have professional editing going over the work, so it's not that there are "no quality checks".
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Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com2 years ago
No, to me there are several problems:

1) The work of volunteers is used for a commercial product. The product is offered with features that are based on voluntary work. To me, that's something different than shipping a product without those features and then enable them via mods, because in such a case the features are not part of the commercial package.

2) I object to the approach of having a professional editor going over volutary work, because, to me, that's just a very common way of saving money by cutting out professional translators. And usually those editors are in for a major rewrite. We're talking about at least 400K words with dozens of different translators per language here. That's like trying to make a book with 1300 pages sound likes it's written be one person. To me, that aproach is just misguided and shows a distinct lack of understanding for the localization process and a lack of respect for the work of translators and editors.
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Eyal Teler Programmer 2 years ago
It's probably around 600K words (Brian Fargo mentioned in his talk that it's current 560K and there's more text coming). It would take a translator a year or two to do a decent job on that, so you're probably looking at several translators per language anyway.

I don't think there's need to have a single voice, because it's not a novel. What you do want is to have distinct character voices, so having several people translate the same character may be a problem.

It's a valid concern, but I see what you're saying as lack of respect for the fans. Wasteland 2 incorporates 3D objects created by fans, and apparently that worked well. I agree, there's a chance it won't work perfectly, but as I said, I trust Brian Fargo enough to give him the benefit of the doubt on handling this.

As for the moral objections, that's your line to draw, so there's no point in arguing about that. As a developer I use open source libraries which are based on volunteer work (and most developers do), and as a user of software I voluntarily offer feedback and testing, and sometimes more than this, so I don't see this as something really objectionable.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eyal Teler on 1st June 2014 7:27am

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