Kickstarter game delays "really healthy for the ecosystem"

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."

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Latest comments (11)

Greg Knight Freelance Developer 8 years ago
Failures help educate wannabe game developers on the realities of game development
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend8 years ago

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

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 8 years ago
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...
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Show all comments (11)
Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY8 years ago
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.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios8 years ago
@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.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
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

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
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...
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Tat Wei, Yeap Master Degree in Environmental Planning. 8 years ago
<----KaboOom-----> and there goes the angry mobs
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Ian Lambert Software Engineer, Criterion Games8 years ago
"..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.
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John Tearle Founder, CEO, Flix Interactive8 years ago
@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.
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Gareth Eckley Commercial Analyst 8 years ago
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".
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