Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2014-07-23 06:31:53
My fellow Diremen Dee and Dave have written/drawn a comic that summarises quite aptly the Kickstarter process - and the caveats of a website that is attracting increasing criticism of late.
I have been skeptical of the Kickstarter model for a while now. After keeping a close eye on a large number of products seeking funding, particularly video games, I've had a few alarm bells ring. For every project that receives its funding target and releases to critical praise (Shovel Knight and Broken Age come to mind) there are plenty of titles that either fade into the ether or release to raised quality assurance eyebrows.
Kickstarter is a weird beast - while Kickstarter can intervene in dodgy projects and shut them down (the recent Areal fiasco is evidence of this) a lot of the time projects secure funding and then don't deliver what was promised to little or no punishment. There are rules to Kickstarter, hidden beneath the overly enthusiastic jargon encouraging you to back projects, that seem to mean that after pledging money to a project you are doing so at your own risk - if the developer chooses to then spend that money on a fancy new sports car and cancels the project a year or so later (as has been seen with the Yogventures game outlined in the comic linked to at the top of this article) you, as a backer, are not entitled to any form of compensation in return. Naturally, you'd hope that people would be decent human beings and do their best to return your money if they cancel a project halfway through that you paid towards - but this isn't always the case, making the service a tricky one to engage with and a hard sell.
I like the notion of Kickstarter - it allows people to gauge how much interest there is for their project and receive money to make it. It's kind of like begging, but with the assumption that you'll actually deliver something in return. Kickstarter shouldn't be about receiving money for nothing, and the better projects know this and manage their funds accordingly.
Sadly, Kickstarter is easily abused, and the fact that more than a handful of projects have pocketed peoples' money without showing anything in return is alarming and raises suspicions about the service in general. Every time a project fails, it makes me more cynical towards the Kickstarter platform - this is the fault of humans within the system rather than the system itself, but it isn't exactly a ringing endorsement to use Kickstarter when an increasing number of projects fail to do what they claim they will accomplish.
These issues are compounded by an overall and altogether expected lack of professionalism shown by some people who run Kickstarter campaigns who have little to no experience with PR. There are plenty of examples of Kickstarters where creators have either gone silent for months at a time (what became of the $500k+ 'success' of CLANG?) without updating their backers, have gotten involved in PR wars where they make themselves look incredibly foolish or, in certain cases, have even demonstrated hostile and antagonistic behaviour towards their backers. Human ignorance is letting the Kickstarter team down, creating a general malaise towards the service that is difficult to shift.
There are a few games I would consider funding on Kickstarter if they popped up on my radar (for example, a new Little Big Adventure game) but for the most part I feel as if the initial buzz surrounding the site has fallen by the wayside - more and more journalists and members of the internet public are growing weary of Kickstarter, and the field of dreams is starting to mutate into a dirty free-for-all where seemingly anything goes, very few rules apply and a mask-wearing robber can pocket your cash and ride off into the sunset without being pursued by a gallant party of bounty chasers. What is the world coming to?