About two years ago a Kickstarter campaign for an adventure video game called Broken Age (originally titled Double Fine Adventure) brought the video game section of Kickstarter up from obscurity and changed it forever. After that, indie developers flocked to the website when they saw the true potential of what the site could do, in terms of promotion and especially funding.
Now when you see the video game section of Kickstarter, it’s become a flourishing subsection receiving tons of support from player communities who believe in its initiative and scope. However, amid this great success is it dark secret that threatens to envelop all this progress.
According to a recent study, it has been discovered that only one third of video game Kickstarters deliver to its backers in full. The possible reasons for these horrendous statistics are manifold: it may be caused by a campaign creator’s lack of experience with Kickstarter and its purpose, an underestimation of the actual money needed to fulfill its campaign promises or, conversely, too much funding which results in too many reward tiers and added features for backers, eventually overwhelming developers and causing massive delays while production screeches to a halt.
There have also been some cases in which the developer or person starting the Kickstarter campaign was out to simply scam backers in the first place.
Whatever the reasons though, it still remains a huge problem that needs to be addressed if the site wants to continue this trend of success and maintain trust with backers and potential backers.
It’s extremely important for developers to carefully evaluate what their goals are and whether they have the proper experience, resources and knowledge in order to fully deliver on any and all promises made to their loyal backers. Without this important self evaluation, they’re not only setting themselves up for failure but also setting it up for backers to have financially invested in a project doomed to fail.
Being transparent with backers about their goals, their progress and any hiccups and missteps along the way also aids in creating that vital relationship of trust and assures backers that they made the right investment in the first place.
But the responsibility also falls to backers, as they must be very very cautious about what projects they actually back in the first place. They must understand that they are not simply pre-ordering a video game in advance–they are investing in the game, essentially playing the extremely high-risk role of publisher.
Therefore, backers must be able to critically analyze a potential Kickstarter project and decide whether it’s a safe investment and/or whether the developers are being truly honest about their intentions.
Furthermore, I believe responsibility also falls on the medium itself. In order for Kickstarter to continue its profitable existence, it must start offering more tools to backers in order to better protect them from potentially bad or dishonest investments.
As a business it cannot continue to act as a neutral and irresponsible party; it instead must take an active role in protecting backer rights. Failure to do so will cause potential backers trust to erode, eventually ruining the medium.
It is imperative that all parties involved work together in order to ensure that Kickstarter remains a place where developers and backers can honestly communicate with each other in order to form and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.
Personally, I truly do believe in the potential of Kickstarter and I’ve seen firsthand the kind of wonderful relationships and projects that arise from the Kickstarter community. However, the fact remains that mistrust continues to grow with Kickstarter due to the large amount of failed and underwhelming projects.
Unless the community, developers and medium itself wants to ensure that it will continue to exist in the future, all three parties need to work together and maintain the kind of environment that will allow Kickstarter to flourish for years to come.