Why I haven’t given dollar one to Kickstarter

kickstarterOnce in a while when I’m talking with fellow gamers, the subject of whatever recent trendy Kickstarter games and MMOs comes up, usually with a comparitive list of which games people have given what to.  Sometimes the “confessions” admit to staggering amounts — in the hundreds or even thousands to an idea of a game.  A hope of a game.  A promise of a game.

I find it a little amusing that in an age where we bristle at mobile games that dare to charge us more than 99 cents, we’re also seeing gamers dump multiple times the amount of money of a brand-new AAA game on these projects.  I’m sure there’s an essay about perceived value in there, but that’s not my goal today.

When we have these conversations, I have to admit that I’ve never bought into any of these campaigns.  The closest I’ve gotten was to pony up a few bucks for Starbound and Trove, but those both were heavy into development at the time and weren’t doing an official campaign of any sort.

So why haven’t I spent money on Kickstarter?  It’s not as though I find all of the prospects boring.  On the contrary, I am excited by many of them, including Wasteland 2, Shroud of the Avatar, Star Citizen, that Double Fine adventure game, the Veronica Mars movie, and so on.  There are some good ideas out there that I do want to see succeed.  But if they do, it’s not going to be on my dollar.

Being realistic, Kickstarter is an investment platform that is promising to deliver a product instead of a financial return on investment.  We collectively chip into the pot to get a game that we want and that might not get made through normal publisher/investment routes.  We stick it to the publishers and feel good about it.

But it still is an investment.  I stand to gain but also to lose.  An early lesson I learned was the Star Command campaign, which promised a really awesome FTL-like Star Trek parody but ended up delivering only on part of the game.  Seeing the fans crushed at having been promised one thing, spending money for it, and being given an inferior product was an object lesson that I didn’t want to go through personally.  We’re still watching how many of these MMO Kickstarters are shaping up, and I can tell you that there will be tears from those who won’t get the game that the devs talked up while passing around the hat.  I can only imagine the nerdrage from gamers who have personally funded development of a disappointing title.

I’m also somewhat of a frugal guy.  Yes, I do impulsive purchases here and there, but I don’t generally pay money for a promise of an idea that’s years off.  If it comes out and it looks good, then I’ll buy it.  I don’t really go for pre-orders much either, other than the occasional MMO collector’s edition.  If the community wants to fund a game that I can experience for a nominal cost when/if it comes out, then I stand to benefit without much risk on my behalf.

I don’t see the appeal of risking my money, anyway.  Other than getting a game made, the primary motivating factors are to get into the early testing (meh) or being showered with various digital rewards.  Most of those rewards operate under delayed deployment too, so it’s an investment twice over.

Really, there’s so much to play right now that could be taking my money that I’m not tempted by Kickstarter.  If a game’s going to fund, it’ll fund with or without my $20, I’m sure.


13 thoughts on “Why I haven’t given dollar one to Kickstarter

  1. dwisms March 13, 2014 / 8:07 am

    Its a risk/reward thing. Most of the time you get more bang for your buck if you where in early and the game delivers. Other times its for what you get out of it for certain. For example, With broken age I payd to get an inside look at game production, what happens how and why. And on top of that I got a game out of it too!
    I do not think it is any different than preordering SE editions of games when you pay the big bucks.

  2. Syp March 13, 2014 / 8:17 am

    I think the difference, at least to me, is that when I pre-order a game special edition the product has been developed enough that it’s a proven quantity. I generally know what I’m getting as the game is fairly close to launch. As I said, chipping in for a kickstarter game is pre-ordering an idea of a game that may or may not ever happen, and if it does, it may or may not be anything like what the developer promised. There is more risk, and to me that risk isn’t acceptable just to secure a few digital baubles and alpha access. (Also, I have no idea what the refund policy is in crowdfunded games, but I’m guessing it’s not as friendly as cancelling a normal pre-order).

  3. magnoz March 13, 2014 / 8:47 am

    I don’t even see it as an investment. For me it’s more like donations: I give someone money so they can do something they’re passionate about. Of course I’d like to get a finished product in the end. But if I don’t then I won’t be too disappointed. I just donate to a lot of project which I can’t all keep track of. Then I’m pleasantly surprised getting email about a finished product. Or not. 🙂

  4. Dolnor March 13, 2014 / 9:04 am

    I’ve “donated” to some projects. I look at it just like a donation to my favorite charity…I hope they use my money for good works but I have absolutely no control how they spend my donation. I put the faith in people I trust.

    Yes, it is NOT an investment that will give you much, if any, ROI. But it is not a business transaction to me.

    I am also frugal. Plus I am losing my job (they are moving to Minnesota and closing my plant) in 1.5 years and at my age, I expect to be homeless in 5 years if I don’t find a job right away. But I am still donating to worthwhile projects. Perhaps my $30 will help the project meet its goal(s) for the betterment of others.


  5. Ayane March 13, 2014 / 9:22 am

    Kickstarter seems to confuse people when they try to compare it to something else. “It’s like an investment”, “it’s like a pre-order”, “it’s like a donation”, “it’s like paying for a promise”… except that it’s not really any of those things and yet it’s all of those things.

    I think that at the base of it it’s supporting a developer. it is the realization that if the developer doesn’t get enough support then the game doesn’t get made. Saying “I want to see it made, but don’t want to run the risk” is all fine and good, except that if everyone thinks like that then none of these games get made.

    The rewards are generally secondary (and more an encouragement to increase your pledge perhaps a little higher than you might’ve originally intended). That goes for early access as well (personally I tend to avoid the alphas/betas of most of the games I’ve backed). But a large, and to me very important, part of it is having a direct say in the direction in which games develop.

    That goes beyond getting continuous development updates and participating in development forums. For example, personally I love roleplaying games but have felt for years that the few that were left were rapidly moving in a direction I wasn’t happy about, becoming ever more ‘cinematic’ (BioWare, I’m looking at you). With Kickstarter it allows me to say “these are the kinds of games I would like to see more of”. Even if one or two fail to deliver it still sends a message that people want to see a game like that.

    Before Kickstarter all you could do was hope that someone would make the kinds of games that you’re interested in. Now you can have a direct say in that. And that seems incredibly valuable to me.

    And yes, that’s worth a little risk.

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus March 13, 2014 / 10:01 am

    “…in an age where we bristle at mobile games that dare to charge us more than 99 cents…”

    Who is this “we” to which you refer? Are you talking to the mirror again?

    If anything, an app charging just 99 cents is a red flag that it is crap and the author knows it. I have purchased more than a few apps for my iPad, and they have been almost universally more than 99 cents. And using that 99 cent line as an opening salvo against Kickstarter is a false comparison. The two do not compete, one is not taking money from the other.

    As for Kickstarter, fine. You’ve expressed your disdain for it before. You are cheap and risk adverse.

    I am as big a cheapskate as you’ll likely find, and probably twice as cynical to boot, but I have been quite pleased with the results of the few Kickstarters I have pitched in on. But I have been pretty choosy about what I pick, going with people who have a solid reputation. For example, I gave Hidden Path Entertainment some money for their Defense Grid Kickstarter. That got me the expansions, which was worth what I spent, a couple copies of the game for friends, an eventual copy of Defense Grid 2 even (though they didn’t make that stretch goal), and a few other offers that made me start to feel like they were going a bit overboard with the gratitude. It was a deal and a half and it actually helped them get funding for other projects without having to go out hat in hand.

    But I didn’t just pick them at random. It wasn’t an impulse buy like, say, a 99 cent app. I was already familiar with them, liked their work, and saw that they had a solid plan, unlike a lot of the Kickstarter projects I see. If you see Kickstarter as an investment, then you should certainly treat it as such when you look at the prospectus it lays out.

  7. R March 13, 2014 / 11:24 am

    I’d love to know how many of the hundreds/thousands of dollars kickstarter backers are the ones who also wouldn’t pay 99 cents for a mobile game. Wouldn’t be shocked if there was some overlap. According to, well, basic math, 50% of the people out there are dumber than average, which basically explains how F2P can actually exist as a model, with (generally) the dummies subsidizing the smarties. I get an especially skeevy vibe when I hear from companies like Zynga that 95% of their players don’t pay anything… I really worry about that other 5%.


    (and the industry average is 2% so Zynga is 250% less exploitative of those who are exploitable, which doesn’t decrease the skeeve one bit)

    Er, may have sidetracked there a bit.

    I wouldn’t contribute to a kickstarter campaign because that’s not the business I’m in… there are plenty of companies and people who do that kind of thing for a living, if they can’t be convinced (and they WANT to have reasons to contribute), I’m not sure the general public are even slightly qualified to be the fall-back funding source. Either someone’s model is such that it isn’t worth funding from those who know about these things or they were too lazy to ask in the first place and went immediately to kickstarter. Neither scenario really hits me as an even half-decent risk no matter who it is or what the project consists of.

  8. Tyler F.M. Edwards March 13, 2014 / 12:04 pm

    I’m inclined to agree with Syp on this. With that being said, if I had a lot more disposable income than I currently do, there are some Kickstarters I would seriously consider throwing a little cash to. As it stands now, though, I generally won’t even pay full price for a released game unless it’s a franchise I’m already invested in or something.

  9. Syp March 13, 2014 / 12:39 pm

    Lots of people in this mirror… the fact that people have gotten used to $0.99 and less for apps and are increasingly resistant to paying more for that is an issue that I’ve seen repeatedly brought up among mobile developers.







    And I don’t think it’s a false comparison. It’s a comment about how gamers spend money, often in wildly unvarying ways, based on perceived value and the genre. People can spend their money how they want; this post isn’t condemning anyone else who does differently than I do here.

  10. Wilhelm Arcturus March 13, 2014 / 12:59 pm

    @Syp – Oh, I am not saying I haven’t seen devs complaining about 99 cent apps… and even making the same disparaging comments about people supporting Kickstarter while not buying 99 cent apps… but does that make it an actual problem? These complaints always strike me as very whiny, and your links above don’t change that. As I have written before, the 99 cent app market looks like a cesspool of uninspired rip-offs, with enough bad reviews to support that opinion. So if the dev response is, “What do you want for just 99 cents?” my response is, “Nothing. Go make something decent and I’ll actually pay more.” If people expect to make money churning out crap, I’m afraid I am not very sympathetic.

    If you want to be part of that “we,” be my guest, but expect me to opt out.

    And unless you can provide a link that says people don’t buy 99 cent apps because they support Kickstarter, the comparison is dubious at best. You might as well complain that people spend five dollars for a coffee at Starbucks but won’t buy your hand painted coffee mugs at the flea market.

  11. bhagpuss March 13, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    Looking at Kickstarter through the prism of video gaming is pretty misleading. Just last night I was listening to a very mainstream BBC arts program and they happened to interview Kickstarter’s CEO. It was a very interesting interview in which I felt the CEO came across an awful lot better than the average game company exec/publisher/movie producer. He gave very clear, straight answers and both I and, I think, the interviewer came away with the impression that crowdfunding not only has the potential quite radically to change the way all entertainment and some art is produced but that that process is already well under weigh.

    As for backing specific projects, it’s very simple. Just look at the proposed end product and decide whether you would be likely to buy it on release. Then look at the pledges and decide which one represents the amount of money you would be likely to pay on release. Then look at what you get for that pledge. If it’s a good deal, back it. If it isn’t, don’t.

    In fact, I just see it as a very early pre-order. How backing a Kickstarter game project at a Pledge level that gives you guaranteed beta access and a digital download of the game any different from pre-ordering WildStar, other than in the timescales involved?

  12. kiantremayne March 13, 2014 / 3:39 pm

    R – there’s a subset of game projects where if the game is made it would likely cover its costs and maybe make some money, but not as much money as other prospective projects out there. Publishers and venture capitalists only have so much money to invest, so that goes to the games they expect to return the biggest profit on their investment. That leaves the games with lower prospective earnings out in the cold. Kickstarter lets the fans who would have bought such a game pony up the money they would have paid (and more for “cool stuff” if they choose). The game gets made, the fans get their game, the devs get employed for the duration of their project, nobody gets rich but everyone ends up reasonably happy.

    Of course, that’s the ideal scenario. The trick is picking out the projects that are likely to get finished from the ones that are likely to be vapourware. The best bet is veteran developers working on a niche product (Wasteland 2, Camelot Unchained). The worst bets are the ones from a bunch of unknowns with grandiose dreams.

  13. BBTOGO1 March 14, 2014 / 11:32 am

    I read this as “I love money more than people and ideas, as such you won’t get a dime from me until you’ve produced what costs money to begin with” .
    In my opinion(obviously) these are the worst kinds of people, whom love money too much.

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